As social media becomes more prevalent, an increasing number of long-term care consumers are taking to the web to voice opinions — good and bad — about their experiences with local skilled nursing facilities.

Previous research has shown how hospitals’ social media ratings compare to quality measures, but little was known about that relationship for nursing homes, according to researchers with the University of Massachusetts and the University of Rochester Medical Center. 

Their study analyzed a sample of 225 nursing homes in Maryland and 335 in Minnesota. Of those, a total of 181 facilities had Facebook pages, with 113 allowing users to post ratings.

The team’s results showed a disconnect between Facebook ratings and more “scientifically grounded” measures, like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Five-Star system. The gaps between the two methods warrant concerns about the validity of social media ratings.

“It is likely consumers will increasingly turn to social media ratings of [nursing homes], given the lack of consumer perspective on most state and federal report card sites,” wrote lead researcher Jennifer Gaudet Hefele, Ph.D. “Thus, social media ratings may present a unique opportunity for healthcare report cards to capture real-time consumer voice.”

Results were published in August in BMJ Quality & Safety