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Online Reviews’ Impact on Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Mortality Rates

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The escalating drug-induced mortality rates in the United States have highlighted the urgent need for effective Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment options. Many patients commence their search for SUD treatment facilities online, where they encounter patient-generated reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp. These reviews often contain valuable insights into patient satisfaction and the quality of care provided by these facilities. However, the relationship between the content of these reviews and state-level drug-induced mortality remains largely unexplored.

A recent study aimed to investigate the association between the content of online reviews of SUD treatment facilities and drug-induced state mortality rates. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of reviews and ratings of SAMHSA-designated SUD treatment facilities listed between September 2005 and October 2021. The primary outcomes measured were the mean online rating of these facilities and the average drug-induced mortality rates from the CDC WONDER Database (2006-2019).

Study Findings

The study included 589 facilities with a total of 9,597 reviews. States were categorized based on their mortality rates, with approximately half having below-average mortality rates and the other half exhibiting above-average rates. Clusters of words frequently appearing in reviews were identified, revealing themes associated with either low or high mortality rates.

Top themes linked to low mortality rates encompassed detoxification and addiction rehabilitation services, gratitude and thankfulness for recovery, caring staff, and individualized recovery programs. Conversely, high mortality rates were associated with themes such as care from doctors or providers, rude and insensitive care, medication and prescriptions, front desk experiences, and dissatisfaction with communication.

Impact of Online Reviews on Mortality Rates

The multilevel linear model indicated that an increase in state-level drug-induced mortality by 10 deaths per 100,000 people corresponded to a 0.30 decrease in the average Yelp rating of SUD treatment facilities. This suggests a significant correlation between lower online ratings and higher mortality rates.

Key Inferences

– **Detoxification and addiction rehabilitation services** are crucial for lowering mortality rates.
– **Gratitude and positive patient feedback** about recovery are indicators of effective treatment.
– **Caring and compassionate staff** significantly impact patient satisfaction and outcomes.
– **Individualized recovery programs** contribute to lower drug-induced mortality rates.
– **Negative experiences with care providers and communication** are associated with higher mortality rates.

These findings underscore the importance of patient experience in SUD treatment facilities and suggest that enhancing patient satisfaction could be a vital strategy in reducing drug-induced mortality rates. Monitoring and addressing the themes emerging from online reviews can inform efforts to improve the quality and patient-centeredness of SUD care.

Original Article: JMIR AI. 2023 Dec 29;2:e46317. doi: 10.2196/46317.

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