Yelp reviews shed light on healthcare discrimination

Yelp ratings of health care providers could be a key to identifying patterns of discrimination in health care facilities, according to a new JAMA research.

Complaints about an individual actor were most common, followed by reports of institutional racism. Researchers also found that about half of the complaints involved clinical areas.

“This exploratory qualitative content analysis of consumer reviews highlights the ubiquitous nature of discrimination in medicine through 1) presence in clinical and non-clinical spaces, 2) representation by individual and institutional actors, and 3) multidirectional flow between healthcare consumers and practitioners,” researchers wrote. .


Researchers came up with 182 reviews that pointed to discrimination. Of those reviews, 39% named an individual player who exhibited discrimination. These players included both clinical personnel, such as doctors and nurses, and non-clinical personnel, including volunteers and security officers.

The survey found that 29.1% of reviews were categorized as examples of institutional racism. Researchers also examined the location of reported discrimination and found that 48.9% of incidents occurred in a clinical setting. A further 13.7% of incidents occurred in non-clinical space and 36.6% of cases were ‘consumer oriented to healthcare staff’.

Researchers also identified six themes in the assessments: “acts of commission, omission, unprofessionalism, disrespect, stereotyping and dehumanization.”


Researchers collected Yelp reviews from 100 randomly selected acute care hospitals in the US. They then used a word filtering system to locate assessments related to discrimination.

Authors of the study developed a codebook to categorize and assess the reported discrimination.


Healthcare has a history of discrimination. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence in research on this issue.

“Health inequalities exist between disciplines and patient characteristics,” the study authors wrote. “While outdated models have focused on biological causes of inequalities, newer studies have shifted attention to the primary role of structural and interpersonal discrimination in driving inequalities.

“Many studies have shown how discrimination leads to poorer health outcomes for minority groups, regardless of race, gender, gender, sexual orientation, age and disability. As a result, increasing efforts are being made to identify and reduce experiences of discrimination in healthcare.”

a 2020 JAMA research found that 17.3% of black and Hispanic pollsters reported discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Respondents cited education or income level, weight and age as other factors leading to discrimination.