The market for addiction treatment has been estimated at around 35 billion per year, and even with the rise of rehab centers due to the opioid epidemic, state, federal, and local governments still haven’t found a uniform way to regulate this massive industry. Additionally, patient rehab experiences haven’t been formally captured during this time of growth – until now. According to a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are trying to gather patient experiences in addiction treatment centers with help from online review sites like Yelp and Google. The team hopes to use these platforms to create “formal ratings missing in the addiction medicine field (Inquirer, 2019).”
How Yelp is Helping Addiction Researchers
When you think of Yelp, most people think of ratings for everything from restaurants to hair salons. However, these online sites are giving researchers a glimpse into how patients and their family members feel about their addiction treatment and what they need from healthcare providers. Anish Agarwal, lead author of the study, states, “Turns out, there’s a lot of people talking on these platforms about their healthcare experience. This is another way to capture patient voices.”
The research study looked at Yelp and Google ratings for every drug and alcohol treatment facility in Pennsylvania and used a machine learning program to evaluate centers’ ratings and patient comments. Findings included:
- Treatment facilities in Pennsylvania scored 3.28 stars (out of five)
- 43% of the state’s treatment facilities earned five-star ratings on Yelp and Google; 34% received just one star.
Additionally, researchers found that most patients scored facilities based on how they were treated rather than on what services were provided. They were more concerned about issues like if whether or not the staff at a facility treated them with respect and compassion or the wait times at the center were like. Patient reviews included both negative and positive comments like:
- “Two days of withdrawing and suffering, waiting by the door to get your dose for like five hours.”
- “The staff is extremely professional and they truly care.”
Agarwal did state, “standardized ratings of addiction treatment facilities shouldn’t depend entirely on online reviews. But they do show what’s important to patients and what the federal government is missing when it catalogs the services at such facilities.” This study points to a much bigger issue when it comes to addiction rehabilitation centers – the lack of a universal rating system. This void highlights the obvious chasm between addiction treatment and the rest of the healthcare industry. “Hospitals, for example, are rated on a standard scale by the federal government on measures such as readmission, patient experience, and timeliness of care. But people searching for help for a substance use disorder don’t have a reliable way to evaluate a treatment facility (Inquirer, 2019).”
Agarwal does believe online reviews can help researchers develop the kind of formal ratings missing in the addiction medicine industry, he states, “There’s a lot of rich data out there, people are posting about their health care on Yelp and Google, and there’s really rich information on what people say. Let’s lean into it and use it.”
How to Choose an Addiction Treatment Facility
Someone in an addiction rehab program should be getting the most comprehensive care possible, including a combination of medical, psychological, and social treatment modalities. Experts offer that patients entering a program should look for:
- A center that offers individualized treatment plans. A facility needs to assess the whole patient, including if the person has a co-occurring mental health disorder and needs additional specialized treatment.
- Whether or not the facility is accredited. The Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) are independent, nonprofit organizations that base rehab accreditation on industry performance standards, patient safety, and demonstrated quality and value.
- The addiction treatment staff should have the proper licenses and credentials that meet (or exceed) nationally recognized standards for practice. Some licenses held by addiction treatment professionals may include titles such as CCDP Certified Co-occurring Disorders Counselor (CCDP) or Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LAADC). Find out more about credentials and licensing through the NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. The organization represents the professional interests of more than 100,000 addiction counselors, educators, and other addiction-focused health care professionals in the United States, Canada, and abroad. You can also check California’s local state licensing and certification standards for information.
Finding a drug or alcohol treatment center can feel like an overwhelming process – but it doesn’t have to be. Our customized treatment programs offer individualized therapy, affordable outpatient treatment services, and many post-rehab services such as 12-Step programs and SMART Recovery. The clinical team here includes individuals who have worked in the drug and mental health industry for more than 30 years, assuring our patients that they will be cared for by experienced and knowledgeable addiction treatment professionals. Contact Silver Lining Recovery today at (866) 918-5547 to learn more about our programs and how our compassionate clinicians can guide you step-by-step to a healthy and happy life in recovery.