Patients are online more than ever, using patient feedback from rating and review sites to choose their provider. Recognizing this trend, many healthcare organizations are starting to publish ratings and comments on their individual providers’ web pages. What’s setting these organizations apart is how they’re taking authentic and verified feedback from targeted and sometimes mandated patient surveys and sharing those insights in a transparent manner.
We recently spoke to Carrie Gardner and Kait Phillips from the Binary Fountain Customer Success teams, who’ve guided clients through implementing and managing our transparency solution, Binary Star Ratings, about what they’re seeing in the marketplace firsthand and the concerns healthcare organizations have about adopting transparency.
Q. Why do you think hospitals are adopting transparency?
Kait Phillips: Many of us have been there as a patient; we come down with a symptom and start our research online for a provider who can help. Our health is so personal and choosing a provider is one of the most important health decisions we can make. We are looking for information we can trust when selecting a provider. Hospitals are striving to be that trusted voice in the provider selection process. It’s a great opportunity for them on so many levels. They already have a great source for ratings and reviews – their patient experience surveys. It’s a wealth of feedback about their providers. Typically, its way more feedback than you’d see on sites like Yelp, Vitals and other similar sources. What’s great about the feedback is the survey data comes from verified patients and many provide detailed comments on their patient experience. That’s one of the concerns physicians had about third party rating sites: “Was that review really from a patient of mine?” What makes this transparent for the healthcare consumer, is hospitals are publishing all patient survey ratings and comments, with a couple reasonable caveats such as not publishing PHI or libelous comments. This circles back to what patients want: health information and a provider they can trust.
And from a competition standpoint and a branding standpoint, implementing a transparency solution can give them an advantage against other hospitals and practices in their market. Think of it this way: patients are going to shop like they do for other consumer services. Why not offer something that can influence their decision making – information they can trust.
Carrie Gardner: I agree with Kait. And to add on to what she said, I think that outside of generally trying to promote transparency with reviews and ratings, hospitals are also trying to improve operational performance.
I often hear from clients that they’re interested in getting their providers to be a little bit more involved with the comments that they’re seeing on surveys and the subsequent ratings from them. Now that ratings and comments are available on provider’s pages, it gives them an incentive to improve things like communication styles or bedside manner. So I think, organizationally, it’s about using transparency to increase traffic to particular providers, increase brand awareness as well as to increase accountability concerning patient experience measures.
Q. What are the challenges to adopting transparency?
KP: Provider buy-in is certainly one of the top concerns for healthcare organizations. Some physicians are resistant to transparency at first, typically because they are worried about receiving negative scores and the impact that can have. They are generally unaware of the overall positive feedback they get from patient surveys so they are understandably anxious about what is going to be said about them. Physicians can also be very competitive—they all want a 5.0 star rating (though it’s actually better to have a 4.5 rating!). These were the A+ students in school who are very driven individuals. They are very confident in their abilities as physicians!
CG: I definitely agree that negative comments are the biggest concern. I would also add that there are often questions and concerns around establishing physician input so they can see, and if needed appeal, patient comments. Sometimes prospective clients just need a little more assurance that they’ll be able to review comments before they’re published. The appeals committee typically reviews comments and works with physicians to determine whether comments are suitable for publishing. Comments that contain profanity or libel, for instance, are either redacted or not published at all.
Time and resources are another worry. Organizations are concerned about internal resources and processes such as defining who is going to have the bandwidth to monitor the reviews and comments. Overall, planning and the set-up of the appeals committee are big concerns. The good news is it’s very manageable. We’re there to provide direction and guidance. We have many clients who’ve done it the right way and made it work well.
Q. When a physician isn’t sold on transparency, what’s the best way to get them onboard?
KP: In order to get physicians on board, it’s important to have an executive level sponsor to help push the initiative along and develop an internal appeals committee for the program as well as to clearly explain the appeals process. This committee is important for helping physicians feel as though they have a voice in the process.
For example, if there is a comment that is approved that the doctor doesn’t agree with or believes to be untrue, the appeals committee will review the doctor’s notes on the comment and then decide if they will either accept or reject the appeal.
The other approach is sharing survey feedback with physicians ahead of them and even showing them sample scores. Physicians often end up discovering that they have much better scores and comments from the surveys compared to third party rating and review sites. It’s a motivating factor for them to have this information posted on their provider webpages.
CG: Another way to encourage physicians to adopt a transparency solution is to show them what the solution actually looks like before it’s live. One way to do this is by having the marketing or patient experience group run reports from the system and send them to the providers. They would likely examine a trailing 12-month period to show them what their ratings look like on provider pages and which comments have been approved.
Another option could be to host ratings and comments on an internal facing site before going live. And the last option could be to allow all the active providers access to the tool itself, allowing them to go in at a read-only level in order to see what the comments and ratings look like, which we call a “soft launch”.
The bottom line is that transparency is good for healthcare providers and consumers. It helps build trust with prospective patients, improve acquisition and strengthen brand image. It is an essential step to create a better consumer and patient experience.
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