Hospitals develop online ratings strategy in quest for patient satisfaction


As patients turn to online ratings on sites such as Yelp, ZocDoc and Facebook to choose a hospital or doctor, some providers work to turn the rankings to their advantage, the Washington Post reports.

Social media can be a hugely effective tool for patient and community engagement, but hospitals aren't using it to its potential. The problem, according to the Post, is that, even as patient satisfaction ratings, online and otherwise, become more important than ever, patients' and clinicians' ideas of quality care don't always align. For patients, the top measures of healthcare quality revolve around factors such as convenience or whether a doctor or nurse was friendly during the visit. Clinicians, however, naturally put more emphasis on clinical outcomes (although recent research found a correlation between positive online feedback and care quality metrics).

Further complicating measures, many healthcare rating services tend to issue contradictory rankings that are hard for patients to understand, leading the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to premiere its own five-star rating scale on its Hospital Compare site in April.

Despite this disconnect, the Post reports that some hospitals try to leverage their online feedback. For example, Laura Markowski spearheads a "reputation management" initiative for the Roanoke, Virginia-based Carilion Clinic system. Markowski monitors online reviews in real time for complaints about rudeness, long waits and other factors that top patients' lists of concerns.  

Negative reviews (those with scores of three or lower on a five-point scale) come in about twice a day, Markowski told the Post, although she's encountered as few as zero and as many as seven. The majority of negative reviews mention wait times or scheduling issues. Carilion is still determining what to do with the information Markowski has collected, but if a pattern emerges, the organization will address it, she said.

Alternately, the system may use the same technology to publicize positive feedback, with the technology's real-time nature pushing good reviews to the top of a search, ahead of older, worse ones. Under the current system, Markowksi said, no one sees those positive comments except for the doctor or practice they praise.

Other systems have tried similar strategies, such as the Cleveland Clinic, which uses patient satisfaction scores and doctor ratings to promote improvement and create competition, as previously reported by FierceHealthcare. Cleveland Clinic only publishes ratings for doctors who reach a 30-review threshold, and they update the positive and negative ratings weekly, according to the Post.

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