Happy patients mean better online reviews, cost savings

By Aine Cryts

Happier patients translate into better quality metrics and lower costs, writes Vivian S. Lee, M.D., CEO of University of Utah Health Care (UUHC) and dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine in a Harvard Business Review blog post.

UUHC has provided unedited online reviews and ratings of its physicians by patients with verified hospital or clinic visits since 2012, writes Lee. While positive online reviews get patients in the door, what retains patients--and gets them to refer their friends and family--is creating a great patient experience.

"[Patients] are voting with their feet and casting their ballots with institutions they trust--those that give them the information they need to make wise healthcare decisions and those that deliver the best care and service for the lowest possible cost," she writes. "Why is it that as an industry we persist in fooling ourselves that customer satisfaction doesn't matter? The patient defines value, and the sooner we come to terms with that, the better."

Lee's advice for creating a great patient experience:

Give patients the right information and build trust. Forty-eight percent of UUHC's patients say physician ratings and online comments had an impact on their choice of physician, she writes. UUHC has built trust for its physician reviews because it shares both positive and negative patient reviews and there are statistically relevant numbers of real patients. Some physician profiles garner as many as 800 hits a month, she writes.

Support physician-driven initiatives. A UUHC dermatologist created a triage tool to determine which patients needed same-day access to care; that led to a reduction in unnecessary emergency room visits. A palliative care screening tool created by a hospitalist on her team was included in established care pathways. In addition to improving the patient experience, these and other initiatives have resulted in more than $5 million in savings, writes Lee.

Focus on ongoing improvement. About 50 percent of UUHC's providers with at least 30 patient reviews score in the top 10th percentile in patient satisfaction when compared to their peers across the country, she writes. Even better, 25 percent rank in the top percentile nationally in patient satisfaction.

For the last six years, UUHC has ranked in the top ten academic medical centers in quality and safety, according to her blog post. In 2015, UUHC was deemed the nation's safest university hospital.

To learn more:
- check out the blog post