Public disclosure of patient satisfaction data may come at a cost

By Matt Kuhrt

Providing easy access to patient survey results may sound great from a marketing perspective, but practices looking to embrace transparency may want to slow down and consider the potential for unintended consequences, according to an opinion piece written for the Wall Street Journal by Matthew Isaac, professor of marketing at the Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics.

As the industry has adapted to the presence of online reviews, health systems have begun to see value in them as a marketing tool, generating a push for broader exposure of patient feedback to the general public, as FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported.

The greatest danger Isaac sees in this trend lies in the potential disjunction between a patient's satisfaction with the care he or she receives and the actual efficacy of that care. He cites a report from the Hastings Center, which raises concerns about the idea of practices focusing on improving the patient experience in pursuit of solid patient ratings, noting that "the pressure to get good ratings can lead to bad medicine." Potential side effects of such an approach include unnecessary prescriptions, tests or procedures, suggests Isaac.

For practices determined to pursue the transparency strategy, Isaac suggests pruning both the most positive and the most negative scores and reviews in order to counter the potential for negativity bias without cherrypicking the data. He also warns that the "public disclosure of every inane comment or complaint online" could take its toll on employee morale, so practices would do well to monitor the job satisfaction of physicians and staff as they make the transition.

To learn more:
- read the article
- see the Hastings Center report


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