Delivering a solid patient experience — Online consumerism, reputation & engagement

Practice Management

Providers would be wise to recognize the growing importance of delivering an excellent patient experience. A new era of healthcare has arrived, in which patients have transformed into consumers and are not shy to publicly share encounters they had with healthcare organizations.

Andrew Rainey, executive vice president of strategy and corporate development at McLean, Va.-based Binary Fountain, identified three key areas deserving of healthcare organizations' attention in a value-based world. Binary Fountain focuses on improving the patient experience by leveraging patient feedback from online ratings and reviews, social media and surveys to help healthcare organizations engage patients and improve operations.


1. Healthcare consumerism. Patients are shopping for care, and will base their selections on a slew of factors — from parking availability to bedside manner. And patients gather information about organizations by reading comments online from other patients.


"If you want to build patient loyalty, practices, hospitals and healthcare systems need to be involved in these conversations," says Mr. Rainey. He suggests organizations monitor online feedback to help accomplish this.


Make sure to monitor physician feedback, as they "represent the brand more than the facility itself," explains Mr. Rainey. He recognizes physicians are skeptical of online reviews, but he emphasizes their reputation plays a significant role in attracting more patients. "Regardless if physicians care about online reviews, patients do," Mr. Rainey says.


Being transparent will also prove key in attracting patients. Selecting a physician is one of the most important health decisions a patient will make, so they need information they can trust. By publishing all verified star ratings and patient testimonials from CAHPS surveys to their websites, healthcare organizations can become that trusted voice in their physician search, explains Mr. Rainey.


"Consumerism is now a part of healthcare and patients have more information and choices at their fingertips. You need to inform and engage them, and better understand their needs and concerns," says Mr. Rainey.


2. Reputation management. To address all aspects of an organization's reputation, don't dismiss reviews and ratings.


"Ratings and reviews are the voice of your customers. You wouldn't ignore a customer service call; why treat these any different? Other industries are embracing and responding to them and learning from them. It's time to adopt that approach. And with online feedback growing it's going to become even more challenging to manage the entire process. You need to get out ahead of it before online reviews shape the perception of your organization and physicians," explains Mr. Rainey.


And just gathering the online reviews isn't enough — it's crucial you learn from patient experiences and figure out how to address them. The communication team and patient experience team should collaborate on this effort, leveraging a new data set of valuable information. While many of the insights from the data align with CAHPS survey questions, which help evaluate the patient experience hospitals and physician practices deliver, there are other meaningful insights captured that fall outside these traditional measures that deserve attention.


3. Engagement Strategy. Establishing best practices for engaging patients online is crucial to ensure an organization is practicing compliance with their responses. Mr. Rainey suggests organizations offer a public-facing response, but to take the conversation offline.


"Redirect the conversation to private," explains Mr. Rainey. "Address the concern, [to say] we're listening and we care, now let's find out more what happened."


Contrary to popular belief, most online feedback is positive or neutral, not negative.


"If someone took the time to say something positive, it's as simple as saying thanks for the feedback," recommends Mr. Rainey. "It builds the second touch point with the patient which will ultimately build loyalty with that patient."



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