Providers’ online reputation hinges on patient experience

As healthcare consumers increasingly are going online to select healthcare providers, healthcare organizations must better manage the patient experience.

Because healthcare consumers today find providers online, and rely on information in online reviews and social media to inform their decision, the ability of providers to maintain a good online reputation has become paramount, according to Reputation.com, which operates platforms to help businesses manage their online reputations.

Improving the patient experience will be critical pieces of a reputation strategy. The Reputation.com report rates the top 100 hospitals based on consumer experiences. To do so, the vendor applied artificial intelligence, machine learning and sentiment analysis to unstructured text in reviews of 4,800 hospitals that report revenue to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It then whittled the sample to 3,824 hospitals with 10 or more online reviews on Google or Facebook between January 2016 and late August 2018.

Healthcare providers need strategies to communicate with patients where they are talking, and that is online and in reviews, says Lindsay Neese Burton, healthcare marketing director at Reputation.com

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Lindsay Neese Shawn Rocco/Duke Health

Some providers just don’t understand that their patients have moved to communicate with doctors and staff online, while other providers worry about whether they are violating patient privacy rules—which they aren’t, according to Neese Burton.

Further, each healthcare organization that is communicating with patients online has different interpretations of what they can say during a conversation, and what they can say is often dictated by what the general counsel says. In all cases, however, if an online conversation begins to move into protected health information, the conversation should be taken off-line and the parties should talk by phone, Neese Burton advises.

More proactive organizations are starting to employ a patient experience officer within the marketing team to engage with patients, as marketing pros are the first line of defense and can triage comments to appropriate persons who can help rectify issues that a patient has.

Neese Burton notes that the operations team may want to handle patient issues, but the operations team may not understand why an online reputation is so important.

Above all, provider organizations need to get away from addressing formal greivances via a formal letter to a patient—that just doesn’t work anymore, Neese Burton stresses.

“The shift to online communications will make providers uncomfortable and require them to respond in near real-time,” she adds. “Sending a letter to a patient who will get in 15 days won’t cut it any longer. Understand that patients are seeing what other patients are saying about your online brand and if you are not contributing, you are letting consumers and patients dictate to you.”

The full report, which is free, is available here.

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