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Healthcare Industry Engaging Patients Online

In an age where people make dinner plans based on online reviews, it seems only natural that patient satisfaction ratings and online feedback should be playing a larger role as a measure for the effectiveness of hospitals and healthcare providers.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has made adjustments in recent years by providing incentives for hospitals to be on top of their game, based on patient satisfaction as measured by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. Hospitals that perform poorly may have up to 1% of Medicare reimbursement withheld. Patient satisfaction surveys include questions about how responsive hospitals are to patients’ questions and needs.

Hospitals are now taking a more strategic view based on engagement as patients have begun selecting healthcare providers from online patient reviews. These days, healthcare administrators have one more thing to worry about, as the online reputation of their facility can factor heavily into overall success.

A 2015 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States by Deloitte found that 52% of consumers conducted online searches for health-related information. The Deloitte study also found an upward trend in the use of online performance scorecards (12-18% for doctors, 9-12% for hospitals) between 2013 and 2015; Millennials (49%) and Generation X (31%) are among the largest groups of consumers.

Younger consumers who have grown up incorporating online feedback forums such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Rate My Professors and other ratings sites into their everyday lives are now looking online for information about healthcare providers the same way they would a restaurant they’d like to visit. A poor online reputation could see healthcare facilities suffer as patients look for more desirable options.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 65% of people surveyed were aware of online physician reviews; 40% of respondents said the review sites were important in selecting a doctor. 

Yelp’s founders were more concerned about people sharing feedback concerning healthcare providers rather than restaurants and retailers when they created the company in 2004, according to an article in Wired. That is why in August 2015, the company announced that listings for hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics would include emergency room wait times, fines paid by facilities and reported deficiencies.

To do it, Yelp partnered with nonprofit investigative journalism specialists ProPublica. The two share Yelp’s original data, as well as information from the federal government. But Yelp is not alone in its quest to relay healthcare provider reviews and data to patients seeking the best care they can find. Patients can find real-time feedback on more than a dozen websites including ZocDoc.com, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, according a Washington Post article.

A 2013 article in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons question whether the reviews on sites such as Healthgrades.com, Vitals and RateMDs.com that denote a patient’s experience provide an accurate quality measure of a healthcare practitioner.

The use of Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus are important to note because of the relevance social media plays in modern life. Today, 65% of the population uses some sort of social networking site, according the Pew Research Center, including 35% of those age 65 and older. In other words, healthcare providers cannot afford to lack an online presence in the social media sphere.

In meeting this demand and improving their responsiveness, many providers are turning to social networking sites to recruit patients and their families as advisers, asking for their input through questionnaires and surveys. They’re looking for suggestions that will help them improve their quality of care and develop new services.

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