Healthcare practices, like any business, need to constantly pursue new customers as well as work to retain existing ones.
As the cost of healthcare continues to rise in the United States, currently a $3 trillion business, many patients are beginning to reasses their visits. Was the promised service delivered, was it delivered with quality and was it delivered at a fair price? If the standard of care does not meet patients’ expectations, they are more likely to switch practices.
In today’s experience economy, healthcare practices need to concentrate on two things: providing excellent customer service and operating a profitable business. These two seemingly disparate clinical and business goals are interconnected through reputation management, patient engagement and value-based care.
The need for reputation management
In the past, a healthcare provider’s reputation was based primarily on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family or another provider. However, online reputation management is something healthcare practices can no longer afford to overlook.
Today, searching and selecting a physician is more than just verifying a physician is experienced and qualified. Patients are actively seeking and reading online ratings and review sites. They’re evaluating a physician or practice based on a myriad of components, such as cleanliness, bedside manner and parking.
A recent consumer survey found:
- 95 percent of respondents say online ratings and reviews are “somewhat” to “very” reliable,
- 70 percent of Americans say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when selecting a physician and
- 41 percent of consumers still check online ratings and reviews of physicians/specialists even when referred by another physician.
Therefore, maintaining a positive online reputation is key to promoting a successful business.
With this in mind, medical practices need to monitor and track what is being said about them online. Although many physicians are skeptical of online reviews - particularly negative reviews - more healthcare providers are using this data as a means of benchmarking their performance.
In fact, online ratings and reviews enable physicians to better understand and make operational improvements to the patient experience. In today’s competitive healthcare market, online reputation could be what distinguishes one physician apart from another, especially when cost of care and location are similar.
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The role of patient engagement
Medical practices want to build trust, loyalty and a rapport with their patients. Therefore, practices and their providers need to be vigilant about asking patients to leave online ratings, reviews and recommendations.
Reputation monitoring and management is most effective when a large percentage of patients and caregivers are participating. The more feedback captured via Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems surveys, ratings and review sites or social media, the better the patient experience will be for future patients.
Today, more and more consumers are providing unfiltered, public-facing feedback to help others make an informed decision about whether a practice is worth a visit. It’s equally important for practices and providers to request patient feedback and respond to all online reviews, even the negative ones. In doing so, practices and providers will show they care about improving the patient experience.
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The shift toward value-based care
The healthcare industry is currently operating mostly on a fee-for-service payment model. However, the industry may soon be heading toward a value-based reimbursement payment model.
Regardless of how a provider is paid, improving the patient experience and closing gaps in care should be top of mind for all providers. Patients already have high expectations for the level of customer service they wish to receive.
OnePoll conducted a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults with a physician. They found that 48 percent of Americans believe “a friendly and caring attitude” is the single most important factor for patients when rating or evaluating a physician, closely followed by “ability to answer all my questions” (47 percent) and “thoroughness of the examination” (45 percent).
If practices want to increase their number of repeat patients, it is imperative they create professional, personable and valuable experiences for their patients.
Patient experience is the common thread that ties reputation management, patient engagement and value-based care together. The experience is the catalyst for driving patient retention, referrals and revenue for physician practices. After all, without satisfied patients, there is no business.
Aaron Clifford is the senior vice president of marketing for the Binary Fountain, a cloud-based provider of patient feedback and reputation management solutions. He has more than 15 years of experience in healthcare digital marketing and has held leadership roles at HCA Healthcare, Qualifacts Systems Inc. and First American Financial Corporation. Aaron was named the 2013 Social Media Strategist of the Year by the Greater Nashville Technology Council.