Social media sites like Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, HealthGrades, and Vitals have forever changed the way we as a society think about communication and how information is created, delivered and consumed in healthcare. Online reputation is everything these days.
Reviews and ratings—whether official data from CAHPS surveys on your own site or patient reviews on third-party sites— are a new form of currency in the online marketplace as consumers look to find information and exercise control over their experience. Both contribute to a provider’s or organization’s overall online reputation.
All of this information amounts to a large amount of data from a dizzying array of sources. And if used correctly, all of this data can help you develop a culture of constant improvement as you keep learning.
Learn as much as you can, from as many sources as you can.
We need to dig deeper into data—not just our own, but the entire world of data that surrounds us. Just because a single source doesn’t meet our desire for perfect data sets doesn’t mean we toss them out and try to ignore them. Because, in the end, if you do that, you cut yourself off from the very thing your patients and their families are using to analyze you.
So what data is relevant?
Sure, if you’re looking at a single doctor and a single data source, such as Yelp, there’s not a lot of actionable or valid insight you can draw. But if our country’s obsession with Big Data has taught us anything, it’s that the gold isn’t in the single data point, but in the aggregate across many providers and many sources.
Online provider reviews are just the starting point
First, organizations should be watching what sites like Yelp are doing because there’s a strong chance they are able to see and react to what consumers want faster than the industry can. By watching them you can pick up on and evaluate potential strategies to implement. When you take into account all of the different third-party rating sites that exist—HealthGrades, ZocDocs, and more—this is a lot of potential. And keeping tabs on them is incredibly important to your business.
Some organizations may say, “Hey, I’m posting my official, verified reviews on our site. We’re completely transparent. Shouldn’t that trump third-party reviews?” The answer is no.
Even official, CAHPS-verified data isn’t perfect
If you’re just mailing surveys, there are demographics who just won’t fill those out. If you do surveys during the visit, there are certain types of people you’ll miss or you’ll skew the data because of a lack of honesty.
The point isn’t that a particular method or data source is skewed and therefore unusable; you just have to know all your data sources are somewhat skewed and account for it in the various ways you “listen” to your market and crunch the data. Your online reputation will be composed of many data points across many platforms.
The quest for actionable data isn’t a battle
No single data source is going to be enough. Yelp is interesting, but on its own there’s just not enough data to go on. As for it being unverified patient data, that’s true, but it’s reasonable to assume non-patient reviews constitute a fairly small percentage of the actual data. Skewing bias toward certain demographics is true, but then again that’s true for all survey methods.
Every review can be a catalyst for change
Awareness and balance are key when you begin leveraging more data. The reason social sites have been viewed as noise by most healthcare professionals is because they’ve thought of it in terms of individual provider data and as if they had to use any single source of data as their whole data set.
But your online reputation is the sum of many different parts online.
The more sources of input you can intelligently process, analyze, and execute on, the better healthcare organizations can get at delivering actual care. Then, patient outcomes improve. Reimbursement improves. Culture and engagement improve. Growth happens, not because of a brilliant marketing ploy, but because the organizations grow internally and patients take notice.