Everybody thinks their industry is different. In healthcare, it’s a dictum, but there are numerous reasons, and lucid examples, of how this may actually be true.
Let’s look specifically at “customer satisfaction” surveys and reviews.
Go to a restaurant and you’ll find 20% of people taking pictures of their lunches, writing Yelp and Google reviews, posting on Instagram and Facebook, and texting their friends and family. Why? Dining is aspirational, fundamentally pleasurable, and perhaps the most shared experience we have as human beings. The numbers reflect this: Consumers have posted over 25 million restaurant reviews on Yelp alone, the number of restaurant reviews grew by 110% in the first five years, and our own social feeds are evidence of the popularity of sharing our food experiences.
Now, contrast that with our healthcare experiences.
First, let’s start with something we can all relate to: a routine visit, like a dental check-up, an annual physical, or a minor dermatology question. How many of us would remember anything sexy or aspirational about it? At worst, the experience is fraught with fear and doubt about what they might find. There isn’t anything truly pleasurable about a visit — aside from the vague sense that we’re being responsible adults. If things go well, it’ll most likely be an experience we’ll immediately forget as we think about where to grab a good lunch (I bet your coworkers have posted some great photos recently). For most of us, a “good” appointment is just one more task checked off our list. When a new dentist office opens, there aren’t lines around the block just to take a picture of the chair.
Or let’s consider the more intense healthcare experience — it isn’t routine, but instead the result of a diagnosis or accident. In addition to negative feelings of inconvenience, you add in feelings of fear and sometimes embarrassment, guilt or shame. In these situations, someone is more likely to pull out their phone and use social media as a mental escape from their situation rather than as a moment to promote it.
Yet patient interest in healthcare reviews exists — in abundance. The web is filled with review sites…and patients insist, in survey after survey, that the ratings they find matter and impact their case choices.
And what kind of feedback do they find? This is where our theories on the different emotional experiences between dining and healthcare turn into cold, hard facts. The numbers tell a different story in healthcare than in restaurants or hospitality. Contrary to the world of prolific restaurant reviews, the average doctor only has 2.4 reviews, if they have any at all (and about 50% don’t have any).
The truth about healthcare reviews
When examining the body of reviews on consumer sites, most of the negative feedback pertains to “customer service” issues in healthcare, such as billing issues, prescription problems, wait times, etc. These are aspects of healthcare that are known and understood endemic problems, not particular to any health system or doctor.
Aside from consumer-web reviews, there is another prevalent source of feedback. In 1995, the federal government, through CMS, stepped in and created a mandatory “consumer assessment survey” mechanism (aka CAHPS) as part of hospital reimbursement. There are millions of CAHPS surveys collected every year, and though most apply to the hospital, there were over 250,000 from Clinician & Group CAHPS related directly to individuals in 2016. The reviews are verified by patients, and the questions are about real patient experience with the clinician (as opposed to the “hospitality” of the waiting room). And when you contrast them with web reviews, the difference in the ratings is stark.
We did a detailed study of clinicians across over 4,000 doctors and found that providers have a CAHPS score higher than Healthgrades by over a full “star” in over 50% of cases and a higher CAHPS score than Vitals by 0.9 of a star in over two-thirds of cases.
This reality — that the consumer web may be negatively skewing our view of qualified clinicians — inspired Doctor.com to choose Chrome as the platform to develop the ReviewHub with Google as well as our systems for Transparency and Reputation Insights.
Giving voice to the silent contented majority
At Doctor.com, we believe that patients deserve to make informed healthcare decisions based on a representative sample of reviews, just like restaurant patrons do. With the goal of helping healthcare organizations achieve a higher frequency of consumer data, we’ve enabled verified patients to share feedback at the point of care and give a megaphone to the majority of patients whose first instinct isn’t to go online. And the system works – offices with a ReviewHub collect six times more reviews on a monthly basis than other providers.
When developing the ReviewHub system, we had to make an important decision about what platform to build on, and after extensive research the choice was clear. Working in ChromeOS alongside Google is simple, scalable, secure, and compliant and attached our products to Google’s growing ecosystem of healthcare solutions.
The most important part is that the scores from ReviewHub trend closer to CAHPS scores than the consumer-web, meaning we’re helping patients get a “truer” sense of feedback via accessible consumer platforms. The reviews from the hub are syndicated out to a web of consumer sites interested in giving patients access to the most accurate and verified patient feedback available, so a ReviewHub review is displayed on Healthgrades, Vitals, Bing, Yellow Pages, and more.
We also work with hospitals and health systems to unearth their CAHPS scores and prominently place them on their websites, working in an effort to provide greater transparency and to better educate patients in the process of seeking care.
While “healthcare is different,” consumers across all industries are increasingly relying on the social proof of reviews to make decisions every year. It is incumbent on all of us to develop solutions which will empower patients to make well-informed decisions and, in turn, incorporate valuable feedback to continuously innovate and improve the healthcare industry for all stakeholders.