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Hospitals Develop Online Ratings Strategy to Boost Patient Satisfaction

‘Virtual visits’ keep doctors connected to their patients

Hospitals and health systems are making a “new and urgent effort” to track and control their online reputations, according to an article in the Washington Post. As out-of-pocket costs for health care have risen, people are increasingly turning to online ratings on sites such as Facebook, Yelp, and ZocDoc to choose a hospital or doctor.

Patient satisfaction, long ignored by the health-care industry, is a strategic priority for another simple reason: It’s playing a more important role in determining how the federal government pays hospitals, the article says. During the last 3 years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been taking into account patient-satisfaction data when determining how much to reimburse hospitals for Medicare patients.

It’s hard for physicians to wrap their minds around the rating process, however, because treating patients is exceptionally complex, Adrienne Boissy, the chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic, told the Post.

“We don’t have consumers, we have patients,” she said. “Health care isn’t necessarily like shopping at Target.”

The Cleveland Clinic rolled out its own doctor rating site in April for more than 1,550 doctors. Responses are drawn from a patient satisfaction survey required by Medicare, which many hospitals use internally to target areas for improvement.

Unlike some sites that rely on one or two reviews, the Clinic displays only ratings for doctors who have been reviewed by at least 30 patients. Ratings — one to five stars — are updated weekly and include negative as well as positive comments.

Other health systems that have their own online ratings site include the University of Utah, Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, and Integris Health in Oklahoma.

Some companies are trying to help doctors improve ratings by keeping them better connected to their patients, the Post says. For example, HealthLoop, a California-based company, offers doctors daily follow-up with patients through “virtual visits.” Patients are e-mailed questions, advice, and reminders tailored to their illness or condition, and they can e-mail questions and photos back to the doctor’s office. This allows doctors to zero in on the people who need immediate attention.

Online reviews are second nature for today’s younger generation, the article points out. People who may be reluctant to share feedback face-to-face may find it easier to do so anonymously, with one swipe through an app on their phone.

Source: Washington Post; June 4, 2015.

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