Ignore Patient Engagement (and Consumer Reviews) at Your Own Peril

Posted on April 12, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I know several readers of this blog (if not dozens) don’t pay much attention to the world of consumer healthcare reviews. Some seem to think they are populated only by the disgruntled few, and don’t paint a fair picture of providers’ true abilities. Some are of the opinion that too few patients utilize physician review sites (positively or negatively), and don’t present a large enough sample size for reviews to be meaningful. But, like social networks, those that read them are often far greater than those that actively contribute to them, as a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers points out.

Scoring Healthcare: Navigating customer experience ratings” points that though only 24 percent of those surveyed have left online reviews, 48 percent have read them. The report also points out that, “Among those who have read healthcare reviews, 68 percent said they have used the information to select a doctor, hospital and to a lesser extent, a health plan, pharmacy and drug or medical device.”

PwC’s U.S. Health Industries Leader Kelly Barnes sums up my biggest takeaway nicely: “As consumerism in healthcare gains steam, customer feedback has become a determining factor in the success of health organizations. Ratings connect consumers’ experience to quality, and quality connects to financial performance, market share and reputation.”

Say what you will about sites like Healthgrades, Yelp, Consumer Reports or Facebook, they are becoming powerful consumer engagement tools, and giving them short shrift will not win providers any points in the countdown to Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. (October 1 is just over 170 days away, in case you were wondering.)

It’s interesting to note in light of the PwC report that the new Patient Engagement Index from Axial Exchange bases 25 percent of a hospital’s score on its social engagement, which includes its ratings on consumer review sites.

What I’d like to know from providers is:

  •  Are you starting to pay more attention to consumer reviews?
  • If so, how are they affecting your overall patient engagement strategy?
  • If not, why? What other baskets are you placing your patient engagement eggs in?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.