The days when patient retention happened solely inside the doctor’s office are over. When a California neurosurgeon found himself at the wrong side of an online smear campaign, he discovered what thousands of healthcare providers are learning the hard way: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was not drafted for an online universe. Doctors are increasingly being reviewed on public media, and when it’s time to respond, HIPAA acts as the rope that keeps their hands tied firmly behind their backs. Powerlessness rooted in patient privacy rights means that healthcare institutions' responses are extremely limited. An ordinary business might publish a rebuttal to negative ratings, but in the medical sector, dozens of privacy disputes have emerged in response to Yelp review replies.
The Deputy Director for Health Information and Privacy says that physicians faced with public complaints can do little more than claim they provide all their patients with excellent care. Doctors can resolve issues privately, but this method leaves toxic reviews in its wake that continue to poison practices long after the core problem has been solved.
Three-quarters of patients use internet reviews to choose new physicians, so an online presence is critical. Patient feedback is a double-edged sword because it also tends to be heavily weighted by Google, so it usually appears at the top of search results. Physicians do have some power at their disposal, though.
Taking your Power Back
Few patients complain for the sake of being negative. Most want to induce authentic change so that future patients don’t suffer the same fate they did. The truth will always come out, but how that happens is entirely up to healthcare providers. By offering an accessible patient feedback process safely away from public social media sites, patients receive a private portal through which to express their opinions. Outcomes improvement is a bustling industry, and there are several systems available today to not only receive ratings but analyze data as well. This way, doctors are kept accountable, but they can address patient complaints directly without violating HIPAA.
Medical Expertise and Lethal Ignorance
Physicians tend to think that patients aren’t able to judge the quality of the medical advice they receive, but patient empowerment trends have led to an increasingly well-informed client base. Today’s patients obtain second opinions and educate themselves about their conditions before reviewing their physicians online. They are, nonetheless, unaware of all the cogs and components involved in their care, but silencing them is not the solution. The vast majority of physician reviews are positive, with 65% offering the highest possible patient feedback rating. All those reviews are treasures for reputation management programs and can be migrated to a public site as long as privacy laws are respected and permission is obtained.
By leveraging their own review process, healthcare providers can improve the way they serve their patients. Software and applications that have in-built analytics tools are useful for this purpose. While patient satisfaction is improved, transparency can be increased, which can raise satisfaction scores by as much as 30%. Everything from hospital-acquired conditions to readmission strategies and surgical care needs to be measured and improved upon. This data-driven approach is so powerful that it can even reduce mortality rates. Hospital finances can also benefit when a multi-layered strategy is put into effect to implement discharge processes and debt collection analytics.
It’s the wisdom of the crowd that can overcome a single negative review best. The easier and more accessible you make your rating system for your patients, the more ‘crowd wisdom’ you can exploit to build your reputation.