- Online patient reviews are a significant concern for healthcare organizations. Online review websites are on the rise and are arguably a key measure of patient satisfaction, giving patients ample opportunity to provide feedback to the clinics and hospitals they visit.
While some doctors and industry experts may take online patient reviews with a grain of salt, research suggests that patients take them seriously. A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that 57 percent of patients value the insights given on third-party review websites.
A separate survey from Software Advice found that 77 percent of patients use online reviews prior to selecting a clinician or treatment facility.
Miami Children’s Health System and its flagship facility, Niklaus Children’s Hospital, recognize the importance of provider reviews, and value them as a lens into the overall patient experience.
However, the organizations have encountered challenges when managing reviews from the numerous review platforms that have emerged in recent years, according to Miami Children’s Web Marketing Manager Robert Prieto.
“Everyone knows that Yelp is a go-to for food and certain services,” said Prieto in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com. “We could get control on Yelp and get notifications whenever that happens, but we were finding it was happening on Yelp, on Vitals, on Google.”
“It was all over the place. It was a little out of control trying to aggregate all of this feedback we were getting that was important to read and categorize and send off to administrative stakeholders.”
Prieto and his team looked into online reputation management systems and ultimately landed on ReviewTrackers. This tool sifts through all of the online reviews Miami Children’s receives on various platforms. It even detects user-generated profiles that are not affiliated with Miami Children’s.
When a patient wants to leave a review but cannot find the verified hospital profile, she sometimes creates her own page for that hospital, creating more chaos.
Using the tool, Prieto and his team are genuinely looking at all patient comments – the good and the bad, he said. But ultimately, complaints are prioritized that can immediately be improved upon.
“Primarily we’re looking for complaints, which luckily there aren’t many. We’ve been able to address the ones that were negative early on, but every once in a while you get a negative report,” Prieto said. “The criteria is that we want to address more timely issues, where we see someone saying that they had a poor experience for whatever reason.”
In the event of an actionable complaint, Prieto and his team use a pre-scripted reply to commenters. These standardized messages prompt commenters to submit complaints through more formal verticals and offer more details regarding the encounter. In doing so, Prieto and his team can determine the best course of action, or if the complaint is even coming from a Miami Children’s patient at all.
“We really don’t know if this in fact is a patient, because anyone can leave feedback on internet sites,” Prieto pointed out.
The triage system helps Miami Children’s weed out potentially fake or inflammatory reviews and get down to handling encounters that can actually spark improvement.
When Prieto and his team identify a legitimate comment and gather the necessary information, they then forward it onto the team at the corresponding care site.
“If it’s a comment about an outpatient center and the service was in urgent care, we’ll immediately send that up to the regional director for the urgent care center,” Prieto said. “We then have them have a conversation with the provider the review may be about. Practice leaders address those issues.”
Miami Children’s has also used the tool for overall practice improvements and marketing campaigns, Prieto said. Using a program-generated word cloud, Prieto and his team can identify the terms discussed the most across different online review websites. From there, they can filter through all of the comments using that specific term to understand common customer experiences.
“We use their word cloud and call out whenever we’re having service line or center-specific marketing planning meetings,” Prieto said. “It will point out gaps that could affect our service. That way we make sure that is all taken care of before we invest in additional outreach and marketing.”
“It’s helpful to understand common themes and common terms across the different service lines across the hospital or in the service center.”
While helpful, Prieto acknowledged that online provider reviews are distinct from formal, federal patient satisfaction measures, such as the HCAHPS surveys. HCAHPS surveys help paint a general picture of the patient experience, and help inform reimbursements from CMS.
Online reviews, however, serve as a real-time lens through which a health system or hospital can assess its reputation with local patients. Prieto has found considerable value in online provider reviews when they are used as a supplement in this way.
“We see online reviews as an additional complement to HCAHPS,” Prieto said. “It gives us a more real-time view of the pain points for the customer if we do see a trend unraveling there.”
In addition to informing crucial practice improvement activities, online review aggregate tools have also helped Prieto and his team work on the online patient experience and act on branding opportunities. For example, Prieto can identify where most patients leave and read reviews by using review aggregating platforms.
“We know that Facebook is where most people are, but we also have to look out for Vitals and Healthgrades,” Prieto said. “It helps us understand the top sites for profile and branding, making sure they are neat, well-groomed, and correct. That’s another good piece of the tool.”
Clinicians within the health system have reacted positively, Prieto reported. The very presence of online provider reviews have driven better patient-provider relationships because providers are acutely aware of patient reviews.
“It has been pretty well-received and now everyone knows that they can’t stick their head in the sand anymore and have to acknowledge that patient feedback is happening,” Prieto concluded. “This is what’s being said. We are adopting a mindset to not be reactive, but proactive. We’re addressing issues before they get out of control.”