April 18, 2017

Building Patient Loyalty and Understanding the “Why” Behind a Star Rating

By: Andrew Rainey

Online Feedback and Trust

Summer’s around the corner and many of us are planning summer vacations. We’re doing online research to help make decisions about where to stay, new beach essentials, activities for the family, and which new restaurants to try out. We’re coming to trust this information, often as much as a recommendation from a friend or family member. Peer reviews and 5-star ratings have a meaningful and significant impact in our day to day decisions, and healthcare consumers are no different. It’s critical that you pay attention to what patients are saying about you, no matter where they say it.

If you’re a healthcare marketing professional, you may have an abundance of CAHPS survey data at your fingertips. Combine that with email survey campaigns, online ratings and reviews, and social media comments, and your patient experience picture begins to grow and become more detailed. When it comes to ratings and reviews on third-party sites like Healthgrades, Facebook, Yelp and Google, it’s important to assume that an overwhelming majority of the feedback is genuine. Of course, not all patient comments will cover every aspect of their doctor’s visit or hospital stay, but it will reflect meaningful moments of their perceived experience.

The truth is that most credible third-party sites invest time verifying the integrity of their ratings and reviews; after all, their own reputation is on the line (think of Amazon’s “Verified Purchase” tag). So, if you come across a less-than-stellar review, imagine that patient who posted it standing in front of you. What would you say to them? Proactively addressing their experience can go a long way toward winning back that patient’s trust and loyalty, not to mention the countless potential patients reading that online review. Remember: creating a better patient experience leads to a better online reputation.

Patient Experience is Everyone’s Business

Within the health systems and practices that we interact with every day at Binary Fountain, the roles and responsibilities around “patient experience” are rapidly evolving. Multiple departments now have a distinct impact on patient experiences, with marketing now playing an integral role. Why? Patient interactions with their providers are no longer just at the point of care—they’ve gone digital and the patient experience starts well before they step foot in your office or hospital. With keen insights into timely online patient feedback from ratings and review sites, social media, surveys and more, marketing is quickly becoming a key collaborator in the patient experience discussion.

Traditionally, a patients’ experience with the nurse or doctor solely drove the patient experience. Today, however, that’s expanded to include more experience “touchpoints”, including digital. Is it easy for a patient to find you, and is the information they discover online accurate? If a patient has a complaint, will someone promptly follow up with him or her? As I said before, every moment is meaningful, and patient experience and marketing teams can work hand in hand to create a positive experience throughout the patient’s journey.

Making Sense of Star Ratings and Reviews

It’s easy to see that five stars are better than two or three stars, but what really qualifies a five-star rating? How do you make sense of open-ended comments and feedback? Going back to my Amazon reference, think about a typical purchasing experience. When you’re making a decision to buy a new product, you want to see more than just an average rating, right? You want to read comments from real people who have already purchased and used this product, both positive and negative. Did it live up to expectations? Did it provide lasting value? Would you purchase it again?

Experiential data helps put into context why someone gave that product a three-, four- or five-star rating. That’s why it’s important to understand the operational patient experience factors that are working well—bedside manner and communication, for instance—as well as those that require prompt service recovery—front desk staff or wait time, for instance.

With online feedback continuing to grow, we need to move forward with addressing these challenges to create a better patient experience and online reputation. How are you analyzing online patient feedback? Are marketing and patient experience working together? Email me with your thoughts.

About the Author

Andrew Rainey
EVP of Strategy & Corporate Development

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