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Hospitals Suddenly Discover the Need for Reputation Management

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

A line of hands giving thumbs up with colorful speech bubbles above themWithin the healthcare industry, reputation management is not new. But when the venerable Washington Post has something to say about hospitals and health systems, people in American’s capital and throughout the nation tend to take notice.

An insightful Post Health & Science section article reports on “a new and urgent effort by hospitals and health systems to track and control their online reputations.” We suspect that management and marketing folks in hospitals would not describe reputation management in those terms, but it is probably newsworthy to the publication’s general-circulation readership.

A wide public awareness ultimately benefits the healthcare delivery system, “as out-of-pocket costs for health care have risen, people are increasingly shopping for their medical care and comparing reviews. And younger consumers who have grown up on Yelp and Rate My Professors expect the same seamless, digital experience with health care that they have used in other aspects of their lives.”

Healthcare in general, the Post observes, “has long ignored the patient experience.” To whatever degree that may have been true in the past, there’s an increasing priority for health systems and hospitals to track and, whenever possible, boost their ratings on rating sites like Yelp, HealthGrades, ZocDoc and Vitals.

Reputation management isn’t what’s new…

Doctors have long guarded their personal and professional reputation. And hospitals have long been concerned about their reputation, especially with their doctor constituents. Significant factors in the constantly changing healthcare landscape—among a hundred influences—include:

  • patient/consumers are increasingly using social platforms to communicate
  • the number of “rating sites,” in various formats, is increasing
  • online consumer reporting is quick, easy and nearly real time

From a reputation management perspective, it’s increasingly tough to monitor comments, and when appropriate, to respond. Near the top of the heap in social media are Facebook, Twitter and others. But in healthcare, among the top sites—popular with smartphone-enabled constituents—for administrators and marketing executives to monitor are:

Yelp: A crowd-source platform, originally keyed to restaurants, rapidly expanding among healthcare providers and facilities.

HealthGrades: Founded in 1998, HealthGrades is one of the oldest and largest source of information about physicians and hospitals.

ZocDoc: Integrates online scheduling with information about medical practices and facilities.

Vitals: Links consumers with information about cost, quality and access about health plans and providers.

There are dozens of other rating and reporting sites. But the newly empowered patient/consumer is increasingly influenced by online ratings and reporting in their selection of providers and facility. Reputation management matters.

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Lonnie Hirsch

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