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Is Your Hospital Brave Enough to Publish Online Physician Reviews?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

"Leaving comfort zone!" caution signA breakthrough idea can be a scary thing. The nation’s healthcare delivery system has been a sea of change in general. But particularly off-putting are the notions that sharply depart from the comfort, familiarity and predictability of traditional ways of doing things.

As a case in point, we might reasonably imagine the reactions of doctors when the University of Utah Health Care became the first hospital system in the country to post online physician reviews and patient comments. I don’t have any inside information about doctor reactions to share, but publishing a scoreboard of sorts was probably a disquieting innovation for some medical staff participants.

That venture came online a little more than three years ago. And since then, the broader concept of hospital and healthcare transparency has gotten greater traction in the industry and with the patient/consumer public.

In one form or another the availability of physician and hospital rating information is not new and is readily accessible online. And, as American hospitals are now beginning to adopt programs similar to the University of Utah, it may become an expected industry standard.

It seems that patients not only like having online access to physician data, informed consumers are increasingly using it as guideposts for care decisions. Studies, including research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), better than 60 percent of Americans surveyed know about online health reviews, and nearly one-forth of them used the sites for research.

Perhaps more significantly for marketing professionals, about 35 percent of the site users picked a doctor based on positive ratings, and about 37 percent avoided using a doctor with a bad rating.

Three benefits from the Utah experience…

Our friend Dr. James Merlino has a unique perspective on this slice of transparency in healthcare. He is president and chief medical officer of the strategic consulting division at Press Ganey, and previously, the chief experience officer and associate chief of staff at the Cleveland Clinic health system.

In our recent podcast interview, Dr. Merlino told us that, at the University of Utah, when doctors’ scores and comments were published on their website, several things happened.

“First, the scores improved. Second, the doctors had many, many more positive comments than negative comments; and they liked seeing their positive comments out there. And third, it had a significant impact on their brand because it changed the search dynamics on a site like Google.”

Several respected hospitals are now bringing physical scores online. And with these potential benefits available to doctors and the organization, it’s reasonable to ask if your hospital is brave enough to publish online physician reviews.

For additional reference, our podcast with Dr. Merlino, Perspective: The State of Patient Experience, is available here. And there’s more about the Press Ganey/University of Utah Health Care survey here.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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