This sponsored article was written by Lindsay Neese Burton, who has spent more than a decade as a healthcare marketer at large Academic Medical Centers in the Southeast, focused on developing marketing strategies for consumers and referring physicians. Now as part of the Reputation.com team, Lindsay helps healthcare organizations create digital marketing strategies and leverage online feedback to meet their goals.
Over the last couple of years, healthcare marketers have become increasingly aware of the importance of online reputation. As more than 88% of healthcare consumers start their search for a provider online, and 80% read online reviews before they choose a provider, online reputation management (ORM) is now a priority initiative in leading health systems.
New trends in 2019 underscore the importance of ORM as a way to not only attract and acquire more patients, but to build trust with consumers and improve patient experience — from the initial online search to post-care.
Three trends stand out — and are already affecting the way Reputation.com’s healthcare clients are engaging with patients and consumers online. These trends point to the growing mistrust among U.S. consumers and the not so surprising link between a healthcare organization’s reputation and the patient experience it delivers:
- Building trust with healthcare consumers will be more critical than ever, requiring increased brand transparency and proactive engagement at the local level.
- Online reputation and patient experience management will merge, as a health system’s brand’s reputation and the experience it provides to patients are inexorably linked.
- Healthcare organizations will increasingly leverage AI and machine learning techniques to improve patient experience.
Let’s examine the ways in which healthcare organizations can use ORM strategies to adapt to changing consumer behavior and expectations that are inspiring these trends.
Build Trust through Authenticity
In 2018, a growing distrust among consumers — spurred by the media and current political climate (think “fake news”), as well as numerous high-profile lapses of trustworthy behavior from companies such as Facebook, Under Armor and others, has created the demand for increased brand transparency. This applies not only to healthcare, but to nearly every industry, from retail to hospitality, financial services and more.
Because trust is waning, authenticity is crucial. Brands must be authentic, open and transparent. Eighty-six percent of people — from Millennials to Gen-Xers to Baby Boomers — say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
How does a healthcare organization demonstrate authenticity? It’s in the way they interact and engage with patients and consumers, both online and onsite. Here are two good ways to react to this trend:
- Request patient reviews: Consumers rely on the recommendations of friends and online reviews when evaluating products and services; healthcare consumers will have more trust in an organization that has a high volume of recent reviews left by real patients.
- Engage with local communities on social channels: Being authentic means listening and responding to conversations about your brand taking place online — in a HIPAA-compliant manner, of course. Monitoring and responding to every digital conversation that mentions your physicians, locations or brand is essential — but impossible to do manually. Online reputation management solutions provide the automation necessary to scale your listening and engage in meaningful ways with every conversation.
Use Feedback to Improve CX
Your brand’s reputation is defined by the patient experience you deliver. If a patient has a bad experience with one of your providers, that patient may leave a bad review or complain about it on a social media site, and tell their family and friends. Word spreads, and your reputation degrades. Fortunately, effective ORM can enable you to turn a negative experience around and recruit brand advocates.
Here’s how: An ORM platform collects and analyzes feedback at every patient touchpoint — before, during and after care is delivered. It delivers data to the provider about the interaction and what went wrong in real time. Recently, a Reputation.com client received a bad review from a patient who was still in the provider’s office. The complaint was about wait time — she had been waiting a long time in the office for the doctor to see her. The front desk admin received an alert and was able to perform service recovery on the spot. As a result, the patient removed the bad review.
For large healthcare organizations with hundreds or even thousands of locations, technology is essential to monitor and respond to reviews and social posts across the web in a timely manner. Choose a platform that has alerting and ticketing solutions built-in, so any issues that surface online initiate a process for addressing and fixing them.
Supplement CAHPS Data with Insights from Reviews and Other Patient Feedback
Historically, patient experience has been defined by CAHPS patient experience survey results. But these surveys don’t provide a complete picture of patient experience, overlooking important parts of the patient journey like pre- and post-hospital experiences (i.e. parking, wait times, billing). In 2019, healthcare organizations will complement this information with in-depth analysis of other types of patient feedback like organic online reviews. They’ll use artificial intelligence (AI) to mitigate customer service issues before they go viral and impact reputation.
Unstructured data from online reviews and social media posts offer invaluable insights into patient sentiment that CAHPS surveys can’t uncover. It enables providers to be more proactive and responsive about potential problems and recurring complaints, before they have an impact on CAHPS scores. Analytics tools such as word clouds and competitive benchmarking can apply AI to that unstructured data to identify patterns or trends in patient feedback.
For example, if multiple patients complain about parking issues at a hospital, an ORM platform using AI techniques to analyze review and social media comments collectively can flag the issue, enabling operations to address the problem.
ORM platforms that offer analytics tools will help healthcare organizations leverage the power of AI to improve patient experience.
How Healthy is Your Online Reputation?
As consumers increasingly go online to research and find healthcare providers, your online reputation is more important than ever. And given the dynamic nature of consumer sentiment about brands, constant vigilance is critical to keeping your brand’s reputation healthy.
Make sure you know your Reputation Score
, which provides a true measure of how your health system and providers are found, chosen and experienced online and onsite. From there, implementing effective ORM strategies such as those outlined in this article can keep your providers and locations engaged and in touch with patients and local communities, and equipped to deliver the best possible patient experience.