As I was scrolling through social media over the weekend, I noticed a friend’s posts about her family’s recent experience at a hospital near me. She gushed about how accommodating the nurses have been, how the doctors have kept her informed on developments, and how the overall experience, while stressful, would have been much worse without the support provided by the healthcare staff.
Her online updates got me thinking about how the nature of healthcare reviews has changed in the age of social media. This article details three key ways healthcare reviews have evolved – and how providing high quality patient experiences and making efforts to increase patient satisfaction will help ensure organizations continue to thrive despite the changing landscape.1. Healthcare Reviews Are Much Like Reviews in Other Industries
In the age of Yelp and other review websites, people are increasingly turning to the internet to share their experiences and research their choices before making a decision. Reviews on restaurants, toys, books – pretty much anything – can be found at the click of a button.
Just as with these goods and services, consumers are beginning to view healthcare decisions in the same way. In fact, as many as 30% of Americans use some form of social media online for health information1, and more than 70% of consumers trust web reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family2. People want to be informed before they make a choice about where to receive care, and they are relying more and more on online sources.
When it comes to social media, reviews can now be found in multiple ways. People often chance upon informal reviews on social media – as I did my friend’s story – or they may turn to official review sites to look up specific organizations. A recent study found that more than 40% of consumers are doing the latter3, and further studies indicate that many consumers may also begin their healthcare research on a major search engine.
Whether a patient is actively looking for a review of an organization, or instead simply sees an indirect review via a social media post, consumers are increasingly exposed to information on healthcare organizations in a variety of ways.
As reviews become more commonplace across various websites and social media, and people come to rely on them more and more to make healthcare decisions, organizations must continue their efforts to promote patient satisfaction and provide high quality patient experiences. By doing so, they will be much more likely to receive positive reviews, whether on review sites or social media, thus helping to support market share and a positive brand image.Online Reviews Mean Referrals are No Longer Restricted to Typical “Word of Mouth”
When people post reviews about their experience with a hospital or provider on social media, they are often reaching a large audience. Research has shown that the average person has around 338 friends on Facebook alone4. Thus, when people tell their most recent patient experience story, they are sharing this with many more people than they would if they simply told their story to their family and friends. In certain ways, these reviews can act as referrals – if individuals are looking for a healthcare organization, and they notice that their friend on social media has had a positive experience at ABC Hospital, they may be more likely to visit that organization.
Keeping this in mind, healthcare organizations should be cognizant of their ability to impact posts on social media. By both meeting and exceeding patient expectations, and ensuring patient satisfaction at the organization remains high, healthcare institutions can be sure that they are providing patients with experiences worthy of posting on social media.Patient Satisfaction Data and Qualitative Patient Experience Stories Matter
For me, even if a hospital or health system had extremely high patient satisfaction numbers, if I heard a negative story from one of my friends about that organization, I would be much less likely to go there. And the same is true in reverse. For many, heartfelt stories often trump data. This is especially true when considering reviews via social media posts or on a review site. While the stars on Yelp, for example, are certainly important, people often read the reviews in more detail to better understand why the organization got the rating it did.
Ultimately, the evidence suggests that healthcare organizations should be aware of both the data and qualitative reviews, as each can have a significant impact on consumers’ choices. For example, it has been observed that the public release of Star Ratings for nursing homes coincided with significant increases and reductions in market share for top and bottom performers, respectively5. In terms of qualitative patient stories, a recent study showed that nearly 45% of consumers would be willing to select an out-of-network physician based on positive reviews6.
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After reading about my friend’s experience, the hospital her family received care from is definitely one I would consider visiting, should I need care in the future. I don’t even have to reach out to her to get her recommendation – it was right there at my convenience.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations should continue to keep this changing nature of consumer information in mind when developing their strategies moving forward. By continuing to focus on providing high-quality patient experiences, healthcare organizations are well positioned to thrive in the era of social media and the online healthcare review