Online reputation management is increasingly becoming a critical function that all providers, including clinical laboratories, must address or risk losing revenue
Recent surveys cite growing evidence that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and online review sites such as Yelp (NYSE:YELP) are swiftly becoming healthcare consumers’ preferred sources for researching doctors, hospitals, medical laboratories, and other medical service providers.
Healthcare consumers are using the Internet to review information
on healthcare providers prior to visits. More important, data show a majority
of Americans share their healthcare experiences publicly online following
visits with providers.
More than half of Americans (51%) reported sharing their healthcare experiences online, an increase of 65% over just one year ago;
Among Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) that number jumps to 70%, a 94% increase over last year;
70% of Americans overall say online ratings and reviews influenced their choices of physicians and facilities;
More than 40% of respondents admitted they researched doctors online even after being referred to them by another healthcare professional.
Healthcare Dive also noted that Millennials are likely to consider online reviews and ratings of healthcare professionals to be trustworthy.
97% of 24- to 34-year-olds report believing
online comments are reliable;
While 100% of the 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed felt
Pathologists and clinical laboratory administrators should
consider the two findings above as evidence that a major change has already
happened in how the younger generations look for—and select—their hospitals,
their physicians, and their clinical laboratory providers. Thus, every
pathology group and clinical laboratory should have a business strategy for
managing the Internet presence of their labs. Failure to do so means that
competing labs that do a good job of managing their Internet presence will be
more successful at winning the lab testing business of Gen Xers (born
1965-1980), Millennials (Gen Y, born 1981-1996), and Gen Z (born 1997-2009).
In addition, the survey discovered that the most important
qualities consumers look for in a doctor are:
Friendly and caring attitudes;
Physicians’ ability to answer questions; and
Thoroughness of examinations.
Those polled reported the most frustrating issues when
dealing with healthcare professionals were:
Office wait times;
Cost and payment concerns;
Wait times for exam and medical laboratory
It’s All in a Word
Earlier this year, Healthcare Dive also reported on research that examined online reviews and their content conducted by Penn Medicine. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used digital tools and data analytics to help healthcare providers better understand and improve the patient experience.
The researchers analyzed 51,376 online reviews about 1,566
hospitals posted on Yelp over a 12-year period. They published their findings in
of General Internal Medicine (JGIM).
They concluded the word most often found in positive Yelp
reviews was “friendly.” Their example of how positive review writers used this word:
“The doctors, nurses, and X-ray technician who helped me out were all so cool
and friendly. It really restored my faith in humanity after I got hit on my
Other words the researchers commonly found in good online
reviews include “great, staff, and very.”
“Told” was the word most often found in negative reviews. The
researchers’ example: “I constantly told them that none of that was true and
the nurse there wouldn’t believe me.” It appears from the JGIM study
that Millennials often felt healthcare professionals did not listen to them.
The researchers identified “worst, hours, rude, said, no and
not” as other words often found in negative reviews.
Half of Millennials Prefer Internet Research and Online
Another survey conducted by Harmony Healthcare IT, a health data management firm based in South Bend, Ind., found that more millennials are researching the Internet for medical advice in lieu of actual doctor visits.
PC Magazine reported Harmony Healthcare IT’s survey found:
73% of Millennials reported following medical
advice found online instead of going to a doctor; and
93% reported researching medical conditions
online in addition to a doctor visit.
The survey also found that 48% of millennials trust online
resources for medical information and that 48% prefer virtual doctor office
visits over in-person visits.
“With an emphasis on convenience, low cost, and technology, it will be interesting to see how this generation helps shape the future of health and how both patients and providers will adapt to those changes along the way,” Harmony Healthcare IT wrote in a blog post.
The results of these surveys illustrate why clinical laboratories
and anatomic pathology groups must have a social media strategy for managing
their reputations and presence on the Internet, especially where Millennials
That strategy should include easy and informative ways for
patients to learn about medical laboratory services, pricing of lab tests,
quality of work, and methods consumers can use to leave online feedback and
receive responses to their comments.
As consumers increasingly choose physicians and service providers based on other people’s feedback on review websites, Internet-based customer service programs are becoming critical business tools for clinical laboratories and pathology groups
Clinical laboratory managers are becoming increasingly aware that negative reviews on anonymous online review sites, such as Yelp and others, can negatively impact revenues.
Official sources and surveys, such as Medicare’s Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), already provide information and ratings on healthcare service providers. However, recent coverage in Healthcare Dive highlights how consumers are finding the narrative reviews on websites such as Yelp more accessible and relatable. And, that these reviews focus on the criteria consumers find most important.
“We’re moving to a health system where patient ratings are becoming more important, [one] where top-down ratings are really inaccessible to patients and probably not that useful,” Yevgeniy Feyman, PhD, told Healthcare Dive. Feyman, along with Paul Howard, PhD, co-authored the Manhattan Institute report, “Yelp for Health.”
In the report, they examined the correlation between Yelp reviews of New York hospitals and objective measures of hospital quality. “We find that higher Yelp ratings are correlated with better-quality hospitals and that they provide a useful, clear, and reliable tool for comparing the quality of different facilities as measured by potentially preventable readmission rates (PPR), a widely accepted metric,” they stated.
This is a significant finding for clinical laboratory administrators and pathologists. It demonstrates that how patients review their provider experiences does align with objective measures of provider quality that may be public, but are not as easy for consumers to find as websites like Yelp, Healthgrades, and others.
Online Reviews: A Metric for Determining Healthcare Value and Quality?
“Given that the majority of quality measures out there … aren’t really that accessible for patients, this is a very good proxy,” Feyman told U.S. News in a report on physicians’ concerns about the use and popularity of review sites.
“[T]he emphasis placed on a small number of patient opinions—far fewer patients leave reviews than are treated in a typical health system—makes it harder for doctors to do their job for fear of a career-harming bad review. And a few negative posts from disgruntled patients could unfairly skew public perception—and eventually, a provider’s bottom line,” U.S. News noted.
Despite this, Luther Lowe, Yelp’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs, assured Healthcare Dive they have processes to “filter spam and quell suspicious activity daily.”
Negative Reviews: A Critical Concern for Medical Laboratories
Consumers continue to use Internet platforms to both share ratings and compare information on healthcare professionals and the clinical laboratories supporting them. Thus, to prevent damage from negative reviews, labs must actively monitor feedback, pursue inaccurate information posted online, and encourage consumers to provide positive feedback and opinions.
According to data from Alexa, Yelp is the 32nd most visited website in the United States. Yelp’s own data reports that more than 150-million reviews have been added to the site since its inception 13 years ago.
And, Yelp categorizes 7% of the reviewed businesses as “health-related.”
Between easy-to-access information distributed online and an increased push for transparency, clinical laboratories and other healthcare service providers must work to take charge of the narrative created about their businesses and encourage positive feedback on these developing platforms.
Failing to do so could cost laboratories the physicians’ practices they service.
“There are some providers who are trying to get ahead of the curve and post reviews directly on their website,” Ducas told Healthcare Dive. “Another thing they can do is encourage their patients to read some reviews online and invite them to leave feedback. That’s a radical invitation but it’s certainly something they can do.”
As healthcare customers increasingly turn to review sites for feedback about healthcare facilities and the service providers supporting them, clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups must focus on their Internet presence and respond quickly to any negative review feedback with great customer service.
That’s according to Debra Harrsch, President-elect of the Diagnostics Marketing Association (DxMA), a self-funded organization devoted to helping diagnostic marketing professionals stay abreast of industry trends and effectively navigate the changing legal, regulatory, and technology landscape.
Clinical laboratories and pathology groups can benefit from developing a strategy for addressing negative Yelp reviews
In today’s wired world, clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups have a new challenge: what to do when unhappy patients go to social networking sites and post comments about their negative experience with their lab. A lab can have a sterling reputation for service and it can all unravel if a vociferous and angry patient posts rants on the Internet.
Today’s reality is that, like them or not, online reviews posted on websites such as Yelp are here to stay. That is why medical lab managers and pathologists should know about a recent court ruling that protects websites that feature consumer reviews about businesses.
One business owner who sued such a website learned this out the hard way—in court. A locksmith in Redmond, Wash., reportedly filed a libel lawsuit, claiming he lost 95% of his business after receiving a negative 1-star review on Yelp. Regardless, a federal appeals court ruled that Yelp’s star rating system, which is based on user input, does not make Yelp responsible for negative reviews of businesses, the Chicago Tribune reported. (more…)