Why Hospitals Should Be More Proactive with Patient Reviews (and Much More)

The business world—and healthcare organizations like hospitals and health systems—already know how frequently consumers use social media these days to both research their purchase decisions and post their own reviews. A new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute provides further evidence that healthcare consumers are no different.

The report cites 24% of U.S. consumers claiming to have posted an online healthcare-related review and 48% claiming to have read such reviews (via PwC news release). However, these numbers may be deceiving: We know from recent Pew data (“Health Online 2013“) that 85% of millennials and 78% of boomers search for health topics online. Consider also that one subset of millennials, 18-24-yr.-olds (your future, if not current patients), say they are likely to share health information through social media channels. Indeed, 21% of them already follow healthcare providers on social networks.

Knowing particular groups of healthcare consumers have shown increasing activity on social media and the broader Web for conducting research, we can reasonably assume that 50% is a low estimate for those who read reviews in the process of selecting hospitals, physicians, drugs/medical devices, and pharmacies.

Social media research and analysis
Knowing how patients review your doctors, facilities and administrative staff is just the beginning. With proper analysis, you can discover the nature and number of public conversations, as well as where the conversations are happening (hint: not just on Yelp). Additionally, you can gain valuable intelligence by learning what your competitors are doing. How well are you monitoring these conversations and competitors today? What hidden opportunities to improve your organization have you not yet discovered? Only after careful monitoring can you really have an idea of how to strategically respond to common themes in the broader universe of chatter, as well as how to best focus attention based on the volume per channel.

For example, a large hospital client found the vast majority of its public online conversation happening on Twitter in the 1st quarter:

hospital SoMe 1Q pie chart

As revealed by the above data, this hospital now knows that spending the bulk of its social media time on Twitter would be a smart move for at least the near future.

Even better, prepare your own hospital for inevitable news-making incidents before they happen by taking the following actions.

Social media to-do’s for hospitals:

  • Respond to doctor ratings
  • Create a crisis communications plan: You don’t want to scramble after becoming a national headline for perceived insensitivity or incompetence.
  • Create a policy for dealing with negative reviews: When do you choose to engage? How do you choose to engage? What steps can be taken to address the matter one-to-one offline, and when is taking those steps worth the effort?
  • Shore up your policy on mobile technology usage: Much of social media is accessed on mobile devices. If doctors and other staff are accessing social media for professional purposes, clear standards are necessary in both mobile and social media policies. On a related note, mobile device security is predicted to be one of the top 10 issues in the healthcare industry this year (also by PwC).

Even if your social media house is in order, I’ll leave you with this: How would you respond to the following hospital review posted yesterday on Yelp? Please feel free to post your answers in the comment section below.

hospital review

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Check out Fathom’s white paper on social media in the top 15 health systems.

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About Paul Richlovsky

Paul purposefully merges a creative writing and teaching background with his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy, editorial direction and PR/distribution. He is a perpetual critical thinker who has written/edited hundreds of blog posts and multiple long-form marketing guides, including those aimed at audiences as varied as healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He gets really excited about the science of elite performance, usability, brand voice, headlines, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

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