Will there be a Rotten Tomatoes for healthcare?

With the increased availability of quality scores and the consumer trend of product ratings and reviews, it won't be long before patients are relying online reviews to select their doctors and hospitals.
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Patients choose physicians based on online quality scores and reviews online physician reviews by millennial patients

The site Rotten Tomatoes has become the trusted source and gold standard for film reviews en masse.  The principle is simple: viewers rate movies, television shows, and discuss movie trailers.  It’s like a litmus test for public opinion, complete with a “Fresh Picks” section, which showcases newly-rated releases.  The site is known for its brutally honest reviews and it’s not easy to score high; in fact, for a feature to be considered a “Fresh Tomato,” it has to have a 60 percent or higher approval rating— everything below that is considered a “Rotten Tomato.”

So, if we are taking the time to apply that level of scrutiny to review films on a site like Rotten Tomatoes, how long will it be before we begin applying that same critical lens and rating system to physicians or a healthcare system?

The reality is that it’s already happening—just not how one might expect.

Sharing means caring

A recent survey shows that 70 percent of young Millennials choose their doctors based upon recommendations from family and friends, which means that word of mouth is the primary source of new business for providers among this demographic.  However, this group is also less apt to provide feedback to their physicians when they are unhappy with their care; instead, they tell their friends—and this can pose a big problem for healthcare organizations.  What happens when Millennials turn to social media and online forums to share negative feedback to the masses unbeknownst to the physician who failed to meet their expectations? With Millennials on the verge of surpassing Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, providers need to come up with strategies to solicit input from their younger patients and communicate more effectively with them in new and different ways.

Physician reputations at risk

Millennials are estimated to spend $200 billion by 2017 and nearly $10 trillion over their lifetime, and they are savvy shoppers.  As digital natives, most have grown up with access to online resources, so researching a question or looking up a product review is second nature.  In fact, a recent study found that “more than twice as many millennials as non-millennials use mobile devices to research products and read user reviews while shopping,” which means we are fast approaching a new paradigm in healthcare: one where online patient reviews of clinicians will increasingly drive business.

Just like Rotten Tomatoes, new sites culling physician scorecards as well as quality metrics are emerging, and patients will take them into account as they select their care providers.  But in addition to changing how people shop for healthcare, having this information available for the first time will also impact physicians’ reputations and the referral system.  Physicians won’t recommend specialists who have low scores as it will call their credibility into question, and what provider or payer wants to back the physician at the bottom of online scorecards or with a 20% approval rating? This change is a surprise to most doctors who, until now, have not worried about online profiles because it wasn’t personal, historically they’ve always been associated with hospitals or large groups.

How do you look, Dr. Welby?

This puts good physicians who are poor at clinical documentation at risk.  They could be treating very ill patients, but if the severity of that patient’s condition isn’t reflected in her record, the numbers will be skewed and they look like bad doctors.

While it may seem daunting, this is really about transparency between physicians and their patients.  We are a different society than we were 20, 30, or 50 years ago, and people want and frankly need to become more involved in their own care.  Quite literally, they have the most skin in the game.  Being able to research and choose physicians based on important criteria such as the amount of quality discussion time, eye contact and other bedside manners, as well as health outcomes is the right of every patient.  After all, trust and comfort is at the core of healing and good care.  The key to success in this new world of healthcare centers around accuracy: getting credit for the care physicians provide to their patients each and every day, and being appropriately reimbursed for those expected outcomes.

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Dr. Anthony Oliva

About Dr. Anthony Oliva

Dr. Anthony (Tony) Oliva is the vice president and chief medical officer for Nuance’s Healthcare division. Dr. Oliva draws on more than 15 years of executive healthcare experience. As chief medical officer, he personally has been involved with the implementation and expansion of clinical documentation programs since 2004. Previously serving as chief medical officer for Borgess Health, Dr. Oliva was accountable for the clinical practice of medicine across all Borgess Health entities including ambulatory care, hospital care and extended care services. He is currently Board Certified in Family Medicine. Dr. Oliva received an M.S in Medical Management from Carnegie Mellon University Heinz School of Public Policy & Management. He is a Certified Physician Executive, a designation earned from the American College of Physician Executives.