Empowered patients cause change
In today's healthcare economy, more than ever we are seeing the rise of the patient-consumer. These are empowered consumers of healthcare services that are connected, informed, and take an active role in deciding who will deliver their healthcare.
Because of this, we have seen the increased importance of online reputation management. The most popular ratings sources (i.e. Healthgrades, Vitals, etc.) have created Yelp for Healthcare. And while Yelp has arguably become one of the most popular websites for finding great places to eat, is the dining experience the same as the spine surgery experience?
While the intent of these sources of information is to help provide patients an informed approach to choosing their healthcare provider, there remain questions of whether these websites have been able to capture the complexity of assessing performance in the healthcare setting. Should an internal medicine physician be judged on the same criteria as a neurosurgeon? This is not to feed into some type of implicit ranking of the different schools of medicine, but rather to acknowledge that the skills required to perform well in different disciplines are and should be different. Thus, the metrics we use to judge a healthcare provider's performance should also be different in respect to his or her area of medicine.
On Spine-health.com, the top-ranking and largest Musculoskeletal health website in the world, we conducted a poll on what patients consider the most important factors in choosing a spine surgeon. Spine-health.com is the ideal website because of its over 7 million patient visits monthly, highly-engaged patient population, and strong SEO performance for key spine terms.
The poll was designed to determine if the current metrics used to evaluate healthcare provider’s performance on the top ratings websites were providing the complete story when it comes to evaluating spine surgeon performance. The setup of the poll consisted of looking at all the metrics being used at the top ratings websites in addition to those we felt were more indicative of surgeon performance and patient concerns we see frequently in our Spine-health.com patient forums.
Figure 1: If you are considering spine surgery, which things do you care about most in choosing your surgeon?
What we found was insightful. We received responses from 277 patients on Spine-health.com that are currently considering spine surgery. We asked them “If you are considering spine surgery, which things do you care about most in choosing your surgeon?” Of the top five responses, a majority are included on at least one of the top ratings websites, but none are covered on all. The fourth highest ranking response (12.5%) is not listed on any rating site - "Long-term treatment/pain management plan put into place". This was an issue raised by many participants in our patient forums and illustrates the need for surgeons to ensure they develop a pain management plan for patients. It also may indicate the opportunity to proactively address a patient concern that would differentiate surgeons from their competitors.
Another interesting outcome was the strong desire patients have in wanting to know about surgical outcome performance (18.3%). This sheds light on the importance patients place on surgical outcomes and also identifies the opportunity that spine surgeons have to share their outcomes data to influence the decisions made by potential patients.
Top 5 Ranked Responses (n=277)
- Effective treatment / Favorable surgical outcomes (18.3%)
- Communicates well / Explains medical condition, symptoms, surgical, and non-surgical treatment options (17.7%)
- Ethical / Trustworthy (13.5%)
- Long-term treatment/pain management plan put into place (12.5%)
- Compassionate and sensitive (9.0%)
In conclusion, it appears there is some merit to many of the ratings websites that currently exists. However, what really matters to patients might not be entirely captured by the criteria being used. While ratings systems may be well suited for healthcare fields such as internal medicine or dentistry, spine surgeons may need to do more to help patients understand their unique value outside of what the top ratings websites provide. Because patients are only able to choose what is presented to them by a rating scale, they are unable to communicate any concerns that fall outside of those preset parameters. This creates opportunities for spine surgeons to think creatively about getting in front of potential patients and informing them of their unique skills and abilities as a surgeon that may not be demonstrated accurately by a 5-star rating system.
Connecting Patients and Surgeons
By offering the highest quality, physician-written and reviewed patient education information, Veritas Health has become the #1 resource for spine and orthopedic patients to get information about their conditions and treatment options. Because of this, Veritas Health has also become the preeminent platform for spine and orthopedic medical groups to market their services to a well informed and highly-engaged patient population that is looking for relief from their chronic musculoskeletal pain. To see how Veritas Health connects medical groups with new, high-quality patients feel free to visit one of our platform websites: spine-health.com, arthritis-health.com, or sports-health.com
*Google/Compete Hospital Study