For any executive in the health and human service field, this is a headline you want to avoid – 12 Hospitals You Might Want to Avoid.
Of course, if you are a health care consumer, that’s the kind of headline that catches your attention (it caught my attention). This story, from Consumer Reports, identified the lowest scoring hospitals for infection prevention using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consumer Reports ranked over 4,000 hospitals in the United States based on the rates for two of the most common and deadly bacterial infections in hospitals: MRSA and C. diff.
Consumer Reports is certainly not the only place where health care organization performance data is “reinterpreted” for the public. A quick Google search reveals a wealth of similar headlines – Pa. Hospitals Rated First To Worst: Where Does Your Hospital Rate?, 4 Shore hospitals nailed for injuries, illness, 10 Cities Where You Don’t Want to Get Sick, and New York’s most dangerous hospitals.
For better or worse, as the health and human service field moves to value-based reimbursement and pay-for-success contracts, more explicit measurement of “performance” is inevitable. And in the Internet era, there is no data that won’t make its way to the public eye in one form or the other.
So what should an executive team to do in this era of public performance metrics? First, if you’re not familiar with rating systems, now is the time to get a feel for the players and the measures:
- What Is A 5-Star Medicare Rating?
- CMS Developing Quality Star Ratings For Medicare-Medicaid Plans
- Most State Medicaid Agencies Using HEDIS Measures For Behavioral Health Performance
- 30 State Medicaid Plans Now Reporting On Some HEDIS Measures For Adults
- Illinois Medicaid Managed Care Organization Performance Scorecard HEDIS 2013
- Ohio Issues Medicaid MCO Star Ratings To Aid Consumer Choice
- Medicaid MCO Performance On HEDIS Measures Lower Than Commercial Health Plan Performance
- Seven New HEDIS Medicaid Measures Target Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder
- NCQA Proposes New Medicaid Behavioral Health HEDIS Quality Measure For 2016
- New Medicaid Quality Measures Focus On Monitoring Opioids, Diabetes, & Antipsychotics
- WellPoint Teams With Zagat on Physician Rating System
- Propublic Launches New Program to Search and Inspect Nursing Homes
- Yelp & ProPublica Collaborate To Give Consumers Health Care Facilities Data
Then, you need to think in terms of a two-prong process – managing your online reputation and management of your actual performance. The first is actively managing the information that gets “top billing” about your organization in the press and online. This involves tracking the online reviews, comments, and articles – and responding to them. For example, in the case of the Consumer Reports coverage, several of the hospitals did respond with public statements – Hospital response to CR’s question: UF Health Jacksonville, Hospital response to CR’s question: St. Petersburg General Hospital, and Hospital response to CR’s question: Venice Regional Bayfront Health. (I would like to point out that this is not “emergency public relations” response – but should be an on-going, day-to-day response to both published articles and public comments on social media.)
The second is actually improving performance on the common performance measures that will become part of the “public image” of your organization. This is parallel to, but somewhat different from, the traditional view of quality improvement. This is a more consumer-centric view of performance measures – think “consumer sovereignty” (see Consumer Sovereignty As Success Strategy) and “strategic quality” (David Garvin’s Competing On The Eight Dimensions Of Quality, Harvard Business Review, November-December, 1987). And, shift the role of performance to the strategic. The focus is on the quality attributes that are important to customers and the public. It is an orientation that prevents a common problem with quality improvement data – focused on and investing in performance attributes that are not important to consumers. In the instance of the hospitals in the Consumer Reports story, How 9 hospitals responded to Consumer Reports ratings as worst in the country, many noted new infection control initiatives to improve their performance.
If managing your online reputation and managing your consumer-critical metrics is not part of your current marketing plan, here are some resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library to get you started on framing this challenge:
- Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – First, Know The Score
- Succeeding In The Online Ratings Game – Second, You Need A Plan
- Yelp Comes To Health Care – One More Reason For Online Reputation Management
- How To Win (Or Lose) Online
- 5 Steps To Improve Your Consumer Performance Rankings
- Creating A Culture Where Metrics-Based Management Can Succeed
- Taking Your Team From Info To Action
- The New Google Search Rules For Health Care & What They Mean For Your Website
- Ratings & More Ratings
What approach your team takes to the issue of public performance measurement and ratings may depend on your school of thought. There is the Gustav Flaubert view – “There is no truth, there is only perception.” Or there is the SEAL Team saying – “Performance, and performance alone, dictates the predator in any food chain.” But when consumers know how your organization rates (whether you agree with the ratings or not), there are really only two options – improve your performance and your online reputation, or lose those consumers to someone who has.