A New Kind of “Selfie”

Added on Oct 9, 2014

Hospitals and health systems are starting to post physician “selfies” on their web sites, and patients are eager to see them.


Unlike the self-portraits proliferating social networking sites, however, these pictures are not captured at arm’s length with a digital camera, they cannot be discarded and replaced with a better view, and they are not actually taken by the physicians themselves. Instead, they are data-driven snapshots of physician performance based on actual patient experience scores and comments, and they are meant to answer the call for greater transparency in health care quality and performance.


In this regard, the digital camera is an ideal metaphor. The more light a digital camera can capture, the more information it can record, resulting in better pictures in more varied conditions. Similarly, the more data an organization captures, the more information it is able to convey.


The rationale for this kind of transparency in business is well established. Companies that openly share performance data understand that doing so drives accountability, engagement, improvement and value. Although the health care industry is fairly new to the transparency table, systems that have begun to gather around it are realizing the same rewards.


“As a force in health care, transparency serves to hold us accountable for the quality and cost of the care we deliver,” Dr. Vivian Lee, CEO of University of Utah Health Care, said in a recent interview for Partners magazine. “If we level the playing field and reveal the inner workings of our organizations, then not only do patients benefit from a better understanding of the care they purchase, but also the industry benefits from an organic evolution from volume to value.”


In late 2012, under Dr. Lee’s leadership, Utah became the first academic medical center to provide public online access to the patient experience scores and comments for every one of its physicians and providers. “The approach we’ve taken is based on the belief that transparency needs to start with providers and work its way to the public eye in a process of change that engages everyone,” said Dr. Lee. “Using transparency in this way, providers have the opportunity to understand the metrics we expect them to be working toward—whether patient experience, cost or quality—and then correct and improve their performance. As a force for change, transparency needs to start within.”


Not only can transparency shape the information patients use to make informed decisions, “it can change the way we as clinicians look at ourselves and work together,” according to Press Ganey Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Lee. “Importantly, it also helps physicians live up to their own aspirations about the kinds of doctors they want to be.”


And while physicians may not be able to edit performance scores and comments once they have been posted, they can effectively change their “selfies” by putting patients at the center of care.