Online Physician Reviews: Adopting Transparency Standards Protects Your Brand

Added on Aug 4, 2016

By Diana Mahoney, Editorial Director

final_transparency_seal_revised copyOnline reporting of physicians’ patient experience scores is a game changer for health care organizations seeking to earn patient loyalty, build market share and engage physicians in the mission to improve health care.

Delivering this level of transparency honors the patient and acknowledges the growing health care consumerism movement—patients want and expect ready access to comparative performance information in order to decide where and from whom they should seek care. It also reflects the increasing recognition that sharing such information with patients earns their trust, and it challenges providers to be the best that they can be in order to meet patients’ needs.

Achieving these lofty objectives requires, above all else, a commitment to a transparency strategy that ensures the integrity of the information being shared—both its scientific validity and the manner in which it presented internally and externally. Simply put, organizations that commit to an aggressive standard of data integrity and representation are positioned to succeed, while those that don’t make this a strategic priority are putting their brand at risk.

Building a sustainable, effective transparency program is a multistep endeavor comprising education, measurement, communication, data analysis and action planning. The absolute make or break variables, however, are those related to data quality. Organizations with successful transparency programs

  • Rigorously collect data from as many patients as possible to ensure scientifically meaningful sample sizes
  • Use standardized, reliable methods for calculating star ratings
  • Create a consistent process for comment review and reporting

Recognizing the need for a well-defined, industry-accepted, objective standard for data quality, Press Ganey documented Physician Performance Transparency Rating Standards and Guidelines in 2015. To date, 85 organizations have endorsed these guidelines, and the number is rising daily.

Health care systems that have adopted reliable and consistent reporting protocols comply with a standardized star rating calculation methodology that aligns with industry norms and expectations. This is an important consideration, according to Press Ganey Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas H. Lee. “When the methodology used to develop the ratings is inconsistent or unclear, physician engagement in transparency efforts will be hindered by their fear that the data could be of variable quality and will not accurately reflect their performance.” Further, patient uncertainty about the integrity of the underlying data could jeopardize patient loyalty and threaten the health system’s brand. 

Using a 0- to 100-point scale converting the adjusted ratings to a 0- to 5-star scale—where the lowest possible rating is a partial star, similar to the star-ranking system used by CMS for its Physician Compare web site—allows consumers to understand physician performance across multiple measures using a consistent yard stick. 

Variation across rating methodologies, on the other hand, can misrepresent the consumer experience and impede progress toward the delivery of patient-centered care. Approaches that deviate from the 0- to 100-point linearization, for instance, may artificially inflate scores by creating a false floor. Additionally, such approaches can lead to clustering of results at the top of the score range, which reduces differentiation among individual physicians and limits the usefulness of the information to patients. In the long run, artificially boosting provider performance will erode patient trust, damage provider credibility and put the integrity of the health system brand at risk.

"As more and more consumers turn to online physician ratings when selecting a provider, we have a responsibility to ensure that the ratings available are objective, standardized evaluations of the patient experience that patients and physicians can trust," according to Press Ganey CEO Patrick T. Ryan.

When properly executed, online reporting of patient experience outcomes supports informed patient choices about care, engages caregivers in the improvement process and allows providers to derive actionable insights, prioritize improvement efforts and track progress. A transparency program can only ever deliver on this promise, however, if the data driving it is of the highest quality and if it is presented in a way that is meaningful to all stakeholders.

Join the movement and endorse the guidelines today.