The ratings culture in the US has exploded in the last decade with consumers turning to reviews for dining, shopping, vacationing, and even home improvements. Now, as they spend more of their own money on health and wellness, consumers are beginning to search for rating systems to guide their decision making. Suddenly consumers want to see stars, grades, and scores on their doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies.
At the same time, healthcare companies jockeying for an edge in this era of value are looking more comprehensively at the customer experience. Insurers that serve Medicare beneficiaries, for example, stand to gain more than $5 billion in bonus payments linked directly to patient feedback before 2014. Reimbursement for hospitals is shifting as well.
There's no shortage of health-related ratings vying for consumer attention, from commercial forums such as Yelp, Vitals, and Healthgrades to government-sponsored databases. But industry executives note that word of mouth still trumps reviews and ratings. No single trusted source has emerged in the health industry, creating an enormous market opportunity. Organizations such as the California Health Care Foundation and the Leapfrog Group are attempting to close the gap with more user-friendly data sites. Big-box retailers are beginning to apply their consumer expertise to better market health-related products and services.
PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI) surveyed 1,000 consumers in late 2012 to assess the state of healthcare ratings. While nearly half (48%) of consumers said they have read health-related reviews, only one-third has used reviews to make decisions on where to get care. The single largest source for information was Consumer Reports, identified by 43% of respondents who have read reviews.
Health industry leaders view ratings as a starting point for a longer journey that connects consumer experience to quality. Through internal surveys and observations, healthcare companies found that consumers care the most about topics such as the physician-patient relationship, understanding what to do after a clinic or hospital visit, and how to obtain more helpful service from their health plan. Over the long term, proponents hope greater customer engagement will translate into smarter care choices, healthier behaviors, and reduced costs.