Featured, Five-star quality rating system, Popular, Quality of care

How to deal with healthcare ratings

Editor’s note: This article was written by guest blogger Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, a healthcare marketing and experience management expert and elder advocate. For more information about the author, please see our About page.

USA Today recently reported that one in five U.S. nursing homes consistently receive poor ratings for overall quality under the Five-Star Quality Rating System. That is not surprising since the system rates on a bell curve. Some facilities, no matter how well they perform, will receive one star.

That started a sea of gripes, most notable how resident, family, and staff satisfaction surveys are not included in the Five-Star Quality Rating System. In June of 2009, research and consulting firm Holleran found little to no association between a facility’s rating on the five-star scale and the resident’s or family’s level of satisfaction with the facility.

Yes the system is flawed. But one thing is certain. Ratings are here to stay. Hospitals and physicians also get entwined in the ratings quagmire.

People are reading the ratings. People are talking to each other. And that may be good or bad for you. Want to do something about it? Tell your story and engage your ambassadors.

Tell Your Story
There are hundreds of small miracles that happen in all kinds of healthcare facilities every day. Most are stories which are usually undocumented. People are moved by stories. It is not enough to write stories but you need to establish a culture where employees are bringing stories to administration and marketing. Then write and run with them.

Spread Your Story
You don’t need a social media rehash here but suffice to say that there are a myriad of ways to push your story to the public. The beauty is that stories of a great patient experience in a hospital or a resident experience in an assisted living facility are human-interest pieces not overt selling tools. It’s not about your infection rates, latest technologies, or whiz-bang doctors. It’s about everyday people. Good stories are spread. Good stories are believed. Good stories have a halo effect on your brand.

Identify Your Ambassadors
Who is passionate about your services? Who passionately recommends you? Who offers unsolicited advice? Who comes to your defense? These are potential ambassadors for your brand. They might be an employee, a board member, a volunteer, a patient, a resident, or a family member. They may have surfaced through a letter they write to you, an op-ed piece in the newspaper, or in an on-line chat. Engage them.

The following are several other ways you can leverage word of mouth for your organization:

  • Engage influencers 
  • Give something away
  • Adopt causes strategically
  • Bring communities together

I will elaborate on these in another post. In the meantime, don’t gripe about the latest and greatest ratings. Just craft your story and cede your army of ambassadors to spread it through that old reliable word of mouth.


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