Word of Mouth Works Best When Hospitals Listen

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media , October 19, 2011

"We went out and listened to what people were saying and what people told us was 'Baylor? I don't know if I want to go there. It's big and scary and downtown – you only go there if you're really sick,'" Coleman says. "So we tried to make Baylor seem more accessible and more  [humane]."

To get the conversation started, Baylor offered an option where visitors can nominate themselves for a video testimonial. Just as word of mouth is centered on outcomes, so are the testimonials.

"That's what you tell people about when you go home," Coleman says.

What else will people talk about long after they leave your hospital doors? Will they talk about your valet service? Will they talk about your cafeteria food?

"It's outcomes," Smith answers. "Sure valet parking is nice, but that's not what patients are concerned about. Word of mouth is primarily based on outcomes as a result of care."

A hospital should create a list of words they would like for people to describe them, Smith says. If the words no not match up with the public perception the hospital can do one of two things: change or convince others to change their minds. A word of mouth audit (WOMA) can help the communications team understand more about what the community is saying.

"But, we need to listen and document good and bad things people say about us," Coleman says. "Seventy percent of our patients don't tell anybody  [anything] – good or bad – about the hospital."

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