Making It All Public

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , May 13, 2014
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Chrissy Daniels, director of the Utah system's strategic initiatives, says that before the project began, anyone who wanted to look up a Utah physician would go to Google. She recalls an instance when a "very critical" comment was posted about a university physician. That doctor asked the university to "fix it," which, of course, it could not.

"The problem was," Miller says, "you don't know who's putting up those comments, whether it's the physician in the practice writing positive comments or disgruntled employees and friends who are writing nasty comments.

"We felt the best defense was an offense," Miller says. "We have data, tons of it, through a patient satisfaction survey administered by Press Ganey showing our patients rate us very highly. Why not use that information. We believe that physicians should know what their patients think of them and how they're treated."

Miller sees third-party sites rating doctors as "a tidal wave that is coming at healthcare providers," who he says are one of the "last bastion of professionals to be scored publicly online. You're going to be judged by the crowds whether you like it or not. It's out of our control, so the best thing we can do is take the great data that we have and use that to tell our story, and make that an open and
honest story.

"We're surprised that other healthcare institutions haven't followed suit," Miller says. Improvement is the goal. Doctors who have work to do in their practices can see that with familiar themes in the comment thread; for example, if a physician spends only a few minutes with his or her patients or if treatment protocols fail to fix a problem, patients will comment about it.

Since the project launched in December 2012, physicians throughout the Utah system have worked to improve their practices. That shows because the overall numerical scores have gone up, and some physician practices have increased their numbers of stars, Daniels says.

Some physicians' pages have more than 100 comments, obviously increasing visibility for the system.

The Utah system does not yet post inpatient quality scores on its website or link to other sites that do, such as Hospital Compare. But it is publishing outcomes data from patients with brain or spinal cord injuries, or stroke, who were treated in the system's rehabilitation center.

Here, too, the organization is not averse to publishing data that is not overwhelmingly positive for the organization. For example, according to data collected from rehabilitation center patients 90 days after discharge, 57% "strongly agreed" with the statement that the rehabilitation program prepared them for going home, with 41% agreeing somewhat and 2% having some disagreement.

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