Your hospital is committed to quality care… but do they Like you?  A recent study revealed that patient satisfaction is linked to the number of “likes” a hospital has on Facebook. And in fact, mortality rates increase as “likes” decrease. The study evaluated 82 hospitals within 25 miles of New York City, and used the HHS Hospital Compare site to draw the correlation.

Not all Facebook fans were one-time patients, so reputation certainly has something to do with this – after all, who wants to be a fan of a health system with a bad rap for all their friends to see?

This is part of a growing trend of like-it-or-not transparency, where it’s not about the scores you reveal or post online, it’s the reviews and recommendations publicly given to you when patients post.  The internet is intercepting conversations that used to take place over the fence between neighbors.  You can see exactly what’s being said, and it’s not always pretty.

Whether your hospital wants a popularity boost or you’re shining up a tarnished reputation, here are three strategies for getting back in front of your reviews and reputation online:

  •  Keeping your own website up to date is important, but take third party endorsements seriously. You visit Yelp for dinner recommendations, and you can get the downlow on your doctor from Yelp too. HealthGrades is another a go-to when looking for your physician.What are patients rating on these sites?  They’re not looking at fellowships and credentials. They judge based on how long they waited, friendliness, whether they felt the doctor listened and whether they felt the doctor spent enough time with them. The lesson here is not to lose points for the easy things – a clean, well-lit space, timeliness and engaged staff are as important as a doctor who listens. Take a deliberate walk through your spaces and think about the patient point of view. Everything from screensavers to crisp new magazines speak volumes for the kind of care you deliver.Be in charge of your online reputation.  Instead of letting the chips and ratings fall where they may, ask patients to give you reviews on these sites. Just as you see a TripAdvisor sign in a hotel or a ZAGAT sticker in a restaurant window, seek out a mark of good quality and manage it.
  • Opt for openness. Not having an open Facebook page that allows people to comment is a major *facepalm* – and a lost opportunity.  Facebook isn’t just a brochure, it’s a social environment where people expect to be able to comment.  Without a social function, it’s like having a phone you never answer or a “no comment” in a news story.  Negative comments are scary, but there are good strategies for dealing with them so you can maintain an open environment, fearlessly.
  • Be more likeable. If potential fans have to guess whether you have a Facebook page or worse, search for it, you’re making it too hard.  Including the Facebook icon on all your materials isn’t enough either – immerse yourself in the Facebook environment. Post something interesting every day that educates people, but also lets them into your world with images or video.  Facebook advertising is cost efficient, so allocate a spend for “sponsored stories” to jump-start word of mouth. This shows friends of fans that their friend has liked or engaged with your page, so when you show up to prospective fans, you’re doing it with an endorsement from your existing fans.

Lastly, it’s important to create a culture of support for capturing great content for social media and for asking patients for likes and reviews. Get doctors, nurses and staff on board with your strategy, and extending the patient relationship to reviews and social media properties can become a seamless part of your hospital’s culture.

So now we know Facebook is literally a matter of life or death. That doesn’t mean it has to kill you.  There are some straightforward strategies to identify, attract and engage your fans – you just have to reach out.  What’s next for your organization when it comes to assessing, reacting or asking for fans and reviews?