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What Happens in Vegas, Shouldn’t Always Stay in Vegas: Lessons Learned from HCIC 2016

It was the talk of the town: Word of review is replacing word of mouth. Physician practices and health systems are now paying close attention to reviews and how they influence patient search. Adults are using smart devices at a record pace, which correlates with increasing online consumer brand engagement. It’s no surprise that now we’re seeing an increase in patients taking to social to share their healthcare experiences both good and bad.

As healthcare deductibles increase, so does the cost for patients. For an industry that has been historically business-to-business, this systematic shift has initiated some rather unique conversations. In the past, when patients needed to find a doctor, they would most likely contact their health insurance provider to direct them to an in-network physician. Now, as the financial responsibility shifts to the patient, consumers are shopping for healthcare via reviews and leaving them too the same way they do for other products and services.

84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.” – Bright Local

At HCIC 2016, this consumer behavior was a hot topic of discussion because healthcare systems aren’t sure how to respond to reviews in light of HIPAA regulations and other privacy standards that have guided the industry for years. Nonetheless, the general consensus was that responses are due to patients leaving them and those that find unique ways to capture that engagement opportunity will be positioned for success in the future.

Other hot topics from the conference included discussions around how to build consensus across internal teams such as IT and communications. One example that is encouraging this cross-departmental dialog is wearable technology. Wearable technology is not just disrupting how we measure health on a personal level, but companies such as Google, Apple, Snapchat, Samsung, Fitbit and others are scrambling to claim a place in this new personal health industry by measuring health outcomes. (That which is measurable has dollars attributed to it.) And in a time when health insurance providers, such as Oscar Health, are offering policy discounts to members who share their wearables health data, wearable technology will continue to play an increasing role in shaping consumer health behavior.

That which is measurable does not need to be defined as “big data,” however. As healthcare communications professionals, we must not become lost in the promise of big data (although don’t discount it either!). Remain steadfast that healthcare is a human business. Data points provide invaluable insight, but those insights should meaningfully improve your patient experience, particularly given the increasing volume of patient reviews.

As healthcare communicators, we have a unique challenge ahead of us to navigate the birth of a new industry as well as the systematic evolution of an established one. What other trends have you noticed going into 2017 that will shape our work and careers? Tell us in the comments below or chat with us on Twitter at @SplashMedia.

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