Sharp HealthCare: Every Touchpoint Is An Opportunity To Build Patient Relationships

Following a panel at MedCityENGAGE, Sharp Healthcare's Jennifer Balanky talked about the role of online reviews in the patient journey — and how healthcare is finally catching up to the digital age.

Approximately 84 percent of people will go online to evaluate doctors at some point — and that stat is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how digital is disrupting the healthcare industry.

Following a panel at MedCityENGAGE, Jennifer Balanky, Sharp HealthCare‘s manager of digital content, talked to GeoMarketing about crafting better responses to patient reviews — and how connecting all online and offline touch points makes for better relationships.

GeoMarketing: The fact that digital is revolutionizing healthcare has been a major theme throughout MedCityEngage. Following up on your session about how online reviews are disrupting the industry, why are reviews — and digital presence management in general — so important today?

Jennifer Balanky: People are making some of the most important decisions about their health and well-being based on these type of reviews; they’re entrusting their lives to people. So from a healthcare system perspective, reviews are critical to us in how we attract patients, how we retain patients, and how we continue to serve them throughout their lifetime.

We are trying, I think, to impress upon people the most positive aspects of our brand through the ways that we engage with people and respond to reviews online. It’s about seeing every [touchpoint] — whether it’s offline or online — as an opportunity for us to shape [a patient’s] perspective of how they feel about Sharp, how they feel about the care they received, and how they feel about the people who gave them that care.

[Consumer brands] already seem to recognize this, and healthcare providers are [now] learning to better interact across these platforms.

In your mind, what constitutes a “good” response to a patient? Does it vary by platform?

We do have some base scripting that we tweak, and one important thing we learned from feedback to some of our base templates was that it was just a little too sterile. People thought we were robots, so we’re actively using the feedback that we’re getting from social media to change our direction.

I think a good response is compassionate. It’s transparent, and it guides people to a place where they can get the fastest help possible. For us, that’s in an offline setting most of the time. We give them a single e-mail address, and then they reach out to [that address], and we have guidelines in place for who receives that e-mail. Then that person can send it off or call the appropriate department for immediate help.

Basically, the response has to be human, and it has to be personal. It has to use someone’s first name — the same name they used when they reached out to us — and it has to show that there’s a human side to us. That it’s not just some robot who’s saying, “Thank you for your reply. You can receive a response within 24 hours.”

How has increased access to digital information about a healthcare provider — reviews, listings, and more — changed consumer expectations? Have you seen a shift there in your time with Sharp?

We have noticed that there’s been a huge uptick in people reaching out to us for customer service inquiries. Half of our role is essentially customer service, because people are reaching out to us on social media: on Twitter, on Facebook, on Yelp, on all of the major social networks to vent or to get help or to share their experiences.

The more we can engage with them and participate in those conversations, the more we can help shape their experience. Sometimes, in real time, they’re tweeting us from the hospital saying that they have been waiting in the ER for five hours, and we are able to acknowledge them publicly; we can let them know we’re working on it, call someone over at the hospital who goes in and helps them out. We’ve seen that people are increasingly turning to social channels; This is across industries, but it’s [notably] disrupting healthcare, too.

What other digital trends are disrupting the healthcare industry? What is Sharp thinking about as we look to 2017?

That’s a really good question. We’re actually having several meetings this week and next about digital innovation in the space. We’re all throwing ideas out there.

So, for now, I can say that we are actively thinking about that, looking at other industries to see how they’re evolving, and talking about how to innovate in order to offer next level customer service and user experience across the board. I think that healthcare has been so behind in a lot of ways, but there are so many other industries that we can learn from.

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Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.