Oct. 28, 2021 -- Consumers and doctors now have a pair of new tools to choose the best care collaborators.
WebMD has announced two new awards programs that rank health systems in 26 geographic areas across the country to address the information needs of consumers and health care providers.
The awards programs are segmented into two types: First is the WebMD Patient Choice Awards, which gives consumers access to free information about health systems and hospitals where they can choose to receive care. Second is the Medscape Physician Choice Awards, which health care professionals can use to advise referrals to hospitals. Oncology, cardiology, orthopedics, gastroenterology, neurology, and bariatrics are the specialties covered by the awards programs, which WebMD describes as “the first of their kind rankings.”
John Whyte, MD, MPH, chief medical officer at WebMD, says that what differentiates the WebMD Choice Awards from other surveys, such as CMS’ quality measures, is that they provide a “ranking of health care systems based on the preferences of consumers and health care providers.”
“This is especially important during a time of unprecedented acceleration in health care consumerism, when online information is used to inform among life’s most impactful and crucial decisions,” said Whyte in an announcement.
WebMD Patient Choice Awards
Whyte hopes that consumers rely on the WebMD Patient Choice Awards in the same way they rely on friends and family members for suggestions on restaurants and hair dressers, for example.
“We asked people about where they would go for certain health conditions….While it’s not the only measure, it’s an important measure when it comes to health care,” he says.
For example, a patient can consult the WebMD Patient Choice Awards when they’re looking for a hospital to treat their persistent back pain or find the best health system for cancer treatment in their area, Whyte says.
“Some [providers] deliver a solid patient experience, some don’t,” he says. “[These awards are] all about the local community and what’s happening in your surroundings.”
A survey by Software Advice, which is part of research and advisory firm Gartner, revealed that there’s an absence of reliable rankings that reflect perceptions and preferences at the community level. Still, patients want to know about other patients’ experiences and ratings, in addition to learning about the quality of care they received, the survey found.
Redefining Preferences and Perceptions
Doctors accessing the Medscape Physician Choice Awards can tap the perspective of their peers as they decide on referrals for their patients. Doctors often might not be aware of different hospitals that are available to treat their patients. The Physician Choice Awards give them better insight into how their peers perceive a hospital or health system for treating specific conditions locally. They can also be a helpful reference for health care providers who may refer someone beyond their city or outside of their state depending on the specific circumstances of their patient.
Research indicates that patient experience is a primary driver of patient loyalty and health care systems are recognizing this value.
“We know that health systems are prioritizing patient experience and engagement, and that’s a positive and important trend,” Ann Bilyew, senior vice president of health and group general manager for WebMD Provider Services, said in an announcement. “But until now, most health systems had no reliable measurement of the preferences and perceptions of the patients and physicians in their communities.”
She added that the awards programs give health care systems insights “which can help them thrive and compete in a consumer-driven health care environment.”
Patient experience also impacts a health system’s financial well-being. Deloitte found that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores are more profitable. Specifically, a report by the consulting firm revealed that hospitals with “excellent” HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) ratings from patients between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7%, on average; in comparison, hospitals that reported “low” ratings had a net margin of 1.8%.
Thousands of Respondents Across 26 Geographic Areas
Health systems with more than 500 beds or those that were ranked in the top 10 in revenue or discharge volume in a specific market were included in the survey. Health systems ranked in the top 25% received Platinum Awards, while Gold Awards went to provider organizations in the top 26% to 50%. Leading Awards were given to provider organizations that ranked in the top 49% to 25%.
The WebMD Patient Choice Awards relied on a live poll that was randomly targeted to relevant condition areas and audiences on WebMD. Each specialty included responses from between 1,000 and 1,500 consumers in each market. The Medscape Physician Choice Awards included responses from doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who were invited to participate by email. Between 250 and 500 respondents were included for the health system service line in each market.
Survey data was collected anonymously, and respondents were asked a series of follow-up questions to assess the availability of better options both inside and outside their local area.