Maggie Hilty Katz

With the continued rise in social media platforms and the use of online research prior to making a decision about a provider, it is more pressing than ever for healthcare companies, specifically those in long-term care, to focus on transparency of their services.

Patients utilizing senior healthcare services, including skilled nursing, are no longer blindly choosing where they want to go. They are spending time researching different options — from quality outcomes to reviews to comparing included services. 

In a perfect world, your future customer knows where they want to go for care. Whether it be through the encouragement of a physician to do research prior to an elective surgery, or to pre-plan for a possible emergency or accident requiring post-acute care, our customer base and their loved ones are spending time evaluating and comparing providers.

But as a whole, long-term care and skilled nursing, due to the nature of how services are offered, tend to be behind other industries when it comes to adoption of technology, social media strategy and general online platform utilization, especially when it comes to communication and transparency for the general public. So how do we combat that?

Those companies that are serious about thriving in the coming years are going to re-approach and adjust their strategy when it comes to online transparency and transparency overall. What does that look like? 

Being clear about your data, outcomes, quality and what it means

We have more data and information about our patients and our outcomes than ever before. But transforming that data into something meaningful for our patients has not been widely adopted by all types of providers. The best plan is for skilled nursing and long-term care providers to review it, understand it, create internal practices to make it better, explain it, and then translate it in a way your customer can understand it. Don’t allow your approach to sharing quality outcomes to feel like looking through a dirty lens. When you put meaning behind your data and outcomes and are open about your plans to provide quality care, your customer is more likely to consume and understand it. That translates to a forum for consistent expectations and a higher likelihood of patient satisfaction.

Leaning into technology and online platforms

It is a pretty standard practice in 2022 for you to be able to communicate with your physician or review labs done at your doctor’s office via a web portal. In alternate industries, it’s also standard practice to get an email recap each day of what your child does in a daycare setting, from when they went to the bathroom to what they covered educationally. Yet the slow adoption of advanced EHR platforms in skilled nursing and long-term care has hindered what could be considered collaboration between patients, families and providers, especially for those utilizing post-acute care services.

Eliminate the feeling of hiding behind a chart and notes, or a medical team that feels inaccessible and speaks only in medical terminology, and instead evaluate ways to allow for real-time clinical communication between patients and families and those that are overseeing their care. By making an effort to be forthcoming and available to our patients and being able to talk to future patients and their loved ones about it, is a step in the right direction. We can make LTC and skilled nursing a more transparent sector of healthcare than it’s been before.  

Creating specific strategy about an online presence 

Platforms like Facebook (Meta), Google, Yelp and are not going anywhere. Data continues to show us that those that are unhappy tend to be more likely to leave a review of a place of business, even though there are more people who were satisfied or even blown away by the service they received. It is no different in healthcare.

If you do not have an efficient system in place to encourage your happy staff and patients to leave a review online about your facility, you will soon be out-reviewed by the negative tendencies of social media and online review platforms. The same goes for websites that appear outdated, or featured photos that are over 5 to 10 years old, or even an online page with broken functionality. To a potential patient or family member, if the image you’re portraying online is of someone who doesn’t have their act together, then why would they think your hand- on patient care would be any different? 

The end goal of all of this is survival. Companies that lean into and adopt more transparent practices and focus on communication, coordination and collaboration are those that will have a higher level of patient satisfaction, and ultimately patient flow. Patients will choose providers they feel they can trust. They are going to be looking for providers where they believe they will receive quality care. Your online presence can make or break you moving into 2023 and beyond.

Maggie Hilty Katz, LNHA, is vice president of market strategy for Avamere, an Oregon-based skilled nursing and senior care provider.

Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.