New social media site invites public health care users to review services they receive
As an adjunct professor at Simmons College's Department of Health Care Administration, I received a press release  (the first paragraph of which appears below) with a request to spread the word. I should also disclose that I know a couple of the donors involved through a separate relationship, and have known about this project since its inception.
Press release lead paragraph
"Simmons College's Department of Health Care Administration launched a new website that will gauge the experiences of Boston-area healthcare users who have their services paid for by public programs. USisUS.net, which stands for the United States is Us, aims to reach out to minority populations and healthcare users who receive aid through programs such as Medicaid, VA, Commonwealth Care and others. Users of the site can review these comments and ratings about particular health care providers."
The many faces of Barbara Bix, Managing Principal, BB Marketing Plus
This post discusses my observations from several perspectives including that of a health care marketing consultant, a social media marketing consultant , a user of services, a citizen, and a taxpayer. So, please join me now as I switch hats and weigh in from each of these roles.
Health care marketing consultant
The topic was also of particular interest to me as a health care marketing consultant . There's a lot of debate about what constitutes health care quality. It's hard to measure since we're not widgets. Each of us comes to our health through a unique combination of genes and behavior--and at different stages of wellness/illness--before health care providers even begin administering care. For another, most of us don't have the medical knowledge to assess the relative quality of our treatment regimes or outcomes.
Nevertheless, user perspectives are important; and health care providers have begun to seek them out over the last decade or so. For one, we're the only ones who know how we feel. For another, we are qualified to rate some of the more visible aspects of our care--as well as our overall experience during the care process.
User of services
I see this site as a "Yelp " for government services. The interesting twist is that citizen reviewers are not only users of the services and prospective users of the services, but also citizens who pay for the services--whether they ultimately use them or not.
As soon as I heard about this concept, my first reaction was, "We need this for our town". As a user, I think it's a great way to hear from trusted citizens about new services of which I might otherwise have not been aware--as well as to get recommendations for which services to use when I have a choice.
As a taxpayer, I'd find it useful to have information that helps me evaluate our programs and help me determine for which enhancements to advocate. Today, I read about controversial decisions in the local newspaper and wish I could get a better understanding of the pros and cons from the people these decisions will most affect. I also love the idea that administrators of those programs have a way to get specific actionable feedback on services without extra effort.
Social media marketing consultant
One of the best ways to develop superior offerings is to collaborate with clients, and prospective clients, to design and then improve the services you deliver. A frequent "unintended consequence" is that users then feel more engaged and more involved, just because someone sought their feedback. This engagement often leads to even greater satisfaction.
The magic of social media is that you can so easily, and inexpensively, reach so many of the people you aim to serve, get instant feedback, and have a forum where they can work as a group to refine that feedback. This aspect is often referred to as the "wisdom of the crowd".
Yes, there will be bias. You're most likely only to hear from those who are "high responders", extremely satisfied, or extremely dissatisfied. The hope is that, as with many other social media, "the crowd" keeps the conversation centered and useful. I know that when I'm the user, I look to the crowd for overall sentiment, and to individual reviewers' comments only for the details that they will bring to my attention.
Your perspectives, please
What's your take? Have you used any programs that evaluate public services? If so, what value have you derived? What reservations do you have? What feedback do you have for USisus.net  as they start to spread the word?
This post originally appeared on the