Hospitals are now part of the ongoing trend of transparency.
The New York Times and Associated Press both report today on a new Web site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that allows consumers to see patient survey response data. The site allows you to look up specific hospitals or compare hospitals in a geographic area. Data is on process of care, outcome of care, and information on patients' experiences.
I compared St. Mary's, Spectrum Health, and Metro Health.
I won't tell you the details of what I saw, because the details run deep! I can say that lots of the responses are above 90 percent, but there are some areas for improvement. One biggy--Spectrum has not made data available in one category. Doesn't look good.
From a PR standpoint, here is another specific industry or PR specialty--health communications--that is being effected by "consumer sovereignty". The average person--in this case patients--demands respect and the ability to make informed decisions. (For extra credit, can anyone tell me where the phrase "informed decision making in democratic society" appears numerous times?)
Generally, if you agree that a two-way symmetrical model of public relations is best, you would see this kind of open communication to be a good thing, consonant with good, fundamental PR. This kind of information goes beyond ad slogans or cleverly coined clauses created in conference rooms. This is actual feedback from the public.
But we have to wonder why the government initiated this (and other) efforts at transparency, and not the institutions themselves. It may simply be the task of coordination was huge, and the government agency was the appropriate coordinator of this project. However, it would be better from a PR reputation standpoint in any industry if information flows freely and voluntarily, not as the result of regulation or obligation.