nib launches Whitecoat to enhance consumer choices

nib health funds (nib) today launched Whitecoat, a search and comparison website that will help Australian consumers make better purchasing decisions when choosing an ancillary healthcare provider.

Whitecoat www.whitecoat.com.au, which nib has been developing for three years, will contain publicly available contact details for approximately 30,000 healthcare providers such as optometrists, dentists, physiotherapists and chiropractors. GPs and medical specialists are not included in Whitecoat.

The website carries ratings information via a “Comparative Cost Score” and a “Likelihood to Recommend Score” as well as comments from nib customers about their customer service experience. These scores and comments will be particularly useful for consumers who have moved to a new area or need specialist treatment for the first time.

nib’s Group Manager – Australian Residents Health Insurance, Rhod McKensey, said Whitecoat was developed in response to constant requests by nib customers looking to find and compare ancillary providers.

“Whitecoat represents a new way of connecting Australian consumers and providers who now increasingly rely on the web and social media for information or consumer referrals. Whitecoat is a free, publicly available service allowing consumers to not only find an ancillary provider, but also review a provider’s Comparative Cost Score, a Likelihood to Recommend Score and individual reviews from nib customers for each provider,” Mr McKensey said.

“Whitecoat is showing 90 percent positive feedback from consumers about their experience when visiting a healthcare provider. It is great to see this level of satisfaction and we are confident that Whitecoat is a win-win product that will help providers become even more popular with consumers,” he said.

Carol Bennett, the Chief Executive of The Consumers Health Forum of Australia, said Whitecoat represents a significant advance for Australian consumers by providing an easy and reliable way to compare and choose healthcare providers.

“Healthcare consumers deserve affordable quality healthcare and with Whitecoat they can now make more informed choices by benchmarking providers on key measures such as customer service and price,” said Ms Bennett.

nib has consulted widely with providers, industry associations and government to overcome any issues or concerns they have regarding Whitecoat. In particular, nib has invested heavily to ensure that the privacy of individual providers who are listed on Whitecoat is protected. Information such as the business address and telephone number of each provider will only be published by nib if it is publicly available through Sensis. In addition, providers will be able to “opt out” of having their Comparative Cost Score, Likelihood to Recommend Score and reviews published on the site.

Regarding the validity of customer comments, only nib customer comments relevant to the service they received will be published, with no assessment of the provider’s clinical expertise or standards. nib will strictly manage the process of obtaining, reviewing and publishing data and comments . Only comments from nib customers who have recently visited that provider and which have been checked against nib’s moderation guidelines are published on Whitecoat.

“Whitecoat will also offer a unique opportunity for providers to build and improve their business. Each provider on Whitecoat will be able to update their profile and increase awareness of their services and specialities to thousands of potential new customers,” Mr McKensey said.

HOW IT WORKS

  • nib has developed a robust and independently-assessed methodology to calculate the Comparative Cost Score. A rating of 1 (low average charges) to 5 (high average charges) is allocated to each provider which reflects the weighted average charge based on the most commonly utilised services offered by an individual provider.
  • A provider’s Likelihood to Recommend Score is determined by nib customers. After a nib customer visits a provider, they may be sent an email survey asking about the customer service experience and how likely they are to recommend the provider (score 0 – 10, with 10 being highly likely and zero being not likely). nib collates this information to determine this score.
  • When completing their survey, customers are given the opportunity to provide comments on their customer service experience. Comments are only published after they pass through extensive checking procedures and moderation guidelines. This ensures comments are relevant to the service that was provided, are not offensive or contain profanity, and do not assess the provider’s clinical expertise or standards. Whitecoat’s moderation guidelines are published on the site.

BENEFITS FOR CONSUMERS

Whitecoat is designed to provide Australian consumers with greater choice. It will appeal to consumers who:

  1. Have moved to a new area
  2. Need specialist treatment for the first time
  3. Want a measured and objective way to select their ancillary healthcare provider
  4. Want to provide fair and balanced comments about their provider’s services
  5. Want to compare and assess the services offered by their current provider

BENEFITS FOR PROVIDERS

Providers who register with Whitecoat will enjoy the benefits of:

  1. Increased consumer awareness of their services and specialities
  2. Engaging with current and prospective patients
  3. Responding to patient comments and using this feedback to improve their customer service
  4. Previewing comments before they are published
  5. Displaying optional information such as experience, qualifications, and hours of operation

FUNCTIONALITY

nib has adopted various measures to improve the functionality of Whitecoat during its development phase, including:

  • Providers can preview customer comments up to seven days prior to publication. Providers can also request that comments be re-moderated/reviewed against the Whitecoat moderation guidelines should they believe the comments are inappropriate or, in their opinion, do not meet the guidelines.
  • Providers can respond directly to all Whitecoat customer comments. This is an opportunity for providers to thank customers for their responses or provide clarity regarding a negative comment or experience.
  • Providers can opt out of displaying their Likelihood to Recommend Score, their Comparative Cost Score and comments on their profile page. Those that choose to opt out will still have their contact anddirectory details displayed on Whitecoat.

“As one of Australia’s fastest growing health funds, nib is proud of its ability to respond quickly to the changing needs of consumers with new products and services. Whitecoat is the latest example of this approach which will benefit our customers, the general public as well as providers,” Mr McKensey said.