I am sure Patient testimonial programs are much more effective than all the marketing materials put together. Why the providers/hospitals should have a proper feedback and redressal system in place. I say why not
In this age of consumerism and the era of uncertainties it makes great business sense to engage with the patient community.
A recent example comes to my mind of a reputed corporate hospital that recently got embroiled in a rather nasty bit of news they didn’t try to shove this under the carpet but they did go about this issue in a very nonchalant manner. Anyone who has been following this news would vouch that the providers in question did not try to hide the issue but they did not effectively address the issue. Its good that their contemporaries did not try to exploit the issue but there is a fair amount of apprehension among the patient community who would argue that even though the providers are honest but theres still more to be desired about the way they approached the issues.
If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000 – Jeff Bezos (Founder and CEO, Amazon)
I am sure that the patient empowerment evangelist would concur that in this current balance of things the power lies with the patients and not the providers.
Patient complaints provide a valuable source of insight into safety-related problems within healthcare organizations. Patients are sensitive to, and able to recognize, a range of problems in healthcare delivery, some of which are not identified by traditional systems of healthcare monitoring incident reporting systems, retrospective case reviews).Thus, patient complaints can provide important and additional information to healthcare organizations on how to improve patient safety and clinical outcome.
Proper mechanism of checks and balances
Instead of letting the PR machinery going into damage control mode they should have could do couple of things
Dealing with direct patient complaints
Every Healthcare provider should have a protocol for dealing with direct patient complaints. This is part of the systems approach to clinical risk management. Always deal with complaints of a clinical nature yourself. A staff member should be designated to deal with complaints, Patients need to see that their complaint is being taken seriously and is being handled by someone with sufficient authority and sensitivity to address and resolve their concerns.
Do not ignore complaints. It is prudent to deal with complaints quickly (that day if possible) with an emphasis on resolving the concerns. One ought to speak directly with the patient if they have made a complaint – preferably face-to-face if practicable – and listen! Encourage the patient to tell you what has happened in their own words – and listen!
Make sure you fully understand
What the complaint is about
Who is it all about
What the patient wants in making the complaint.
Establish the scope of the complaint.
All that the patient may expect is to see a copy of a test result or report, have it explained or to receive an apology for being kept waiting for an extended period. We need to bear in mind that complaints that seem trivial to you may be emotionally charged for the patient.
One needs to acknowledge the complaint and the patient’s feelings. That is, acknowledge the patient’s distress and then, if appropriate, validate it. If you are also upset about an outcome, tell the patient ‘this is not the outcome either of us wanted or anticipated’. There is nothing wrong with demonstrating empathy – making sure the patient knows they have been seen, heard and understood.
Delay billing the patient or pursuing payment until the complaint has been resolved.
Once a complaint has been received, in writing or orally, acknowledge in writing that you have received it. Follow this up with a phone call if it is not something that can be resolved simply. Let the patient know that you are looking into it and will be reporting to them by a specific date. Make absolutely certain you do contact them on that day – even if it is only to say that you don’t yet have an answer.
Gather the facts
Review the medical notes, copies of reports, records of phone calls, discussions with relevant staff, check local protocols and check what happened on that day
Allow plenty of time. Find a quiet, private room for the conversation. Most people who complain wish to obtain information about what happened and what it means for them. Provide them with this information.
Consider the factors that led to the complaint – are there changes that can be made to prevent a recurrence? If so, tell the patient as they will wish to see that you take the complaint seriously and that it will make a difference.
Communication is the key
Keep parties informed. If there will be delays while you seek out facts or will not be available, say so, as uncertainty or ‘no response’ only adds to the grievance.
Patients’ annoyance only increases if there is a perceived lack of or breakdown in communications.
Provide a summary of what has been covered, what has been achieved and check whether the patient is satisfied that their concerns have been addressed. Clarify what will happen next. If follow-up is required, make sure it happens. Try to preserve the therapeutic relationship. However, if you feel that the relationship can no longer be sustained because of the complaint, there are ways of managing this
Apologise and acknowledge the distress that may have been caused. Learning from complaints Monitoring and reviewing complaints should be part of every practice. Information about near misses, adverse events and complaints provides an opportunity to improve the standard of service and care. Again, this is what clinical risk management is all about. Looking after yourself In the face of a complaint it is difficult not to become defensive. Don’t deny the issue or blame the patient for being difficult, noncompliant or hostile. Ignoring the problem or handling it poorly may only create more stress.
Patient satisfaction is more important today than ever before. 140-character tweets reach many more people than word-of-mouth ever could. That’s why it’s worth taking some extra time to make your customer experience as pleasurable as possible. Never allow momentary success to go to your head—remember that for every handful of happy customers who don’t have time to write a positive review, there is one enraged customer looking to share his irritations with the world…and it will spread like wildfire. Avoid modeling your customer support on ancient physical-world manners and learn to assimilate to the best practices of the dynamic nature of the internet. This means training employees to be professionally responsive to forums, talk-backs, reviews, and comments, and to take a proactive role in preventing unhappy customers from bad-mouthing your company.
In conclusion, I would reiterate Patient complaints have been identified as a valuable resource for monitoring and improving patient safety and any healthcare provider or entity neglecting this aspect will do so at their own peril.