Why You Should Welcome a Patient Complaint
No one is ever excited to hear patient complaints. When I worked in a practice daily I absolutely dreaded when a patient wanted to speak to me because I knew 9 times out of 10 it was a complaint and I felt more times than not that I had little to offer a patient who was upset or frustration with something that had happened, not to mention, in the business of the practice I most likely had been interrupted from another pressing task that I really needed to get back to.
Today as a consultant working with a client on practice management, I can’t wait to hear patients’ complaints. Complaints are the only opportunity managers have to understand the patient’s experience and hear in their own words what went wrong for them. By listening carefully, you have the potential to deliver customer satisfaction around the following areas:
- You can gain insight into an experience in the practice and dissect it to see why the problem occurred and what can be done to fix it.
- You can model to the staff how essential patient objections are and how genuinely you take them.
- You can retain the patient for the practice, and hopefully make them a fan who will recommend your practice to their friends and family.
In the past, it may have taken a series of events for a patient to complain to the manager or to the doctor, because many patients will not risk disenfranchising a physician they really like. Today is the advent of the consumerist patient, and people are feeling empowered to complain about problems in healthcare (this is a good thing!) Practice managers should step up to the plate to meet them and make sincere attempts to cultivate a positive patient experience from beginning to end. In addition to active listening here are suggestions for delivering a positive patient experience following a complaint:
- Train staff to prioritize all patient calls with complaints to you. Unless you are in the middle of a meeting, take all patient calls as they come in. If you cannot take the call, ask the staff to make sure to document the best time to return the call and the best number to call back. Make sure you then prioritize returning the call.
- Listen to the patient until they finish talking and then repeat the complaint and ask questions to make sure you understand what happened
- Let them know that their experience is not what you want for patients.
- Tell the patient you will investigate the complaint and give them a definite date and time when you will call them back with a follow up report.
- Talk to all staff and physicians involved in the incident. Call the patient back and share any information that is appropriate. Most patients will be satisfied to receive a call back and hear that their complaint has been discussed and/or addressed.
- If possible offer your direct number to patients and invite them to call you if they have any further problems and have them ask for you when they come in for their next appointment, so you can meet them.
Practicing quality medicine while maintaining and managing the bottom line is a balancing act that provider’s face daily. The Physicians Practice S.O.S. Group is committed to and has helped healthcare providers across the country with new practice start ups, IRO needs, and providing practice management and compliance solutions. Call our office to discuss any needs you might have.
Regina Mixon Bates, CEO | The Physicians Practice S.O.S. Group | www.ppsosgroup.com
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