Healthcare is a service that is fraught with risks and perils from unforeseen emergencies to fatal illnesses at every turn. It should come as no surprise then that customers receiving treatment or other costly services from a healthcare provider are sensitive to the quality of the service they receive. Because treatment can be a matter of life and death, it is imperative that patients are kept relatively satisfied throughout their entire experience.
Failure to provide adequate care results in a provider’s reputation being marred, as news does travel far when customers are left feeling let down or unimpressed. That being the case, why don’t we take a brief look at what steps you can take to handle a dissatisfied patient effectively, in a cost-effective manner.
1. Collect All Pertinent Facts
The first step in alleviating patient complaints is uncovering what the issue is in the first place. Start by gathering as much information as you can by asking open-ended questions such as, “How did this situation arise? What is it that is frustrating you the most?” so that front office staff are better equipped to handle the situation. To ensure that your staff know how best to tackle such complaints, it is vital that they be trained extensively in that capacity.
2. Communicate with the Patient
It is important that you monitor complaints so that you can address them early on. Although it is never easy to contact patients who have left angry or upset, communication is the only way issues can be resolved. In cases where malpractice, serious medical liabilities, or allegations of fraud are concerned, it would be wise to consult an attorney. In all other cases, you should contact them directly via a phone call, as emails and texting are more impersonal in nature and don’t convey the same degree of concern.
3. Scrutinize the Issue in Depth
Start by defusing the situation by saying, “It is important that we address the problem you are facing because we always take pride in providing the best care possible for our patients.” Beginning on a positive note will help alleviate some of the tension as upset individuals rarely expect to be treated empathetically from the other side. Once you have their attention you may begin to ask more open-ended questions to ascertain what really went down to cause their dissatisfaction.
Once you have heard their entire version of events, restate your findings to them so that there is no room for misunderstanding or confusion in the reconciliatory process. At this stage, it is important that you give them an estimated time frame as to when they can hope to hear back from you so that they are not left hanging.
4. Conduct Due Diligence
Now that you have a complete picture of how events escalated to this point, you can figure out which party was at fault so that you can remedy the situation. If your personnel were at fault, you may need to set certain protocols in place to prevent issues like these from occurring in the future. If it seems like the patient’s expectations were unreasonable, share your assessment with a few colleagues to determine whether your findings are in fact valid or not.
5. Get Back to the Patient
It is now time to follow-up with the patient and tactfully and professionally relay your evaluation. If your facility was at fault, inform them of this finding and apologize for their unsatisfactory experience. You may also take this opportunity to inform them of the improvements you plan to make in the future. In case you discover that the patient was in the wrong, be polite but firm in your communication and avoid getting into any argument by stating the facts and moving on.
It is understood that upset customers will be any business’ downfall regardless of the sector of the market you are in. Healthcare is no exception. Considering how expensive medical care can be, it is imperative that great measures are taken to keep your customer’s treatment and service experience top of mind. The best way you can ensure that your patients continue to rely on your services is by conducting a thorough evaluation of the events that unfolded, implementing corrective measures, and effectively communicating with all parties involved to