Are you listening to your patients’ feedback?

Are you listening to your patients’ feedback?

With more private doctors being subject to reviews, Jane Braithwaite, Founder of Designated, highlights the importance of patients’ feedback and gives some excellent tips and advice on handling negative comments.

Patients’ Feedback

Most practices will be receiving patient feedback. This can range from the quiet chat with the receptionist or medical secretary to the – hopefully infrequent – irate phone call or email.

Measuring patient satisfaction and assessing areas for improvement is an important aspect of the Care Quality Commission assessment process, but it should also give you the opportunity to involve all your team members in taking responsibility for improving the patients’ experience.

Feedback sources

Particularly popular forums for online patient feedback can be your practice’s Facebook page or Google My Business account.

Positive reviews here can boost search results, they are easy to request and receive and they give potential patients good insights into your services.

Great reviews can be shared on your website or in articles, but you must ask for the patient’s express permission first to be compliant with GDPR.

On these public channels, there is the danger that a negative review can be widely seen but, if this complaint is handled promptly and professionally, it can often result in a positive outcome. Of course, sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day, and this is where we can help. We can provide social media experts to support you to manage complaints and enquiries quickly and professionally, as and when you need them most.

Many of our clients at Desig­nated Medical request patient reviews on specific medical sector websites such as Doctify, where feedback can be anonymous and complaints can be addressed.

Patients are sent a link to the website’s reviews page, or an iPad app is used to collect reviews at the practice. Similar review options are available on iwantgreatcare.org and My Health Specialist.

Satisfaction surveys

Clinics and doctors may choose to set up and implement their own in-house patient satisfaction survey and choose websites such as Smart Survey or Typeform

The results can be summarised into a report giving a focus for practice imp­rovements and could be reviewed at the monthly practice meeting and an action plan agreed to address any issues.

The ad hoc face-to-face or emailed feedback should also be consolidated to form the basis of your improvement plan, which can be used as evidence of listening to patients. We have a team of experienced administrators to help you create and deliver your unique surveys, and we can tailor our services to support your individual needs.

It’s important that an open and understanding culture be fostered within the team, with no fear of blame being apportioned, so that all feedback is actively shared and acted upon.

Use feedback to grow

Positive reviews should be celebrated too, and a dedicated marketing professional can maximise the potential of good feedback. 

This article is part of a series from the Independent Practitioner Today where Jane Braithwaite writes a regular feature. Download full article here.

Should you need support and advice for your private practice, please get in touch 020 7952 1008, or info@designatedmedical.com.

MHealth: Healthcare apps empower patients & improve care

MHealth: Healthcare apps empower patients & improve care

Healthcare apps have never been more popular, or more widely available. A recent IQVIA report states that over the last two years the number of healthcare apps has increased from 165,000 to 318,500. The top selling 41 apps have around 10 million downloads each, and it’s thought that around 200 new apps are being added to Google Play and Apple Store every day.

What’s new?

A few examples of these new healthcare apps include:

  • Active 10 – Part of Public Health England’s “One You” campaign, this app is aimed at encouraging people to do at least 10 minutes brisk walking a day. People living in the UK are on average walking 15 miles less than they were 20 years ago. This app encourages adults to incorporate brisk walking into their lifestyles as a simple way of improving health.
  • Evergreen Life – Fully approved by the NHS, Evergreen Life’s medical app is now connected to three major GP systems in the UK – EMIS, TPP and Vision – and has more than a quarter of a million users. The app allows users to book GP appointments, view their test results and order repeat prescriptions.
  • Ada – Marketed as a “personal health companion app”, Ada aims to offer personalised care by combining doctor’s medical insight with artificial intelligence. With private investments in the enterprise recently topping £35 million, it is clear that investors consider digital health to be a growing industry that it is worth being a part of.

Top healthcare apps

The recent IQVIA report looked into the best health apps based on the top-rated free and publicly available apps as well as the top clinical rating apps (with the clinical ratings being calculated on reviews of the app’s content, usability, accuracy, efficacy and safety). Some of the best apps available based on their clinical rating are:

  • Fitbit – This GPS-enabled app allows users to track their fitness activity and log their food intake. IQVIA’s report ranked this app as the top clinically rated app for exercise. Its goal is to “empower and inspire” people to live active and healthy lives.
  • Echo – Users can request repeat prescriptions, and set reminders to take medication. The app is compatible with all NHS GP surgeries and so far more than 45,000 people have downloaded it.
  • Headspace – This app provides users with guided meditation exercises and educational videos, and was rated top in the IQVIA report for stress management.

How do they benefit patients and healthcare?

Many of these apps fit into the area of “wellness”. They allow people to monitor their food intake, sleep patterns and exercise routine. By providing information and useful functions, these apps help guide people to decisions that will ultimately improve their health. For example, research has shown that improve adherence to medication can result in lower levels of healthcare utilisation and a decreased risk of hospitalisation. Apps which remind users to take their medication could help save the healthcare system money and contribute to improved outcomes.

In addition to this, mHealth apps have been used in more than 800 clinical trials worldwide. Thus they are also contributing to scientific advancement, using real-world evidence to potentially help to bring life-changing products to market.

Where next?

The benefits of these apps are wide-ranging and their use is becoming more mainstream than ever. Authorities and national organisations are lending their support to these services in addition to private investors. The industry is growing rapidly and it’s likely that more companies will bring innovative healthcare products to market. MHealth should continue to empower patients and help to improve care.

What do patients think of you?

What do patients think of you?

The power of the patient testimonial presents a growing challenge for doctors in private practice. Jane Braithwaite shows how to keep up to speed with this phenomenon, the best way to deal with a bad review and how this can be managed so your practice gets the best out of these sites.

It’s a familiar situation: you need a particular service but don’t know where to start. Hotel recommendations, restaurant reviews, a good electrician…

Patients dating gameOur first point of call is usually a preferred search engine, followed by a thorough read of the reviews of countless service providers.

Word of mouth still plays a part in identifying and eventually choosing a service, but sites such as TripAdvisor, Glassdoor and Checkatrade have all become go-to places for people looking for a glimpse at what they can expect before committing to a purchase or organising a service.

The situation is no different when it comes to private healthcare. A recent survey conducted by Software Advice found that around 80% of patients use online reviews when searching for doctors.

The situation is no different when it comes to identifying medical and healthcare services. A recent survey by BrightLocal found that 84% of those questioned valued an online review as much as a word-of-mouth review, and that medical and healthcare professionals are the third most searched-for services – with restaurants and hotels at numbers one and two respectively.

Sites such as Doctify and Top Doctors offer patients a platform both to share experiences and to find out more about the services on offer.

For consumers, these sites can be a goldmine of information, but for physicians there can be a risk: the bad patient review.

How can doctors keep up to speed with this phenomenon, what is the best way to deal with a bad patient review and how can this be managed so your practice gets the best out of these sites?

Maintain confidentiality

Before considering how to deal with online patient reviews, it is worth remembering that these interactions need to be treated the same way as a face-to-face clinic appointment – confidentially.

Patient review sites could be described as a recent phenomenon and can be used to feed into social media. As a result, they have the potential to reach out to huge numbers of people – and unidentified people, at that.

With this in mind, one of the most important things to keep in mind when managing or responding to patient reviews is confidentiality.

Doctors are still obliged to maintain confidentiality, even if a patient has taken the decision to publically discuss their experience with you.

By responding directly to reviews, you could run the risk of publically disclosing that the reviewer is, in fact, your patient – something which you may not have consent to do.

The GMC’s guidance on Good Medical Practice reminds doctors of this and advises that, when communicating publically, patient confidentiality must be maintained. This extends to social media. (See ‘There aren’t any secrets online’).

Studies around this subject have shown there is a lot of uncertainty around the legal implications of interacting with patients via social media. So it may be worthwhile considering a response strategy that takes any discussions offline to a more confidential setting, such as in clinic or over the phone. This way, you will certainly not be accused of a breach of privacy.

Response strategies

Response strategies to unfavourable online patient reviews could be similar to strategies that deal with complaints received in a more traditional fashion through contacting your office directly.

All practices should have a strategy in place to deal with disappointed or disgruntled patients, and this should always involve a swift initial response – even if more investigation is required to determine the circumstances that led to the complaint or bad review being made.

The patient’s records should then be reviewed, along with any correspondence such as emails. A full review of the situation means that you will be better placed to respond confidently and appropriately to the complaint at hand.

Managing expectations

Of course, the best policy is to identify potential problems and deal with them before they reach a point where distress and disappointment has taken someone to the point of leaving a bad patient review.

Work closely with your staff, and make sure they know to alert you to any comments that – if left unchecked – could develop into a more serious complaint.

For example, has a patient commented to your secretary that they always seem to be waiting an unacceptable amount of time to be seen in clinic? Has the patient had to chase the office for information they have been promised?

In cases such as these, use a personal touch – acknowledge the patient’s disappointment and explain why this happened. Honesty is appreciated and respected, and will hopefully contribute to a more open patient-doctor relationship in the future.

Manage your online presence

If you have a practice website, management of your online presence could be expanded to include monitoring patient review sites and liaising with the teams who run them to ensure that you are making the most of the services they offer.

Sites such as Top Doctor also have a reputation to maintain; they pride themselves on connecting with only the very best, using a recommendation system to ensure they only take on respected professionals, so it is in the interests of both parties to make sure that the relationship is fruitful.

Some sites also offer marketing services, supporting doctors with PR activities and social media activity. It is therefore extremely worthwhile connecting with these teams to find out more about how they can help grow your practice.

These sites can also help to improve patient’s initial opinion of your practice; some offer 24-hour online access to clinic appointments, meaning patients don’t have to wait for office hours to book in. This speedy, easy way to book appointments can’t help but give a potential patient a great first impression.

Constructive criticism – a blessing in disguise

So are patient reviews something to be scared of? This is debatable.

While it is not pleasant to know that a patient is dissatisfied with your services, and there is always a chance that a critical comment may put some people off, it is worth remembering that all reviews – both good and bad – will contribute to you having a much better understanding of how your practice is performing.

Without knowing what you are doing wrong, how can it ever be put right?

Tips for managing reviews

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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Top tips for a medical secretary

Top tips for a medical secretary

Designated Medical’s Liliana Scott reflects on the skills a medical secretary needs, and gives tips on how to realise your potential.

When I started writing this blog I asked myself, what tips could I give to the fellow colleagues that might read this article to make their everyday work easier? I reflected on all the work we do and found myself surprised of all our talents…

Medical terminology, IT and administration

Not only we need to have excellent administrative and organisational skills, we need to possess good knowledge of medical terminology and be familiar with medical procedures. In addition to this, we also need to have an in-depth knowledge of a doctor’s diary and workload, medical practice management software and business practices.

Discretion, sensitivity and integrity

As well as hard skills, we need to have certain soft skills. A high level of discretion to maintain confidentiality in relation to sensitive information is key. A friendly attitude and the ability to work with minimal supervision is also crucial. Add to this the ability to handle pressure and meet deadlines, have people skills to handle patients, colleagues and other members of the public. We also need to understand the habits and personality of the doctors we work for and help them have confidence that any problem that arises during the day will be fully dealt with.

Top tips

Based on the above I have 3 tips to share to make your day go smoother:

  1. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF – For eight hours a day you focus on looking after other people. Regular self-care keeps us going. Most of us spend the majority of our day at our desks, so make sure you take a proper break from your workspace and take a breather. Taking breaks is extremely beneficial, both physically and mentally.
  2. REMEMBER THAT YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE – There’s no doubt of the impact you make on patients’ lives every time you get to the office. People might not say how much you do for them but without you the place will be chaotic.
  3. MAKE AN HONEST ASSESSMENT OF YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES – Remind yourself of your own talents. The idea that secretaries are there to type letters suggests a lack of awareness of what medical secretaries really do. We do a lot! However, we can become complacent and do things in autopilot forgetting the importance of working to high standards. For example, soft skills are a big factor in the success of medical secretaries especially because of the frequent communication with members of the public. If you try to improve your interpersonal and listening skills at work, there’s a good chance it will pay off in advancement opportunities for you.

Our team here at Designated Medical are all highly experienced in the private medical sector, and can bring all these skills and more to your medical practice. For more information contact us on 020 7952 1008, or visit our website at designatedmedical.com.

Author – Liliana Scott – Medical Secretary

Becoming A Medical Secretary… My journey

Becoming A Medical Secretary… My journey

Becoming A Medical Secretary: Liliana Scott talks to the DMED Blog about how she became a medical secretary…

Having originally trained in a clinical role as a Speech & Language Therapist in Columbia, Liliana is now part of Designated Medical’s secretarial team providing support to consultants in a variety of specialities. With more than 10 years’ experience in this capacity, your practice is in safe hands with Liliana!

The medical secretary journey begins…

Liliana began her journey working for an NHS community project in South West London. This role involved providing support to 5 healthcare professionals, including GPs, district nurses and health visitors. “Every day was different,” says Liliana, who also used her language skills to provide interpretation services to the clinic. This role was based in the community and involved reaching out to and communicating with people from various backgrounds.

Following this, Liliana moved to a private healthcare company as an Office Coordinator and Team Leader and it was here that she was first introduced to the medical secretarial role. As well as providing office coordination, liaising with insurance companies, dealing with financial administration, and customer service, Liliana began producing medical reports for the healthcare professionals in the team. “This provided me with an extra level of knowledge” she says.

Before coming on board with the Designated Medical team, Liliana also worked as a Client Services Officer for a well-known private hospital. This combination of public sector and private sector experience made Liliana an excellent candidate for the Designated Medical team, as we pride ourselves on our in-depth healthcare business knowledge.

 

Wide range of skills

However, it is not just her extensive administrative skills that Liliana uses on a day to day basis – she also draws on her experience as a Speech & Language Therapist and the skills she developed whilst studying for her MA in Counselling. “As well as providing me with knowledge of medical terminology and human anatomy, my studies have taught me to look a little deeper in terms of being aware of different behaviours and understanding patients’ needs,” she says.

Take your next step as a Medical Secretary with Designated Medical

Here at Designated Medical we recognise the value of transferable skills, and all team members come from a strong medical background – that’s what makes us so special.

If you are interested in joining our team, we would love to hear from you – just click here to find out more about our current vacancies – or, if you are looking for medical practice support, check out our team here and if you need someone with a particular skill just get in touch and we will do our best to help find the perfect fit for your team.

 

 

Putting patients before profits

Putting patients before profits

It seems that hardly a week goes by without a news story about how a company has put their own profits above the quality or safety of their services. Private healthcare is no exception, and the industry has been involved in stories of this kind from time to time – the most recent being that of disgraced surgeon Ian Paterson, who carried out unnecessary procedures on patients and was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison. It is therefore to be expected that stories such as these can have an unfavourable impact on a patient’s view of private healthcare, and that opinion can sway towards the idea that private healthcare providers do not put patients before profits.

One of the reasons behind the perceived idea that patients’ interests are not always at the heart of decision making stems from a lack of consumer trust. The results of the most recent Harris Poll (one of the United States’ longest running public opinion surveys) indicated that only 36% of US adults believe that healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses put the care of their patients before profits. This figure sinks to an even lower 23% when questioned whether or not hospitals put patients before profits.

With the private healthcare industry predicted to grow by approximately 15% over the next years, what can be done to combat this lack of trust? How can consultants and their teams make sure their patients know they aren’t just in it for the money?

Detailed & clear communication

One of the most powerful tools to use in this situation is communication. By providing patients with as much information as possible about their care, you are not only building trust but also empowering them by making sure they are fully involved in their care. Being in the know about how much each part of their care costs will allow people to make informed decisions. With this in mind, consultants and support teams should always:

  • Carefully explain the rationale behind each aspect of care. For both self-pay and insured patients, people need to know what their funds are being spent on.
  • Use healthcare information leaflets to help increase patients’ knowledge of their condition and any associated treatments or procedures.

Manage your reputation

The reputation of a consultant or clinic is of utmost importance, especially in this age of patient review websites (and, of course, word of mouth). Do you have a patient who can verify how you put their health above all else? If they are willing to provide a testimonial for your website, this could be invaluable as it demonstrates integrity and how as a business you put patients before profit.

Be upfront about costs

There may be situations in which you aren’t able to provide a full breakdown of costs (for example, if you are organising a procedure that might result in unexpected hospital fees), but be upfront about this. If a patient is presented with an unexpected bill after their treatment, this can be very damaging to your relationship with them.

Provide details on safety standards and accountability

Include a section on your website detailing how complaints and concerns are dealt with, so patients know that you have processes in place to deal with any eventuality. Patients should be able to expect the same legal protections and safety standards whether their treatment is carried out on the NHS or privately. This way of working is encouraged by the Patients Before Profits campaign, established by Thompson Solicitors in the wake of the Ian Paterson case, which aims to hold private healthcare companies and their staff to the same obligations of responsibility as the NHS.

At Designated Medical, our team has a wealth of experience in dealing with complex clinical situations and with their exceptional communication skills are fully capable of helping consultants to build relationships with patients. Look here for more information on our fantastic team, and for information on pricing or how we can help you to grow your practice please email us or call 020 7952 1008.

Author – Laura Synnott – Medical Writer at Designated Medical