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