Patient Reviews: they really do count

Patient Reviews: they really do count

Jane Braithwaite regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today and her latest article talks about the importance of patient reviews and the impact they can have on the success of your private practice.

Patient Reviews

Most practices will be receiving patient feedback on a regular basis.  This can range from the quiet chat with the receptionist or medical secretary, to the hand-delivered box of chocolates or the hopefully infrequent irate phone call or email.  But how are you collecting these reviews, measuring your patients’ satisfaction and dealing with complaints?

Top Tips

  1. establish an open team culture encouraging all feedback to be shared
  2. encourage patients to share their reviews on your Facebook page, google and other social media accounts
  3. send patients links to relevant medical websites where reviews are encouraged
  4. share great reviews on your website (having asked the patient’s permission)
  5. set up a monthly or quarterly programme of feedback requests from patients
  6. decide on the best way to collect ad hoc patient feedback from team members
  7. put in place a detailed complaints process
  8. communicate your complaints process openly with your patients
  9. respond to complaints and online negative reviews promptly and professionally
  10. collate all your feedback regularly from all sources, to inform your improvement plan


Read the full article  ‘Their views really do count’

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Is your practice millennial-ready?

Is your practice millennial-ready?

London millennials are more ready than ever for insured private healthcare. So has your marketing strategy caught up? Jane Braithwaite reports.

Key to the success of any business owner, including private healthcare practitioners, is to understand their clients/patients so that the marketing and delivery of services can be tailored to meet their exact needs.

It is imperative to understand how patients’ views are changing over time, particularly with the progressing use of technology and ways this is applied.

Understand­ing the characteristics of different age groups is also vital, particularity when considering technology.

Those marketing and communication methods that were successful five years ago are probably not ideal today and who knows what our patients will expect in five years’ time.

One effective way to keep abreast of changes is to consider the results of patient surveys. They give us some valuable insights into the minds of our patients and we can learn a great deal on the changes we should be making now to ensure continued long-term success.

Top Doctors, the global company connecting patients with healthcare specialists, recently commissioned a survey to better understand the beliefs and attitudes of Londoners towards healthcare.

Residents from all 33 London boroughs were questioned in September 2017. Being one of the most diverse places to live in the UK, it is safe to say this survey is likely to have questioned people from many different backgrounds.

Interesting reading

The results make for interesting reading – particularly, the differences in opinion between the different age groups questioned. The survey found 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds (or millennials) have private health insurance, compared to just 20% of Londoners over the age of 55.

These figures represent a change in terms of the typical user of private health, as the post-war ‘baby boomers’ would historically have been the generation most likely to have private health coverage.

The figures are also indicative of a difference in market use between our capital city and the rest of the country. Recent research released by health and social care market intelligence provider LaingBuisson found that, overall, just 10.6% of the UK population have private medical cover.

So, what do these results say about the attitude of millennials living in the capital to healthcare and, by extension, the private healthcare industry? And how can London’s private practices ensure that they are engaging with this age group?

Millennial attitudes to healthcare

Multiracial business people working together connected with technological devices like tablet and notebook – teamwork, business, working concept

The Top Doctor survey results show a clear change in the behaviours of millennials and baby boomers, but what is behind this difference in attitude?

Let’s first consider attitudes to the NHS. The 2013 King’s Fund report Time To Think Differently showed millennials do not consider collective welfare as important an issue as older generations, and also found ‘marked differences’ in NHS satisfaction rates between those over and under 65.

With this being the case, it could be said millennials might be supportive of individuals contributing financially to healthcare rather than it being solely the responsibility of the state.

The King’s Fund research put forward the idea that the generations following the baby boomers will not benefit from the same levels of financial security as those who came before them and, as a result, may be more focused on their own needs than those of others.

Could this be a reason why there appears to be an increase in private healthcare coverage in younger age groups?

The idea that millennials are stepping away from the NHS is further supported by another survey carried out in 2017 by DocTap.

This survey found that same-day appointment services offered by private practitioners were popular with the millennial age group and that many would prefer to pay for such services than wait for an NHS consultation.

Additional benefits, according to those surveyed, include consistency of care – that is to say, being able to see the same doctor at every appointment – longer appointment times and a sense of being able to take their time with their clinician.

The survey by the private online GP service also found that younger generations are much less committed to the notion of the NHS being the sole healthcare provider in comparison to older generations.

Millennial use of private healthcare insurance

Despite the evidence seeming to point to the idea that millennials favour private healthcare over the NHS and the fact that they are more likely to have a private healthcare plan, only half of this age group use their insurance to make a claim. Why is this?

You could say that there is simply less need for younger generations to access healthcare as much as older generations. People of this age group will, of course, be healthier and less prone to chronic conditions that occur with age.

Those who do have conditions that require regular specialist care may well find themselves in the position where their insurance policy will not cover any pre-existing conditions and, as a result, it is more financially viable for them to receive their treatment on the NHS.

Some younger patients may simply be minded to avoid using their healthcare policy because it does not provide extensive coverage. For example, some workplace private healthcare policies do not cover all aspects of care. The policy may only cover outpatient tests or there may be a financial limit on the amount a patient can claim back.

Furthermore, an opinion from the US is that millennials are more cost-conscious.

This age group is more likely to consider the cost of treatments before receiving them and when taking into account that a workplace may have a limit or an excess to pay, there may well be added costs associated with private care that millennials are not prepared to commit to.

How can private practices engage with this group?

The Top Doctors survey found that in London just 50% of the 18 to 34 age group have used their private healthcare insurance. This is high when compared to the over-55s, where just 35% have not used it.

There is, of course, no way to convince people to attend consultations and receive treatment if there is no need for it, but for those who do need to access expert healthcare in the private sector, it would be sensible to ensure your business is reaching this age group, who are – in London – more likely than any other group to have private medical insurance.

How to engage with millennials

➲ Recognise why private healthcare is popular in this age group and do what you can to tailor your service to their needs. If it is longer consultations that are popular, look at amending appointment times. If it is same-day appointments that prove popular, think about how and if this could work for your business.

➲ Liaise with your target audience and market your practice based on your findings. If you have existing patients in this age group, reach out to them to request feedback and ascertain what is important in terms of what they expect from the patient experience.

➲ Use appropriate platforms to market your business. Use social media, gaming and apps to reach this generation.

➲ Be authentic. Use testimonials and appealing stories of people’s healthcare journeys to help people to engage with your practice brand and better understand your values.

➲ Use content that is high-quality and shareable on social media – this will be more effective in terms of reaching out to this group than more traditional advertising methods.

➲ Think about how you can use technology to communicate with these patients. Communications that are tailored to the individual and accessible through smartphones might be attractive to this age group, but practices should be mindful of concerns about security and privacy.

➲ Millennials are highly likely to research their symptoms online before visiting a doctor. Private practices should recognise this behaviour and may want to provide health information on their websites as a way of engaging with this group.

➲ Millennials look for companies that reflect their personal values when choosing products. Think about what kind of impact you want your practice to make on society, and make sure this message is incorporated into your marketing.

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

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How to look after your data

How to look after your data

Doctors are under increasing scrutiny when it comes to reporting serious incidents and data-sharing in private practice. Jane Braithwaite presents a timely analysis and gives some useful tips.

A recent BBC Panorama TV documentary entitled ‘How safe is your operation?’ uncovered serious concerns about the sharing of data and incident reporting in the private sector.

With cases such as that of Ian Paterson – the surgeon who wounded patients and carried out unnecessary surgical procedures – making headline news, patients may be rightly concerned that the safety policies and procedures used in private healthcare are not up to scratch.


So, what can private practices do to ensure their services are safe and patient safety is taken seriously, and what tools are available to support doctors in data-sharing?

Why is data important?

First, let’s consider why this information is so important.

As with any industry, analysis of business data will allow companies to see where they are doing well and can help to identify areas that need improvement.

It’s a great way to monitor how the business is running and to pinpoint areas where process changes are required. In healthcare, without recording and analysing clinical data, it is incredibly difficult for organisations to have any kind of handle on trends relating to symptoms, public health, procedure safety… the list goes on.

But why should this be particularly important? The reason is patient safety. Without measuring clinical outcomes, organisations – either in the NHS or the private sector – cannot ensure they are providing the best possible patient care.

Why are the NHS and private sectors different?

According to the Private Health­care Information Network (PHIN), which was established by the Competition and Markets Auth­ority (CMA) following the 2014 investigation into the private healthcare market, the private healthcare industry has been largely excluded from national healthcare policy for some time.

As a result, the industry is not included in NHS information systems, meaning data is not shared between providers, and treatment information is not reported consistently to national databases.

What data is required?

Datacase singleThe private healthcare information that needs to be shared to supplement the NHS datasets relates to clinical audits, cancer surgery outcomes and figures relating to cosmetic surgery, for example.

Sharing this information will allow for complete oversight of patient outcomes. Policies and strategies in both sectors can then be shaped based on accurate and robust datasets, but basing policies on incomplete data will have a negative impact on patient safety.

It is therefore in the best interests of the NHS, the private sector and, of course, the patients to share this information to increase knowledge and identify any areas that need improvement.

This, of course, means that serious incidents need to be properly documented and reported, as well as information on successful treatments.

However, having a thorough risk assessment policy that includes information on how incidents are reported can only be a good thing for private practices; it will increase patients’ confidence in the fact that, if an incident does occur, it will be dealt with efficiently by the practice.

What can private practices do?

The key issue here is for the different sectors to work together for the good of the patients; data standards need to be brought into alignment. But who is spearheading this and how can private practices get involved?

As mentioned above, PHIN was established in the wake of the CMA’s 2014 investigation and now provides information on private healthcare to the public.

All hospitals providing private treatment are required to publish information on service quality –for example, infection rates, mortality rates and admission figures.

Several NHS trusts have been contacted by the CMA after making insufficient progress in achieving this goal. This is more than a year on from the CMA announcing that private healthcare providers must submit information on their services, allowing patients to have access to information they need to make an information choice about their care.

As well as publishing information on private hospitals, PHIN will also soon be making information available on individual consultants. A recently implemented new online portal allows clinicians to review their performance data ahead of the publishing of the data in 2018.

This gives consultants the chance to review their information to identify any trends or missing data and the portal also features a members’ manual that answers frequently-asked questions and contains more information on the process.

Consultants therefore need to recognise that the landscape in this area is changing and, in future, it appears that data-sharing between the private sector and the NHS will become more regulated.

Practices will need to review their internal policies relating to data – such as data protection, data sharing – and to risk assessment and reporting, and make sure that the relevant stakeholders are involved in their policies.

Moving forward – clarity and consistency

Lawyers and national medical organisations alike are calling for greater consistency here; private hospitals should be subject to the same regulations as the NHS, as so many patients use both services.

A single standard for data procedures and reporting, regardless of how the care is funded, is obviously needed – especially when taking into account the fact that 95% of patients who have planned surgery privately are also NHS patients for other aspects of their healthcare.

There is a clear need to unify standards across sectors. Setting consistent information standards will improve many areas of healthcare, including patient choice, access to information, interoperability between systems, quality of service and integrated care.

There is really no reason to say ‘no’ to joining forces and making patient care the best it can be.

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

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The magic of the entrepreneur

The magic of the entrepreneur

Professionals working in the UK health industry are ideally placed to identify problems experienced by patients and colleagues. Every day they see the issues that could be improved by a new way of doing things, and many are now using their medical knowledge to address these problem areas in innovative, creative ways.

Jane Braithwaite looks at some success stories, what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and what support is out there to help doctors bring their innovative ideas to market.

What makes a doctor entrepreneur?

Some medics make the transition from medical school straight to business and do not complete specialist training. Some doctors continue their training and develop their ideas while continuing to practice.

Others are consultants or GPs who use their specialist knowledge to bring quality, problem-solving tech solutions to market. The medical backgrounds can be varied, but one thing is consistent – the entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to see a problem and fix it with a great solution.

However, insider knowledge of the healthcare industry does not mean that an idea will automatically translate into a successful business. Doctors will have been medically trained, but many will have had little to no experience in relation to building a successful business based on a new idea.

To build a business and be a successful entrepreneur, several key traits are needed, including an ability to analyse problems and the self-belief to take those solutions all the way.

Furthermore, at some point, there will be a need to know how to run a business and this includes knowing how to lay its foundations, deal with administration, finance and human resources.

Knowing when to delegate and hand over tasks like this to other experts is also a skill that needs to be learnt.

Success stories


This website combines patient reviews, specialist information and appointment booking to provide a one-stop shop for patients looking for a private specialist in London.

Co-founded by Stephanie Eltz and Suman Saha – along with chief executive Oliver Thomas and chief finance officer Daniel Jung – these doctors joined forces in 2015 to develop their vision of creating a service that brought doctors and patients together.

Generation Medics

An online community focused on medical students and junior doctors, Generation Medics was formerly known as ‘Help Me, I’m A Medic’ and is the brainchild of Dr Hinnah Rafique.

Since 2013, the website has grown to be the UK’s largest online community for medics, with a community of more than 4,000 members. Generation Medics has won two UnLtd national awards, and provides medics with online support, revision aids and access to national conferences.


Dr Lewis Potter’s GeekyMedics site focuses on supporting junior doctors by making revision ‘less painful and more productive’.

Video guides, quizzes and case studies make this Newcastle University graduate and Clinical Entrepreneur Fellow’s network hugely popular, with more than four million downloads worldwide and over 130,000 subscribers on YouTube.


Co-founded by Dr Kartik Modha, a north London GP, myHealthSpecialist is an online resource for patients and GPs to find doctor-recommended private and NHS specialists.

With more than 3,000 GPs and specialists listed, the site aims to improve care and save time by connecting patients with the right specialists.

Support services

The need to help doctors develop their business skills is recognised by several organisations, with programmes and networks in place to build these skills. These are:

Clinical Entrepreneur Training Programme

A joint venture between NHS England and Health Education England, launched in 2016. This programme aims to provide guidance to junior doctors with innovative ideas, helping them to develop their product or service with the goal of bringing it to market.

Doctors will be able to develop the knowledge, skills and leadership capabilities required if they are to successfully bring their ideas to market. The initial success of this unique scheme has led to it being extended; as of last year, dentists and healthcare scientists can also apply.

Successes include Dr Suman Saha, co-founder of Doctify, and Dr Lewis Potter, founder of GeekyMedics.

Doctorpreneurs Start-up School

Doctorpreneurs is an online community aimed at connecting doctors with similar interests in entrepreneurship and health tech.

Founded in 2011, the company originally focused on organising events, providing interested parties with a way to network. The team grew in 2014, and the company now boasts an impressive events schedule, student ambassador network and start-up school.

Digital Health London

Supported by the office of the Mayor of London and NHS England, Digital Health London provides support to those looking to bring ground-breaking ideas to the UK healthcare industry.

By providing innovators with guidance in relation to intellectual property, commercialisation and finance, Digital Health London aims to generate economic growth and improve health outcomes and experiences.

So the opportunities for networking, developing and expertise-sharing are available, and with the UK’s small business market growing with a record 5.5m private-sector enterprises in business at the start of 2016 – up 97,000 on the previous year –could it be time to start thinking creatively and find a solution to a problem?

Top tips

➲Do your research – With so many new and innovative healthcare services out there, doing some background research is invaluable. Check out your competition and see how you can differentiate your idea from others.

➲Perfect your pitch – ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ You should keep in mind that not everyone will have your frame of reference and people will sometimes just want to know – very simply – what your product is and how it will help them.

➲Set clear and achievable milestones – Avoid wasting time and overthinking your concept. Set yourself some realistic milestones that lead to clear goals.

➲Recognise your weaknesses – As a doctor, business skills may not be your forte. Take advantage of online resources and communities to help build those skills and develop your understanding of what it takes to run a successful business.

➲Call in favours – Working in healthcare means your colleagues will have experience and talent in many areas: communications, IT, and marketing. These colleagues could potentially help you develop your idea or could even be future business partners.

➲Network – Go to conferences and industry meetings. This will help build your understanding of areas of the industry unfamiliar to you and build your network of industry connections.

➲Don’t give up the day job – Your medical expertise and position provides you with in-depth healthcare knowledge. Remember that you are where you are today because of your interest in medicine; keep up to date on developments in healthcare and keep up your connections within the NHS and private healthcare.

➲Save people money – Creating a service or product that lowers cost will help to increase uptake of your product or service once it comes to market.

➲Help everyone – A product that helps one group of stakeholders but not another will not go far. Make sure that your product does not make life more difficult for a certain group of users/workers. Look at feedback from users to determine how you can go about making this happen.

➲Be willing to take a risk – Not all business ideas are successful, but this does not mean you shouldn’t try. Even if an idea does not come to fruition, you will undoubtedly learn some valuable lessons along the way.

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

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How to figure out what you are doing

How to figure out what you are doing

Executive information is increasingly important for private doctors. Jane Braithwaite shows how to analyse your business and make changes based on practice data.

All business leaders need executive information to enable them to review and manage their business. And that is equally true of private doctors and clinics.

Executive info B&WWhile patient data is often reviewed, the actual management of the practice is often overlooked. So, this month, I’m taking a look at how independent practitioners can get the most out of non-clinical data.

What is executive information?

The term ‘executive information’ relates to information provided to executive-level employees about what is happening in their business.

In a private medical practice environment, executive information systems can allow principal consultants to look at trends and figures extracted from their practice management systems.

These systems could come in the form of a dashboard, providing users with an overview of the figures they consider most important.

Business intelligence and reporting

Dashboards can be constructed to include ‘drill down’ capabilities, so you can dig a little deeper into your information based on the parameters you build in. Some­times referred to as business intelligence, these systems can also include analytics, forecasting and reporting functions.

Two issues you will need to consider are:

  1. What do you want to see from your dashboard or executive information system;
  2. How do you go about displaying this.

In other words, you are asking ‘which program can I use to extract the data from my practice management system and display it in the format that I want?’

There are many user-friendly programs available that can be used to build dashboards – Tableau or QlikView, for example – and there are online tutorials available that will help you to familiarise yourself with their functions.

Executive info colour sliderBut creating a dashboard may be something you might prefer to leave to an expert. An expert will also be able to advise you on how best to link your medical practice management system database to a business intelligence program, which could involve data cleansing or a knowledge of structured query language (SQL) queries.

They will also be able to advise on the usability, cost and maintenance of such programs.

Once you have decided on which tool you want to use, you then need to think about what you want to see. You could use your information system to show you:

 Attendance rates: Taking an in-depth look at this will allow you to co-ordinate clinics to maximise attendance;
 Source of referral: By recording in your practice system where a referral has come from – word of mouth, through another facility, social media – you can understand where your patients are coming from and focus your marketing accordingly.

You will also need to think about how you wish to display the information. Formatting a report or dashboard in an audience-friendly way will maximise understanding and allow you to make informed decisions.

Reviewing your systems

If you do not already have a dashboard or an executive information system, it is worth talking to an IT specialist to get advice about which of the business intelligence programs would be best for you.

Your existing systems will need to ‘speak’ to these programs, feeding them the information that will ultimately be displayed in your dashboard.

Questions you may want to consider are:

Arrow kiteWhich systems do you use? Business intelligence software can speak to most databases. For example, you can easily link Microsoft Access and Excel to these programs.

Arrow kiteDo your current systems have reporting capabilities? Some medical practice management systems already have reporting capabilities built in. Depending on your requirements, a simple report may be all that you need.

For example, if all you require is a report once a month on the number of patients who attended clinic, it may be that you can easily extract this from your system without the need to build a dashboard.

Arrow kiteDoes the data need to be cleansed in order to be interpreted easily? Some data will need to be ‘cleansed’ – that is to say, it needs to be amended into a version that the business intelligence software can understand.

Resources needed

Executive information panelDoes your practice manager have a penchant for business analysis? Is your secretary keen to develop new skills? If your answer is yes, it sounds like you already have the capability within your team.

If they have the time, why not help them develop their skills? Tutorials for business intelligence programs are available online, and there are even classroom training sessions available for those who prefer face-to-face learning.

If you are not sure if you want to commit to purchasing business intelligence software, you can try using Excel to build a dashboard.

This comes as part of Microsoft Office and is therefore likely to be available on office computers. So using Excel can be a cost-effective way of getting started with dashboards and, if you need to, you can move on to more dedicated business intelligence software at a later date.

However, it may be that you and your team simply do not have the time to dedicate to setting up and maintaining a business intelligence system.

In this case, you may want to outsource part of or all the work. A data visualisation specialist could help you to set up a dashboard, but you may need help to support you in terms of maintaining the system. This should be considered at the point you think about your requirements.

So, to sum up, business intelligence and executive information systems can be a real asset to any business, and private medical practices are no exception.

The data held within your systems is valuable and holds the key to really understanding the way your patients interact with your practice.

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

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