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.
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.
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.
Particularly popular forums for online patient feedback can be your
practice’s Facebook page or Google My Business account.
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
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.
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
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
Use feedback to grow
Positive reviews should be celebrated too, and a dedicated marketing professional can maximise the potential of good feedback.
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…
Our 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?
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 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.
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?
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
It only takes one scathing patient review to make a substantial, negative impact on your practice and following. Brands that are quick to recover from such a knock back tend to follow some basic steps to resolve the matter quickly, thus avoiding the dreaded automated ‘apology’ response. Did you know that;
It takes 12 positive experiences to rectify for just one negative experience?
A disgruntled patient will inform on average another 9-13 people about poor customer service.
80% of your customers revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customer base.
With these facts in mind, it’s vital we nip any brand resentment in the bud quickly. But how? Let’s take a look at a few steps to ensure damage control when handling complaints in the future.
It’s vital you close this complaint down as quickly as possible. A negative review can be seen by all future patients deciding whether to use your medical services or not. A tip is to use as much time and care as you would securing a possible patient as you would handling a disgruntled one. And the chances are the patient will remove the complaint once it is handled in a prompt and genuine manner.
Set a guideline for how complaints are to be handled
Be honest in your response time – If you only check your Facebook business page every 3 days for example, then a reply within 24 hours is just not realistic.
Remember, even on weekends patients will expect the same level of commitment in your response time
Deal With The Complaint Offline
I have seen many examples where one negative experience on a public forum will snowball with others joining in, some that haven’t even used the services before! To prevent the situation from escalating, try using Facebook chat or even make the effort to call them. This shows the customer their query is of the up most importance and you will go out of your way to resolve the situation.
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Be transparent and OWN your mistakes. Patients will have more respect than if you try to skirt around the issue and make excuses as to what went wrong that day. ‘I’m sorry’ is a very strong statement when it’s genuine.
Show your human side, not just the practices’ complaint procedure
Go That Extra Mile
I recently visited a cafe which belongs to a global super-brand. After ordering a simple salad, they mixed up my order 3 times and forgot I was still there, impatiently waiting 25 minutes later. On a time constricted lunch, I was extremely unhappy and when I finally received my food, I was surprised to be offered a free drink of my choice. Not only that, but on the way out I was given a gift card with another 2 free items for when I return again.
Needless to say, the cafe left a favourable impression and I told my friends and colleagues about the fantastic service I received. All because they went that extra mile.
Remember To Follow Up
So you’ve responded to the patient on social media. You have dealt with their issue in a prompt manner and have apologised. But don’t close this down just yet.
To ensure you have met the patients’ needs, give them a few days cooling off period before you attempt to reconnect. Thank them for their comments and ask if you have answered all their questions and is there anything else that needs your attention before closing this down? Yes, it’s direct, but to the point.
Our team at Designated Medical have an extensive background in customer services and ensuring the patient relationship is built on strong foundations. We are here to support Private Medical Practices in growing their brands and to ensure a ‘complaint handling’ procedure is put in place. We also have prolonged experience using live chat to talk directly with our customers.
Do you need someone to cover your live chat a few hours a week?
How about regular check ups and engagement on all your social media platforms?
An extra team member to assist with all customer engagement, whether it be by phone, live chat or email?
Get in touch today with our specialised team and let us assist you with our bespoke service!