May 2, 2016

Remember when “viral” referred to an actual virus?

 Patient gripes and complaints can go viral in a hurry. It’s been said that healthcare providers can quell the spread of criticism with one simple act. Listening.

Widespread changes in healthcare in recent years have led to confusion, frustration and uncertainty for patients and providers alike. Patient complaints and frustrations can fester over time with each visit to the doctor’s office.  For better or worse, you are the face of the healthcare system for your patients and as a result, their frustration can be unwittingly unleashed on you and your staff.

Now more than ever, doctors need to take the time to listen intently to a patient’s concerns and have a system in place to document and remedy patient objections.

3 compelling reasons why doctors should listen:

  1. The Megaphone Effect

There was a time when unsatisfied patients would share their complaints with their family and their immediate friends.  Imagine an individual griping about your office with a small group of people in their normal speaking voice.  Now imagine giving the same person a megaphone! The message is now amplified and can be clearly heard by many others from far away.

Today’s online review sites for physicians and dentists are the megaphone, making it easy for a patient to broadcast their complaints about anything from front office staff to building cleanliness. We’ve certainly heard of patients complaining about other patient financing companies. Their complaints can be seen by thousands, regardless of their legitimacy. Online reviews can either positively promote your practice, or cause significant harm.

  1. Empowered patients

Knowledge is power. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project study found that 72%[1] of internet users have researched health related information online within the past year.  Unprecedented access to health resources and a growing number of provider choices means patients are better informed and are less likely to consider the experience they had in your office as acceptable.

Since socially active patients have a real and measurable impact on the cash flow and success of your practice, it makes sense to genuinely engage with them about their concerns or grievances.  See our blog post XXX for ideas on how to more effectively engage your patients.

  1. Quicksand

Increasingly empowered and assertive patients understand there are other avenues for expressing their concerns besides online forums or social media.  Their concerns can escalate into formal complaints to government or licensing bodies and can even find their way into the courts. Just over 2 years ago a major class action decision resulted in a $34 million judgment against a well-known patient financing company.[2] You can imagine how the court’s decision could reflect poorly on the healthcare providers who may have recommended financing through that company to their patients. Again, the importance of doctors listening intently to a patient’s concerns should be emphasized.

It’s much easier to address concerns as they begin to surface rather than allowing them to escalate.  A doctor’s direct involvement with an issue can often diffuse the situation and even turn the disgruntled patient into a champion.

Additionally, it is important to talk to your staff on a regular basis to get their view on the most common patient concerns they hear. This will help you uncover information to which you may not be privy.

We all know complaints are going to happen.  With this knowledge it is important to plan to both document and resolve concerns in person and online.

If you and your staff are hearing complaints about your current patient financing provider, consider a healthier approach. Prosper Healthcare Lending provides access to transparent and responsible fixed rate installment loans with no retroactive interest and no hidden fees. To find out how you and your patients can have a better patient financing experience, click here for an online demo.