When a patient decides to go to an urgent care, they have expectations about the experience they’ll have. As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, urgent care patient volume is rising, but balancing patient experience with safety continues to be a challenge. It’s more important than ever to proactively consider your business’ service recovery strategy.

In this three-part series, we provide actionable advice and insight. We’ll talk about addressing patient complaints, encouraging positive feedback, and creating a culture of service excellence.

What Is Service Recovery?

The rise of retail medicine and on-demand healthcare has created a market in which patients have more options than ever before. In certain urgent care markets, the competition is fierce.

A deep understanding and commitment to patient experience is no longer a luxury, but rather a business priority. Service recovery is the process by which action is taken by an organization to respond to a failure in patient experience. The plan should include one-to-one outreach as well as instructions for responding to negative reviews online.

Handling Patient Complaints

When an unhappy patient walks out your door, the clock starts ticking. We can’t say how long it will take them to find another provider or share their dissatisfaction with others, but a solid plan will help you avoid these adverse outcomes and ultimately improve the quality of care your organization delivers.

Intercept a Bad Review

Two factors make a patient more likely to turn to social media or popular review sites to air a grievance:

  1. They feel like they didn’t receive the service they deserved and
  2. There is nobody in your organization to listen and resolve their complaint

To avoid reputation damage, the most important first step you can take is to respond quickly.

Make sure you are soliciting feedback from your patients within 48 hours after a visit. SMS-based surveys are an ideal way to capture that information. That’s because text messages are convenient for the patient.

Respond Quickly

Once you have received negative patient feedback, reach out with a phone call. In our research, we found the best practice is to call them within 48 hours.

“The first key to service recovery is timing and turnaround time,” a Calibrater user told us. “The longer [the problem] goes unnoticed or unaddressed, the worse it becomes, especially in healthcare.”

Let them know you are there to listen. Communicate that their feedback will be used to improve your organization and the care of future patients. Give the patient uninterrupted time to explain their concerns.

The next step is to better understand what caused this negative experience. Ask the patient follow-up questions, and keep them open-ended. Don’t spend the whole conversation focusing on people and personalities. Make sure to capture data relevant to process and the organizational changes you could make to improve the patient experience.

Express Gratitude

Now, it’s important to express your gratitude. Reinforce that the patient’s input will positively impact the way you care for others. Consider having a script for the staff charged with responding to complaints. In that script, use key phrases that are crafted to show your organization cares.

Finally, consider offering some remuneration for the opportunity to turn a bad experience around. If your facility offers ancillary products and services as an additional revenue stream, ask the patient if they’d be willing to accept a free service or a no-charge repeat visit. Such offerings might include B12 shots, IV vitamin therapy, supplements, or cosmetic interventions.

A small token of appreciation goes a long way. You may be able to tuan angry patient into one who spreads the word about how much your organization cares.

Be Prepared

So, don’t panic! And don’t be defensive. Make sure you respond thoughtfully without breaking HIPAA guidelines. A bad review can be an opportunity—not just for deepening a connection with one patient, but for building a reputation of excellence online.

Questions to consider:

  • Does my organization have a designated patient experience champion?
  • How quickly does my organization respond to complaints?
  • Do we allow them to explain their concern uninterrupted?
  • How many times do we attempt to reach the patient?
  • Do we focus on the process or blame individual employees when things go wrong?

Part Two

In part two of this series we will begin to examine the proactive strategies you can adopt to improve the patient experience. We discuss some tips and tricks to properly encourage patients to share their positive experience on review sites like Yelp and Google.

Service Recovery Best Practices

We interviewed clinic managers, providers, and patient experience managers from our customer base to help identify the most crucial components of service recovery in the healthcare industry.