Online reviews. Nearly 75% of patients use them before heading to a medical facility. The role of word-of-mouth has evolved into online communities where patients readily share their experiences about health providers. Especially those that are negative.
For 70% of patients, a positive online reputation is very or extremely important in selecting a healthcare provider.
[Source: Health Leaders]
Negative Hospital Reviews May Foster a Positive Change
Online comments and reviews can be extremely harmful. However, they also provide an opportunity to improve. By embracing negative patient feedback, hospital managers and doctors can identify areas for development, and step up their services, broadening efforts to cover more patients.
Instead of snubbing negative online feedback, hospitals may use these honest opinions as actionable insights that point the direction for a positive change. How?
Let’s go through seven shattering hospital reviews and see how to turn them into positive outcomes.
1. Rude hospital staff
“Every time I have gone to the Emergency Room, the personnel was always very rude. They talk down to you, make you feel like you are an inconvenience.” | A patient from South Carolina
Unfortunately, most patients have experienced similar behavior from a healthcare provider at least once in their life. Patronizing or insulting attitudes of hospital staff cannot be excused. Nonetheless, it’s essential to understand where they come from. More often than not, insensitive remarks and indifference towards patients stem from stress, overworking, and a lack of support from management.
“The ER physician on duty sent my elderly mother home after telling me she can walk and swallow. She was taken to another competent hospital where she was diagnosed with a constricted colon and heart blockage.” | A patient from New Hampshire
Diagnostic errors affect 12 million Americans yearly, delaying recovery, causing adverse side effects, and even leading to deaths. Errors in treatment cannot be fully eradicated; nonetheless, there are some effective ways to reduce their number.
- strengthening collaboration among staff involved in treatment
- improving communication with patients
- reducing exhaustion among nurses and physicians
- leveraging health information technology to enhance diagnosis
3. Unqualified personnel
“(The hospital was) recently cited for hiring an unlicensed, "incompetent" ER doctor. Obvious incompetence was never addressed by ER Administrator or CEO. "Dr." Xxx continued practicing in ER until the death of a child led to a medical license review.” | A patient from New York
Unqualified staff put patients’ health in immense danger. To avoid dreadful scenarios like the one above, ensure that your hospital follows a standardized recruitment process and HR policies. No matter what position you are looking to fill, always choose from a vetted pool of candidates, carefully evaluate their professional licenses and qualifications, and check all references. Ensure that your training program covers both medical and admin staff to assure compliance and the highest quality of medical services.
4. Intolerable wait times
“We rushed to the emergency room only to have to wait for 3 hours in the waiting room with kidney stones. When my husband complained, he was told they would call security on him. Terrible service.” | A patient from Iowa
Emergency rooms are notorious for deplorable wait times, especially in facilities where overcrowding persists. The situation worsens each year, with wait times extending and patients’ tolerance waning. Emergencies can’t be scheduled, but again, hospitals can use an array of tools and methods to improve the management of patient flow. These include the introduction of digital forms, implementing a no-shows policy, using a queuing app, or delegating call handling to free up admin time.
In states like California, New York, New Jersey, or Maryland, the median length of stay in the ER before admission reaches 6 hours.
5. Poor communication
“People that answer the phone are clueless, shouldn't be taking calls when they have no idea what they're doing or talking about, provide incorrect information and then lie and say they didn't say something! Very poor form!” | \
A patient from Alberta, Canada
The detrimental impact of subpar communication on healthcare services ranges from escalating patient irritation, through prolonged queues, to severe medical errors. One of the main communication barriers in the complex network of interactions between all the different healthcare providers and beneficiaries is inadequate phone service. Professional healthcare answering services help hospitals handle the overwhelming complexity and volume of placing consults, finding the correct hospitalist and documenting admissions.
6. Dirty facilities
“Facility is beautiful upon entrance, but rooms are old and dirty looking, not regularly cleaned. I was there 55 days on and off this year, and it was all the same.” | A patient from Louisiana
According to the CDC, each year, up to 2 million Americans become infected with a hospital-acquired infection. Research points to the relationship between patients’ perception of hospital cleanliness and the risk of healthcare-related issues, as well as the hospital’s HCAHPS score. Therefore the next time a patient questions cleanliness in your facility, don’t ignore the complaint. Instead, discuss the issue with the EVS staff and think about how you can further support them to improve the standard of your hospital services.
7. Billing issues
“They can’t get the billing correct. Even after a year of calling the hospital, it has failed to resubmit a correct bill to my insurance company.” | A patient from Texas
Surprise and bogus hospital charges are more common than you might expect. Up to 80% of U.S. hospitals struggle with medical billing errors. Whether intentional or not, they shouldn’t happen.
- Ensure that your reimbursement policies are clearly-defined and easily-accessible, and prices are opaque, without any hidden extra charges.
- Examine the front-desk procedures and services to reduce errors in billing.
- Consider investing in medical billing and reimbursement software to improve the monitoring of charges and streamline collection procedures.
How Can You Deal With Negative Online Feedback?
Online hospital reviews are a key decision-making driver for patients choosing their healthcare providers. A bad online reputation has a direct reflection on your healthcare institution.
As a hospital manager, you should regularly monitor what patients are saying about your facility and respond to all reviews, positive or not. Being prompt is critical; it shouldn’t take you more than one business day to address your patients’ grievances. Yes, that’s a pretty short window. But the good news is that patients, even the most aggravated, usually appreciate this effort. The level of their satisfaction can boost right up to above 90% if you immediately engage with annoyed patients and seek ways to remedy their concerns.
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