3 Ways to Make the Most of Patient Feedback

We go online to research reviews on just about everything. Seeking out reviews for restaurants, hotels, or expensive items like a TV or car is nothing new. Looking for reviews of a handyman or electrician is common. And, increasingly, so is searching for reviews of medical providers.

More and more, patients are turning to review websites and social media to share information about procedures, their doctors and their experiences. Given that cosmetic procedures are focused on a visually pleasing outcome, it’s not surprising that plastic surgeons and their practices are especially commented upon.

Consider these excerpts from “Emerging trends in social media and plastic surgery,” a recent journal article published by the NIH’s National Library of Medicine:

  • “…social media is increasingly becoming a platform for interaction between physicians and potential patients.”
  • “…patients use social media as a tool to interact with their surgeons, and there is some evidence that it may be increasing the amount of patients seeking cosmetic procedures (5).”
  • “In fact, one of the most powerful marketing tools any surgeon may use in their practice is social media (3,68). A surgeon’s presence online can dramatically increase their perception as an expert, despite their actual fellowship or residency training or their years in practice (9,10)

It makes perfect sense that getting positive patient reviews is top-of-mind for most docs and their staff. The glowing reviews help build an enhanced reputation, and generate more business for a cosmetic surgeon and his or her practice.

Here’s the thing, though — the entire feedback process is valuable for improving patient experience. Besides celebrating the positive comments, pay close attention to the not-so-great reviews.

Why? Because they bring to light what can be done better and differently.Occasional complaints provide the opportunity for continual improvement. You may think you’re meeting patient needs in all the right ways. But you need to hear from your patients themselves to truly know.

While online review sites are clearly gaining popularity as a method to collect reviews — we suggest using all 3 of these methods to gather patient feedback:

(Disclaimer – Be sure you check for HIPAA compliance with any patient feedback method.)

1) Online reviews: According to a 2016 Consumer Review Survey, medical and healthcare reviews make up 31% of all online reviews that are read. And, 84% of consumers trust those online reviews as much as personal recommendations — compelling reasons to pay close attention to how you manage and respond to online reviews of you and your staff.

Sources of online reviews fall into two general categories. The main category includes websites that allow anyone to write a review and/or post pictures of their doctor, procedure and outcome. Examples of this type of site include HealthgradesVitalsand yelp. You can go onto these sites, “claim your profile” and respond to patient feedback.

Another type of review website, RealPatientRatings.com, works with physicians to send an invitation to complete an anonymous online survey. (The process is HIPAA compliant, by the way.)

Physicians don’t get to choose who gets the survey invitation, thus potentially influencing the reviews, and not just anyone can add an online review as with some other sites. RealPatientRatings also provides actionable reporting and analysis, as well as bench-marking information on the gathered feedback.

2) Emailed surveys: Some docs prefer to solicit feedback directly from their patients in a more private format via emails sent by companies like SurveyMonkey and PatientTrak.

These emailed surveys give patients a same-day opportunity to answer questions about their experience with your practice. Custom surveys can be created or you can use a format with questions created by healthcare experts.

3) Follow-up phone calls: No matter the digital marketing potential of a review website, or how savvy an email survey tool is, nothing beats a personal phone call to ask a patient for their input.

In today’s digital and smartphone world, old-fashioned human interaction can be a surprise and delight. A brief phone call to check in regarding your patient’s experience is perhaps the most genuine interaction you can have.

A simple, “How was your visit to our practice, and is there anything we could have done better today?” is all it takes to show you care. And, it’s likely that call will so impress your patient that they’ll share it with at least one other.

Collecting feedback and reviews is a great first step, but you need to implement a complete feedback process in order to set the stage for outstanding patient experience.

An effective feedback loop includes these basic elements:

Feedback — from online reviews, survey responses and phone conversations is the start of the loop.

Monitoring — reveals what needs attention. This essential middle piece of the loop can be managed with a social media monitoring tool like those listed here. Be sure to also consistently check the most popular review websites you’re affiliated with (those where you’ve claimed your profile or initiated some form of relationship).

Managing social media and review site interaction for medical practices can be tricky, and time consuming. There are many tools and services out there to help. Do your homework on which is best for you.

Responding — is the crucial closing of the loop. It’s thanking patients who’ve given positive reviews, and working with those who aren’t so happy. This doesn’t just mean a written or verbal response, though. When a complaint is involved, responding also involves implementing a change (when feasible) to address the concern itself.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”  – Bill Gates  

Responding to feedback is the best opportunity to further strengthen relationships with your patients. It drives both repeat and new business for your practice.

Read our blog on how to turn a service miss into a win, then also check out this list of best practices for responding to patient feedback courtesy of Healthgrades.com.

Whichever feedback gathering and managing methods you choose, REMEMBER:

ALWAYS thank your patients for caring enough to tell you what they think. Without their willingness to take the time to share, you wouldn’t be able to reach the patient experience rock star status your practice strives for.

Be ready and willing to address any less than positive feedback or concerns that come up. If an occasional complaint comes to your attention (one or two almost always will — that comes with the territory), how you handle it is even more important than gathering the glowing comments you’re looking for.

A concern or bad experience resolved well is a great opportunity to win a patient for life. At minimum, they’ll share his or her positive experience with others. RealPatientRatings’s data shows that 95% of patients who are highly satisfied with how a problem has been resolved would not only recommend the practice, but also return to it themselves.

Implementing and managing a patient feedback process may seem like a big undertaking, but the payoff is well-worth the time and effort. How you choose to set up a feedback process needs to fit your practice’s needs and budget.

Offering the kind of care and patient experience that generates positive feedback is a bar that is always being raised. But that’s good. It means you and your staff will consistently be looking for ways to go above and beyond — and that means amazing service for your patients, as well as growth and satisfaction for your staff. It’s a true win-win scenario.

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