Posts Tagged patient complaints

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MMP Classic: How to Apologize to a Patient

Sincerely Apologizing to Patients

I like to get complaints from patients.

No, I’m not a glutton for punishment. What I like about complaints is that I hear directly from the patient what is bothering them, and I have an opportunity to connect with them personally. The ideal situation is having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the patient when they are in the office.

Here’s how to apologize to a patient.

Step One: Introduce Yourself

I introduce myself and shake the patient’s hand and the hand of anyone else in the room.

Step Two: Sit Down

I sit down. There are two reasons for that. One is to send the message that they do not need to hurry – this conversation can take as long as they need it to. The second is to place myself physically below the patient. If they are in an exam room sitting on the exam table, I will sit in the chair. If they are sitting in the chair, I will sit on the step to the exam table. The message I am sending is “I do not consider myself to be above you.” It sends a strong message.

Step Three: Let Them Tell Their Story

I say “I understand we have not done a very good job with __________ (returning your calls, giving you an appointment, getting your test results back to you, etc.) Can you tell me about it?” I do not take notes as I want to maintain eye contact and focus on the patient, but I take good mental notes. The patient and/or anyone with them needs to be able to talk as long as they want. They might need to tell their story twice or many times to get to the point where they’ve gotten relief. The patient has to get the problem off their chest before the next part can happen.

Step Four: SINCERELY Apologize

I apologize, saying “I’d like to apologize on behalf of the practice and the staff that this happened. I want you to know this is not the way we intend for _______ to work in the practice.” If anything unusual has been happening, a policy has changed, or new staff have been hired, I let them know by saying “So-and-so has just happened, but that’s not your problem. We know our service has slipped, but we’re hoping we are on the way to getting it fixed.”

Don’t forget that patients can tell if you are not being sincere when you apologize.

Step Five: Answer Questions

Answer any questions the patient has. Why did the policy change? Why can’t I get an appointment when I need one? How will you fix this for me?

Step Six: Close the Meeting

If the patient complaint requires an investigation and resolution, I give the patient a date when I will be back in touch with more information. If the patient complaint does not require any resolution on the patient side, I offer my name again and give them a business card or a way for them to contact me if they have further problems.

Step Seven: Resolve the Situation

I follow-up on the information the patient has given me to find out where the system broke down or where a new system might need to be developed, and if needed, contact the patient with further information and/or resolution.

Although most people prefer not to hear complaints, paying close attention to patient complaints helps a manager to keep a pulse on the practice, know what patients are struggling with, and of course, practice humility. All good stuff.

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] via Compfight cc

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Manage My Practice Classics

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The Best of Manage My Practice – September, 2011 Edition

As we finish off another month here at MMP, we wanted to go back over some of our most popular posts from the month and get us ready for another busy,  productive, and meaningful month. Presenting, The Best of Manage My Practice, September 2011!

  • With the weather getting chillier, and coats and sweater getting pulled out of the closets again, it’s time once again to get ready for your patients’ flu shots! The CMS has released coding and pricing information for Flu shots given after September 1st, 2011, so bookmark the page or print it out for easy reference.
  • Did your providers get their e-Prescribing done to avoid your Medicare rate reduction? If not, you’ll probably want to apply for a CMS Hardship Exemption for 2012. Find out how here!
  • Mary Pat continued her series “Collection Basics” about Revenue Cycle Management in Physician offices with “Part II: Implementing Your Financial Policy
  • Do you dread patient complaints? Don’t! Patients with complaints are a GOLDEN opportunity to learn about your practice, gain new perspectives on your operation and connect and learn about your customers. Learn how to get everything you can from a complaint in “Why I Can’t Wait to Hear Patient Complaints“!
  • And finally, everything you always wanted to know but we’re afraid to ask about a common, but sometimes vague office routine: “The Right Way to Do Write-offs.”

We’ve started this monthly wrap-up to make sure you don’t miss any of the great stuff we post throughout the month on Manage My Practice, but we also want to hear from you! What were your favorite posts and discussions this month? Did we skip over your favorite from September? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in: A Career in Practice Management, Amazing Customer Service, Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Medicare & Reimbursement

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21 Common Sense Rules for Medical Offices

Two nurses and child dressed as "Uncle S...

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

There seem to be a lot of people searching for rules for medical offices.  I’ve never heard of such rules, but since people are looking for them, I thought I’d write some.

  1. Medical offices are professional workplaces and staff need to dress, speak, and purport themselves professionally.
  2. Patients are customers and customer service should be paramount.  Give all patients the utmost respect and practice compassion, compassion, compassion.
  3. If it didn’t get documented (on paper or electronically), it wasn’t done.  If it didn’t get documented, you can’t charge for it.
  4. HIPAA.  First of all, please spell it correctly.  One P, two As.  Secondly, know what it means and make it so!
  5. Never enter an exam room without knocking.
  6. Confirm patient identity (name, date of birth, etc.) before giving injections, taking specimens or performing a procedure.
    a medical dropper

    Image via Wikipedia

  7. Remove very sick or very angry patients from the front desk immediately.  Take the sick ones to exam rooms and take the angry ones to the manager’s office.
  8. Do not use medical jargon with patients.  If they don’t know what you’re talking about, they might be too intimidated to ask.
  9. Wash your hands. Often.  No matter what you do in the practice.
  10. The office should be CLEAN, fresh and up-to-date.  No dying plants, no magazines more than 9 months old, no dust bunnies behind the doors, no stained seating or carpets.
  11. Train staff to apologize, and to apologize sincerely.
  12. Complaints from patients and staff need to be addressed in 2 weeks or less.
  13. Medical equipment is to be maintained and tested annually for safety and performance.
  14. Once a medical record is finalized, the only changes to a paper record are single line strike-throughs with corrected information and initials, or addendums.  There are no changes to electronic records, only addendums.
  15. Patients don’t understand insurance.  Be the expert.
  16. Shred confidential practice paperwork and patient-identified information on-site.
  17. Keep medications (including sample medications) in locked cabinets and use a good inventory system to log the use and replacement of stock.
  18. Strive to meet patients at their communication level. Use graphics, translated materials and interpretive services when needed.
  19. Don’t expect patients to be on time for their appointments when the provider isn’t.
  20. Don’t make copies from copies.
  21. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  There’s always more to the story. Okay, this is really a rule for life in general, but it works in medical offices too.

Leave a comment and tell me what rule you would add.

For more medical office rules, read “Ten Golden Rules for Your Medical Office Staff.”

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Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Practice Marketing

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How to Apologize to a Patient

I like to get complaints from patients. The best situation is when I have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the patient when they are in the office.  No, I’m not a glutton for punishment. What I like about complaints is that I get to hear directly from the patient what is bothering them, and I have an opportunity to let a patient know what we’re trying to do in the practice.  Here’s my guide to patient apologies.

Step One: I introduce myself and shake the patient’s hand and the hand of anyone else in the exam room.

Step Two: I sit down. There are two reasons for that. One is to send the message that they do not need to hurry –  this conversation can take as long as they need it to. The second is to place myself physically below the patient.  If they are sitting on the exam table, I will sit in the chair. If they are sitting in the chair, I will sit on the step to the exam table. The message I am sending is “I do not consider myself to be above you.”  It sends a very strong message.

Step Three: I say “I understand we have not done a very good job with __________ (returning your calls, giving you an appointment, getting your test results back to you, etc.)  Can you tell me about it?”  I do not take notes as I want to focus on the patient, but I take good mental notes.  The patient and/or anyone with them needs to be able to talk as long as they want. They might need to tell their story twice or many times to get to the point where they’ve gotten relief.  The patient has to get the problem off their chest before the next part can happen.

Step Four: I apologize, saying “I’d like to apologize on behalf of the practice and the staff that this happened.  I want you to know this is not the way we intend for _______ to work in the practice.”  If anything unusual has been happening, a policy has changed, or new staff have been hired, I let them know by saying “So-and-so has just happened, but that’s not your problem. We know our service has slipped, but we’re hoping we are on the way to getting it fixed.”

Step Five: Answer any questions the patient has. How will you fix this for me?  Why did the policy change? What’s the best way to get an appointment? Are you trying to drive patients away? Are you going to hire more doctors?

Step Six: I offer my name again and a way for them to contact me if they have further problems.

Step Seven: I follow-up on the information the patient has given me to find out where the system broke down or where a new system might need to be developed.

I had the opportunity to apologize twice last week.  It helped me to keep a pulse on the practice, know what patients are struggling with, and of course, practice humility.  All good stuff for a practice manager.

For an excellent article on how doctors can apologize to patients for medical mistakes (AmedNews, February 2010) click here.

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations

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