File this under “Be Careful What You Ask For.” A while ago, I had a brilliant idea to create a blog for our hospital on which we would post all of the great experiences our patients had. It would be called our “Patient Experience Blog”. Once a patient submitted a response, an e-mail would come to me for review and then it would be posted on the blog. It was perfect.
I learned the hard way that when you invite people to write about their healthcare experiences, you’re inviting the good, bad and downright ugly. When the first e-mail appeared in my Inbox, I was giddy to read praise about our hospital.
Quite the contrary.
This patient had an experience that would rival any “bad hospital” story you might hear on a sensational news program. Then, I received another one. Terrible. Then another. Awful. By the time we received an actual “Great Experience,” I was ready to trash the whole project and claim “technical glitches.”
So, tail between legs, I forwarded the e-mails to our chief operating officer, wondering what we should do next.
She surprised me with a radical suggestion: Respond to each one. Personally.
1. Every e-mailed patient complaint is immediately directed to the department, with a leader or manager copied to the executive in that area. E-mails that present potential legal issues must be sent to your risk manager for follow-up.
2. The leader or manager discusses the complaint with staff to diagnose the problem. Then, follow-up with a phone call or e-mail to the patient.
3. The follow-up must take place within 24 hours of receipt of the e-mail.
The outcome: Fewer “bad experience” e-mails and more positive ones. Why? Because your staff knows that patients have voices and e-mail accounts and are not afraid to use both. This has improved our hospital response, in ways that an old paper suggestion drop-box couldn't do. And now, if I happen to get a negative patient e-mail, I know what to do.