Patient feedback: A powerful tool when used correctly

Doctors

Dr. Pauline Jose, center, explains body composition test results at Proactive Health Labs.

By Monya De, MD, MPH and pH health care professionals

Dr. Pauline Jose’s nurse practitioner was scrolling through their online reviews. Things were looking good. “Great doctor” and “nice” came up frequently. Suddenly, a review caught his attention. A patient had submitted a low-rated review, complaining about a “strange stain” on the doctor’s white coat. Dr. Jose, a family physician, was flabbergasted. She was used to being evaluated on her bedside manner and her diagnostic acumen, not sartorial perfection.

Patient surveys and reviews – a powerful tool when used correctly

The concept of patient satisfaction, which combines the results of public online reviews and surveys submitted to hospitals and offices after medical treatment, is being used more and more by doctors and hospitals.  

Patient satisfaction surveys and online reviews can be leveraged to enact change in health care and to help doctors improve. But like anything else, they’re a double-edged sword and shouldn’t be taken to an extreme or they may do more harm than good.

For example, doctors may reluctantly write prescriptions for patients who are addicted to their medication, worried the hospital may get a “physician complaint.” Private practice doctors may add unnecessary lab tests, simply because patients insist on them. Efforts to console a crying patient who has just received a bad diagnosis might be cut short because there is an angry patient waiting who says he is going to report it online.

 Antibiotics are a great and oft-cited example of how aiming for patient satisfaction at the expense of quality care can go terribly wrong. Let’s say a young patient demands antibiotics for diarrhea. The doctor is pretty sure the diarrhea is related to staphylococcal food poisoning, which reliably disappears on its own after a few hours of misery. The demands continue as the visit stretches beyond the allotted 15 minutes. Should the doctor continue trying to explain that improper use of antibiotics can lead to additional infections and increase antibiotic resistance in future generations to come?

 As you might guess, the doctor relents, prescribes the unneeded antibiotics and moves on, rather than offending the next patient by running late. The online reviews for the day are great. Unfortunately, the patient with the diarrhea gets a major infection caused by the antibiotics killing off all his “good” bacteria, and ends up in the hospital.

Certainly, patient satisfaction can be a measure of how a medical clinic or hospital is doing overall. Hospitals that send out surveys use the data to speed up discharges and identify gaps in service and communication. Truly unfriendly or inhospitable staff can be identified quickly and educated. Problems ensue, however, when patients complain about one small aspect of their experience, but don’t mention when they got great overall care.

So what should you do?

Any medical institution always welcomes constructive patient feedback. Patients should be adamant where it counts, and extend a little patience where it doesn’t. Here are a few ways you can offer constructive feedback that can lead to better care:

  1. Listen to your doctor’s rationale for his or her actions. If something about it seems fundamentally wrong, seek a second opinion.
  2. Focus on what matters. When writing reviews or completing surveys, focus on the aspects of your experiences that affect patient care. A nurse who forgets to take your blood pressure is reason to speak up, but a stain on a doctor’s coat probably means that she ate lunch sitting at her desk while returning phone calls from patients. And when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Remember that doctors and other health providers are people too. Understand that many are trying to keep a small business afloat. If they provide good care, let that be the focus of your review as a patient.

At Proactive Health Labs, we empower you with the information and tools you need to take control of your health. Schedule an appointment with one of our outstanding medical doctors, including Dr. Jose!

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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