With online reviews, empathy, openness to feedback matter

By Aine Cryts

What creates a great patient experience? It could be a physician who makes specialist referrals easier. Or maybe the nurse who delightfully distracts a scared 3-year-old during a blood draw.

Taking a service-oriented approach to caring for patients matters even more today--and that's largely because patients are increasingly going online to write about their experiences. Still, physicians can't always give patients what they want, Andy Pasternak, M.D., a family medicine physician in Reno, Nevada, told Diagnostic Imaging.

"Healthcare is definitely a service industry and we're here to make patients and their families happy … but in many ways, it's a different model than having a restaurant or hotel. Oftentimes, a patient may request something … and it may not [be] appropriate or needed," he said. "It puts us in a situation where we know we will be judged, you kind of have to balance what the patient wants with what they really need."

Even negative online reviews can be valuable--if you use the feedback to improve broken processes at your practice. For example, Pasternak revamped his referral process after reading a negative online review by a patient. Being proactive also helps, he advised. He takes the time to talk to patients who seem agitated and asks about how he could improve their experience.

One way to encourage positive patient reviews is to focus on being compassionate and empathetic while delivering care, Aaron Braun, M.D., medical director at SignatureCare Emergency in Dallas, told the publication. When providers and staff members focus on providing a great patient experience, the positive reviews generally follow, he added.

Reviews posted by patients online are often positive. That's been the experience at the University of Utah's hospitals and clinics, which collects and publishes patient reviews. The transparency created a "fire hose effect," that has resulted in a dramatic increase in positive reviews that outnumber the bad, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement.

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