10 Strategies to Win Back Unhappy Patients and Build Loyalty

POSTED ON: Jan 17, 2024

10 Strategies to Win Back Unhappy Patients and Build Loyalty Lauren Parr

10 Strategies to Win Back Unhappy Patients and Build Loyalty

Keeping patients happy takes more than just good medical care. It's about understanding their feelings and building strong relationships. Even when things go wrong, like missed diagnoses or misunderstandings, there are ways to turn unhappy patients into loyal ones. We asked 10 healthcare experts to share their best tips and strategies for managing unhappy patients and fostering long-term loyalty in healthcare.

Prioritize Empathy and Communication

Dr. MJ Rowland-Warmann, Clinical Director, Smileworks, emphasizes the significance of actively listening and demonstrating empathy in healthcare. 

According to her, "A successful approach to handling situations involves actively listening and showing empathy. When patients feel genuinely heard and understood, it not only diffuses tension, but also lays the groundwork for finding a solution. Healthcare professionals should create an environment where patients feel comfortable expressing their concerns, and then respond with empathy and a commitment to addressing the issues at hand."

Amber Moseley, CEO and Co-Founder, IWC, echoes a similar sentiment, advocating for empathy in patient interactions.

She states, "The patient should be allowed to express their frustrations without being interrupted. Pay close attention to what they say, as well as their body language, to comprehend the specific worries they have. Let them know that their concerns are being heard and understood, and acknowledge the feelings they share.”

Establish Transformative Patient Partnerships

Elisha Peterson MD, Anesthesiologist and Pain Medicine Physician, Elisha Peterson MD PLLC, advocates for a strategy focused on enthusiasm, empathy, and proactive communication to establish transformative patient partnerships. 

According to her, "Unhappiness often stems from feeling unheard, ignored, or invalidated. To foster long-term loyalty, healthcare providers can employ a strategy centered on enthusiasm, empathy, and proactive communication.”

She further states “As patients experience a new level of care characterized by genuine partnership, they often demand to work exclusively with the provider who has transformed their healthcare experience. Unhappy patients, once won over, can become the most loyal advocates for a healthcare professional."

Mike Breslin, CEO, ProMed DME, shares a practical experience related to managing patient dissatisfaction. He highlights the importance of managing expectations through clear communication. In his experience at ProMed DME, a patient initially unsatisfied with the delivery time of their medical supplies became a loyal customer. 

Mike Breslin explains, "Instead of disregarding their concern, our team acknowledged their experience and communicated clearly about what went wrong and the steps we were taking to improve it. We also kept them informed about the progress. By showing true concern for their satisfaction and making improvements based on their feedback, we were able to turn an unhappy patient into a loyal customer."

Together, these insights emphasize the value of proactive communication, empathy, and addressing concerns to transform patient relationships into enduring partnerships.

Show Commitment to Patient Well-Being

Dr. Scott Katzman, Orthopedic Surgeon, NJ Spine & Orthopedic, contributes to the discussion by emphasizing a commitment to patient well-being. 

According to Dr. Katzman, "In my experience, effectively managing unhappy patients to build long-term loyalty begins with active listening and empathy. When a patient expresses dissatisfaction or frustration, I give them my full attention, validate their concerns, and show genuine empathy for their situation. Once they feel heard and understood, I offer a clear and transparent explanation of the issue and the steps I'll take to address it. I follow up promptly and ensure that their concerns are resolved to their satisfaction. This approach not only resolves immediate issues but also demonstrates my commitment to patient well-being, fostering trust and loyalty.”

Personalize the Care Experience

Jamie Frew, CEO, Carepatron, advocates for an effective strategy in managing unhappy patients and cultivating long-term loyalty. 

According to Frew, "An effective strategy for managing unhappy patients and fostering long-term loyalty involves personalizing the care experience. Patients appreciate when healthcare providers remember their names, understand their medical history, and accommodate their individual needs. 

This personalized approach makes patients feel valued, respected, and less like just another number. Consistent and effective follow-up communication after their visits can reassure them that their well-being is of utmost importance.”

Advocate for Patient Healthcare Rights

Ashley Murry, Chief Clinical Officer, Sana Lakes Recovery, advocates for prioritizing patients' interests to foster long-term loyalty. 

Drawing from her experience, Murry states, "In my experience, most patients complain that their prior recovery centers only focused on getting money from them. I believe healthcare providers should first focus on the healthcare and mental health needs of the patients. Today, I have many referral patients from my past clients, as my recovery services have helped them to live long and prosperous lives. Recently, one of my clients called me, referring a patient who was struggling with substance abuse disorder after meeting them in a work forum. Patients will always be loyal to healthcare providers who act as advocates for their healthcare rights and needs."

This perspective emphasizes the importance of advocating for patients' healthcare rights and needs as a cornerstone for building enduring patient loyalty.

Lead Post-Discharge Support Initiatives

Promise Okeke, CEO, NovoPath, recommends that emergency department physicians take the lead in initiating patients' care and providing post-discharge support. 

According to him, "It is my recommendation that emergency department physicians take the lead in starting patients' care and providing them with post-discharge support."

Okeke suggests ”Hospitals that implement an expanded, hybrid ED care team, which includes patient navigators and virtual health clinicians, can attain response rates of up to 90% for patients who are the focus of real-time intervention outreach. Better health outcomes can be achieved by using this proactive approach to patient care to connect patients with specialists, primary care physicians, and telemedicine services.”

This perspective highlights the importance of post-discharge support initiatives led by emergency department physicians to enhance patient care and promote positive health outcomes.

Implement Proactive Service Recovery

Akshaya Srivatsa, CEO, Carebetter, highlights the significance of timely and proactive responses to patient concerns, emphasizing the importance of proactive service recovery in managing unhappy patients and cultivating long-term loyalty. 

According to Srivatsa, "In my experience within the healthcare marketplace, a key strategy to effectively manage unhappy patients and foster long-term loyalty is proactive service recovery. Timely and proactive responses to patient concerns can make a significant difference.

As soon as an issue arises, reaching out to the patient to acknowledge their dissatisfaction and assuring them that their concerns are being taken seriously demonstrates a commitment to their well-being. Offering a concrete plan for resolution, whether it involves additional medical attention, clarifications on billing matters, or any necessary corrective actions, showcases transparency and a dedication to rectifying the situation. 

Going the extra mile, such as offering a follow-up appointment or personalized communication from healthcare providers, can further convey genuine concern for the patient's satisfaction and overall experience."

Address Concerns with Prompt Action

Ryan Hetrick, CEO, Epiphany Wellness, outlines an effective strategy for managing unhappy patients in the healthcare industry. 

According to him, "One effective strategy for managing unhappy patients in the healthcare industry is to actively listen to their concerns and address them promptly."

Hetrick emphasizes, “ Oftentimes, patients become dissatisfied when they feel that their voices are not being heard or that their needs are not being met. To counter this, healthcare providers should make a conscious effort to listen attentively and empathetically to their patients' complaints and take immediate action to resolve any issues. This not only shows that the provider values the patient's opinion, but also helps to build trust and rapport with the patient.”

Final Thoughts

Patient loyalty isn’t solely dependent on clinical expertise but also on patient-provider relationship. Strategies like empathy, establishing trust, and being vocal about patient rights build a long lasting patient-provider relationship. Personalizing care experience, post-treatment support, prompt issue resolution showcare a commitment to patient first mentality.These strategies not only address immediate concerns but also foster trust, laying the foundation for lasting loyalty in healthcare.
 

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