Negative reviews are facts of life, and dealing with them more important than ever

Treatment Abroad operates the web site Medical Tourism Reviews. The site enables patients to publish reviews and comments about their experience of travelling for treatment… and in theory this means telling others about both good and bad experiences

Treatment Abroad operates the web site Medical Tourism Reviews. The site enables patients to publish reviews and comments about their experience of travelling for treatment… and in theory this means telling others about both good and bad experiences.
The aim is that through Medical Tourism Reviews, patients get the “word of mouth” that can help them to make the right choice of healthcare provider. Given the lack of objective assessment and the lack of tools for patients to make comparisons of different healthcare providers in different countries, then “what the patients say” is a pretty good guide to good and bad healthcare providers. Patients want to hear from “people like me” before they decide on which hospital, clinic or healthcare provider to use. Choosing a doctor, operation, or hospital, is a big decision; the more opinions a patient can gather, the more secure they feel with their ultimate choice.
So, in essence, enabling patients to rate and review healthcare services is a good thing. It’s fairly standard practice nowadays in many countries. In the UK, patients can review hospitals and clinics through services such as NHS Choices, Patient Opinion and iWantGreatCare. As with Medical Tourism Reviews, these services have processes in place to ensure that reviews are moderated and that fake reviews (either positive or negative) are identified and removed.
The problem arises when a patient says… “I didn’t have a great experience.”

Take that review off the site!

When a medical tourist writes about a bad experience of a hospital or clinic, what should the healthcare provider do?
This is what usually happens…

1.The medical tourist writes a negative review about their patient experience at Clinic X.

2.The Treatment Abroad reviews team flags it as a negative review, and checks to see that it doesn’t contain anything defamatory or that could relate to a legal or malpractice issue such as a claim for damages resulting from poor surgery or treatment.

3.The team also confirms that it is a valid, not a fake, review.

4.The team contacts the healthcare provider to alert them to the negative review, and gives them an opportunity to posts a response to the comments.

5.To which the response is usually…. “it isn’t true, he/she has made it up, he/she was a difficult customer.”

6.And finally…… “Take that review off the web site!”

Time for a change

And that’s a problem that we need to fix in the medical tourism world, if we want to become credible.

  • In many cases, hospitals and clinics pay little attention to monitoring the patient experience.
  • In medical tourism, too few hospitals and clinics “ENCOURAGE“ reviews and feedback from patients. They think…. ”What if they say something negative about us?”
  • …In most cases, hospitals and clinics don’t want to know when things don’t go the way that they hoped.
  • …And they certainly don’t want the rest of the world to know when they have delivered less than perfect service to a customer.

How should you deal with negative feedback?

One of the best examples of handling negative feedback is posted on Jeremy Epstein’s recent blog on Word of – “How to respond to negative feedback: A 3-step tutorial from a taxi company”. After a negative experience with a taxi service, Jeremy blogged about it. This is what happened.

1.Firstly, the taxi service, goes looking for comments about their service on the web and in social media. It WANTS TO HEAR what people are saying about it.It picked up on Jeremy’s negative comments.

2.If they find comments (positive OR negative) about their business, they respond to them. They don’t ignore them.

3.In this instance, the taxi company phoned the customer to express their dismay. And they apologised. The customer was mightily impressed.

4.Then, the disgruntled customer, received a letter from the President of the Company, not only apologizing but also offering a partial refund.The customer was even more impressed.

5.And with the letter was included:

a. The Complaint Response Process

b. An Open Letter to the Call Services and Sales Center Staff

c. An Open Letter to All Taxi Drivers

That’s the way to deal with negative feedback.

  • Lesson 1: Never ignore negative feedback.
  • Lesson 2: Go out and look for feedback, encourage it. If you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you will never GET IT RIGHT.
  • Lesson 3: Accept the criticism. Accept that sometimes you get it wrong. Apologise (at the highest level).
  • Lesson 4: Speak to the patient. Write to the patient. Above all, COMMUNICATE.
  • Lesson 5: Offer some form of compensation or refund.
  • Lesson 6: LEARN from where your service failed this patient, and CHANGE the way you do things , so that it doesn’t happen again.
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As Editor in Chief of International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ) and a Healthcare Consultant for LaingBuisson, Keith Pollard is one of Europe’s leading experts on private healthcare, medical tourism and cross border healthcare, providing consultancy and research services, and attending and contributing to major conferences across the world on the subject. He has been involved in private healthcare, medical travel and cross border healthcare since the 1990s. His career has embraced the management of private hospitals in the UK, research and feasibility studies for healthcare ventures, the marketing and business development aspects of healthcare and medical travel and publishing, research and consultancy on cross border healthcare.