Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

Patient Experience in Mental Health: How to Deal with Negative Reviews

Each mental health professional makes significant efforts to attract new clients. To do this, a wide range of marketing tools is used by a bunch of specialists (or by yourself, making it even more difficult).

However, when it comes to retaining patients and maintaining their loyalty and high-quality experience, managers get lost and often only give information about ongoing promotions on the site.

But patient experience management is a real journey with its ups and downs! Today we’d like to lead you through this process and give you some vital tips on how to save your time and nerves while dealing with your clients.

Let’s start with the main question.

Patient Experience: What It Is and Why It Is Critical

Traditionally, the philosophical point of view on experience is the following:

Experience is a combination of knowledge and skills resulting from the activity

We aren’t about to delve deeply into philosophy, but this definition explains the most significant part of today’s discussion - the activity.

Put another way, when a client comes to a mental healthcare provider, he acts:

  • He watches the things surrounding him, especially in a waiting room
  • He speaks to a receptionist (if any)
  • He speaks to personnel before and after the appointment
  • During the session, he answers your questions and tells his story.

These and many other actions contribute to his experience. It is not only through real-time sessions that you make an impression. Online bookings, telehealth, availability of treatment plans and schedules are worth paying attention to.

Provide customers with the opportunity to communicate with you via the maximum number of channels. At Medesk, setting up an online appointment link in social networks or advertising will take only 15 minutes!

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Once patient expectations are undermined, you will need a lot of effort to regain his trust, so try not to mess up.

And your main task as a healthcare professional and a person who wants to earn money, is to make his positive experience of care your top priority. Modern software with analytics and reports is the best way to monitor your patient's mood.

Patient experience vs. patient satisfaction

Patient experience has become a key quality outcome for healthcare. Its measurement is considered to contribute to improving the quality of healthcare, governance, public accountability and, especially in the English NHS, patient choice. Metrics of patient experience arose as a result of work in the 1980s, and they are now widely used.

When we talk about the experience of patients in terms of the experience of providing mental health services, it can be analogous to patient satisfaction. But there are still some differences.

Essentially, patient satisfaction is the inner emotions, feelings that patients experience as a result of interacting with healthcare services. They are invisible and cannot be directly observed by our senses. But they can be managed and improved.

But! If we take into consideration two people, with high and low expectations, we'll get two different patient feedbacks! Their satisfaction will change, and that’s a big plus:

Every feedback is a gift!

How to make the practice more convenient? How to improve the patient experience? How to increase patient satisfaction?

  • You need to ask patients!
  • Read reviews, look for "keys" in them, improve the processes in your healthcare organisation and in the work of your specialists.
  • Study websites with patient reviews to identify doctors who have a good attitude toward patients and good communication skills.
  • Clinics can teach how to diagnose and treat. But it is difficult to teach empathy and communication which are crucial for a psychologist.

We may say that satisfaction is the result of a pleasant experience in your office. You give it to your clients and receive their loyalty in return. Isn't that what every clinician is striving for?

Why does a Therapist Need Knowledge of Sociology?

Every decent psychotherapist needs to be a sociologist to some extent. Let's ignore the fact that every educated person needs it, especially the one who works with people.

But why a clinician?

To know what his patient needs and to manage his clinical effectiveness.

The 4 main reasons are listed in the table below.

why therapists need sociology

Reviews and questionnaires are the main tools of a sociologist.

According to BrightLocal, 84% of patients tend to trust online reviews. 30% consider good reviews to be key factors while choosing a private practitioner.

Even if you don't have reviews about your own work, you shouldn't ignore visiting patients aggregators.

Negative and positive patient experiences described on these sites can be a great source of knowledge of patients’ pain points, their desires and the quality of care they want to receive.

Use all the information on the Internet: it’s free and priceless!

Dealing with Negative Reviews

So, a patient has left negative feedback. What should you do?

  1. Try to understand the situation. Use the "keys" that are often in the review. Read between lines and try to get to the very back of the problem. You are a therapist, that’s your job.
  2. Respond to feedback as quickly as possible and as constructively as possible, preferably showing humanity and empathy.
  3. If you feel that you are partly responsible for the fault on you in the situation, be sure to apologize in normal language (without officialdom and formality), explain why it happened.
  4. If the situation can be corrected, simply suggest options. It can be a discount, a gift or an appointment. Whatever you think is appropriate.
  5. Do not forget that not only the author of the review will read the answer, but also many potential patients (if the review is posted on one of the aggregators).
  6. If you are sure that there is a mistake in the review, contact the patient and ask them to comment on his review.
  7. It happens that competitors want to tarnish your reputation purposefully, by posting false feedbacks. In this case you should stand for yourself!

First, write and send an official complaint indicating the date and time of publication of the review. Also, be sure to provide the text of the review that you consider unreliable. You’ll have to wait up to 30 days for an official answer, unfortunately.

Next, if the claim is not satisfied and the review is not deleted, you can prepare a complaint and get ready to go to court at the location of the defendant.

We hope you’ll never need these two last options. No matter how difficult a client is, you can find a solution for them. Be creative!

How to Increase Patient Engagement and Strengthen His Trust

The moment a potential or real patient enters your healthcare setting, he becomes subjected to a range of targeted influences. To turn him into a client, these targeted influences are used.

In order to transform the credit of the patient's trust in the clinic into trust indicators, customer experience can be viewed as a method of psychological influence.

The patient enters a practice with some positive expectations. Since this is a private clinic/office, in his opinion:

  • High quality of treatment and service should be provided here
  • The cost of services will be justified
  • The attitude of the staff will be informal, etc.

These expectations are a kind of credit to your service.

You have placed a sign at the entrance about the work of a private organization, thereby you have concluded a public contract with clients: "We work better than a state-funded clinic."

The credibility of your healthcare quality may be low if a person has just got acquainted with the clinic's advertisement or walked by and saw its name. The loan amount will be significant if the clinic (doctor) was recommended by friends and family.

Any way you look at it, you will face a challenge: the credit of trust must be transformed into indicators of established trust in the course of the patient journey.

the steps of patient engagement

These four trust indicators are the main marketing and psychological results of quality improvement in the process of patient experience management.

Therapists should pay attention to these trust indicators and strive to achieve them. Based on feedback from clients (interviews, questionnaires, patient experience surveys), it is necessary to identify the degree of their trust in you, taking into account these indicators.

Your actions must be purposeful and active. The patient needs to be convinced of the existence of specific circumstances and prompted to certain conclusions and decision-making.

The passive and impersonal style of dashboard interaction with the client does not contribute to the achievement of trust indicators.

In order to achieve the main marketing and psychological indicators of trust, you must show a flexible, targeted style of interaction with customers at all stages of the care delivery.

Be a Specialist People Always Choose

Preference for a particular therapist is formed gradually.

First, the primary choice takes place:

  • The location of your office
  • The possibility of a quick appointment
  • The content of the administrator's information about the conditions of services and their cost
  • The interior is evaluated.

The focus of attention is now shifted to more significant factors:

  • The content, accessibility and credibility of the consultation
  • The effectiveness of primary care
  • The validity of the proposed treatment.

As a result, everything that happens during the appointment is meticulously observed: patient safety, psychological comfort and health outcomes.

Patients then critically assess the situation of determining the final cost of treatment:

  • Whether it corresponds to the preliminary agreements
  • Whether it is justified by the totality of impressions from the stay at the clinic.

Finally, the results of treatment are in the zone of active perception of the patient:

  • The presence or absence of complications
  • The fulfillment of warranty obligations by the clinic or a specialist

Your task is to provide patient-centered care and make sure that you convey to your patients the core idea:

The choice of the clinician is justified

You will need to develop a methodology of service, communication, and influence in order to solve such a task. Joint forms of education play an important role in the assimilation of relevant knowledge and the acquisition of skills. Together, doctors, assistants and administrators attend lectures, participate in trainings, business games and discussions, and analyze cases. In other words, a case study is a must for your business.

Ensure a Positive Experience for Patients from Their First Visit to Your Office

Psychological healthcare experiences can be positive, uncertain, or negative. You can often behave as if the person who entered the office is determined to show courtesy. This person is grateful in advance for assistance, and is willing to part with money. To think so is naive, and not to anticipate distrust and hesitation from customers is unprofessional if you want him to book a follow-up.

Rather than imagine the consumer as a gullible simpleton looking with awe at the therapist-savior, it is better to assume the client is likely to be critical and do our best to soften and eliminate it.

It is possible that some patients had a negative psychological experience. Someone in the past could not have a relationship with a doctor, someone was dissatisfied with the work of the administrator. Worse, they humiliated them, damaging their self-esteem.

The general attitude for the best patient experience data is to try to reduce or neutralize a patient’s tense.

Efforts are aimed at creating psychological and physical comfort at every stage of direct and delayed interaction with the professional.

Medesk helps to automate record keeping and recreate an individual approach to each patient, paying maximum attention to him.

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Psychological comfort is provided to patients through the manifestation of cordiality, attention, care and respect on your part. At each stage of interactive marketing, appropriate techniques and markers of touchpoints are used to make psychological comfort a tangible factor.

Physical comfort is achieved by eliminating unpleasant sensations during the sessions and anticipating discomfort after the appointment.

The smallest thing you could do is to offer a cup of tea or a glass of water. Don’t forget to have a box of tissues, set a comfortable temperature in the office. And cozy furniture, of course.

Believe us, these tiny steps are a powerful tool.

Final Thoughts

The larger the clinic, the more urgent it is to keep under control every section of the patient-reported outcome and manage interaction with patients, achieving specific performance indicators: marketing, informational and psychological.

Consideration and control should be given to the main aspects of clinical outcomes.

It is logical to divide the experience measures process into three periods:

  • Preclinical interaction
  • Direct interaction
  • Delayed interaction.

Preclinical interaction is an object of external marketing. By providing quality and diverse services, its aim is to attract patients positively.

During a session, direct interaction is your way of demonstrating professionalism and initiative. Or, if we are talking about a larger clinic, the dashboard can include communication between staff and clients.

Delayed interaction is everything happening after the first appointment. These are your special offers and personal discount, email and SMS reminders for confirmations and preventing no-shows.

Wrapping it up, the most effective patient experience management is a combination of tasks, actions and metrics. Now you know the most significant characteristics of this process, and you can make your workflow easier by delegating a part of it to practice management software. With the help of it, you can generate reports, analytics, and make notes during or right after the session.

Free up your time for what is definitely worthwhile: increasing customer retention.

A Bonus For You!

We have questioned our customers in mental health about the image of ideal psychotherapists and psychologists. Here are some of the most curious answers. May they help you. Enjoy!

  • "Female psychologists are generally cooler than men. They are more humanistic, I don't know how to describe it. Possible, men are better psychologists for women ("mom"), and are men better suited to women ("dad")?"
  • "It is better for a psychologist to have almost or fully grown children. Also, the psychologist as a whole has a lot of life experience about different stages of life when he is older."
  • "The experience of observing different cultures affects the breadth of views, tolerance, and allows for a wider range of values."
  • "Reliable psychologists do supervision. Ask who and when was the last time your psychologist did supervision."
  • "A good psychotherapist will not discuss other patients in detail (abstractly - of course they can, concretely - they will be very superficial and environmentally friendly, for example, your friends who recommended this psychologist to you, etc.)"
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