Patient Feedback – The Key to a Successful Practice

Patient feedback is one of the most valuable tools a practice can use. Whether it be to retain existing patients or attract more new patients.

Here’s an overview of different types of feedback and how to get it:

NHS Friends & Family (Eng.)

* Launched in 2014

* Designed to help NHS service providers and commissioners assess if patients were happy with the service

* Uses a simple tick box with options from “extremely likely to recommend” to “don’t know” plus a blank box to respond to ratings

* Allows NHS services to monitor services and patient dynamics nationwide

* If you have an NHS contract, it is a legal requirement to use the NHS Friends and Family Test

* A summary of your results should be accessible to your patients

General Feedback
* Digital/Electronic
* Paper
* Verbal

Digital/Electronic
* Most dental software providers will have their own version that allows you to gather digital feedback from your patients

* This can be done in practice, by follow-up emails or a specific marketing campaign

* You can, however, do it independently using email software such as Mail Chimp

* You can then have this on the homepage of your website or use with social media as a marketing tool

* Video reviews

* Sending links in regular practice newsletters

Paper
* In practice questionnaires using simple star rating systems that also allow comments

* Have an anonymous comments box, or questionnaires can be handed out by specific members of staff

* It is important that patients see this done by all members of the team including dentists – not just the “admin” staff!

Verbal
* Simple questions: for example, “How was that for you today?”

* Some patients prefer a chat about their experience

Specific
* Treatment

* Customer service

* Varying demographic/groups of patients (including children)

What to ask
* Why us?

* Were they happy with the service and care you provided?

* Did they feel treatment options were explained to them?

* Is there any way the practice could be improved?

* How did the practice and surgery look?

* Would they recommend you?

* Can you use their feedback to help other patients/marketing?

Do
* Record if/when/how a patient has been asked for feedback (no nagging!)

* Learn how to respond appropriately

* Ask for consent to use their feedback and explain how it will be used

* Involve the whole team when reviewing feedback

* Ensure you’re compliant with GDC standards, etc

* Set staff targets

Don’t
* Be afraid to ask for feedback even if you feel the patient may not be happy

* Complicate questionnaires

* Keep it to yourself – show the patients that you have listened and responded to their feedback.

 

Are you compliant?

CQC

All practices have to receive feedback to be able to demonstrate that you are responsive to your patients

How you deal with feedback – and your responses – are indicators of a well-led practice (82% of practices that fail CQC inspections fail on the “well-led” outcome)

Prior to a CQC visit you will be asked to request feedback from your patients and be provided with a sealed box for them to use.

Patients can leave feedback through all three governing bodies i.e. CQC, GDC and BSA/NHS England.

If you actively and continuously request feedback from your patients – and respond appropriately – you can avoid potential investigation by these bodies, who communicate with each other.

If a complaint goes to any of these governing bodies you could be flagged as a risk and a CQC inspection will be arranged.

GDC Standards

Principle Two

2.1 – Communicate effectively with patients, listen to them, give them time to consider information and take their individual views and communication needs into account.

Principle Four

4.2.7 – Explain to patients how information or images will be used, check the patients understanding of what they are agreeing to, obtain and record the patient’s consent to their use, only release minimum information necessary for the specific purpose, explain to the patient that they can withdraw their information at any time.

How to Deal With Negative Feedback

Don’t ignore it!!!

Most of us don’t like confrontation so find this kind of feedback difficult. We take it as a rejection of us…Instead, use it as a tool to improve.

Monitor feedback platforms: Friends & Family, Google reviews/Facebook/NHS Direct/etc.

If you receive negative feedback in person (in many ways this is the hardest as they’re right there) 1. Listen, 2. Empathise and 3. Say what you will do to follow up/deal with their complaint (then ensure that you do it!)

“Treat negative feedback as an opportunity to learn where you might be dropping the baton. We will all do that at times and it’s important to review policies and procedures.”

Thank them for providing their feedback (and sound like you mean it, even if you don’t!) and for the opportunity for you to respond and improve. If necessary apologise.

Do not discuss any clinical case and say that you cannot do this due to patient confidentiality. DO NOT enter into a debate – even if you are right, the audience don’t know that, and you will look petty and unprofessional.

The only time I would recommend that you challenge the complaint is if you feel they have the wrong practice (which is not uncommon) but consider data protection…

Negative feedback isn’t necessarily a formal complaint but treat it as though it was – the next one might be!

How feedback can help grow your practice

Showcase your feedback results – patients want to feed confident that they have chosen a good practice and can recommend to friends/family/colleagues.

Quoting testimonials for marketing campaigns will attract new patients, but remember to measure your return (ROI).

Dominating local web searches is now one of the most important tools available to practices looking to acquire more new patients. Google reviews are extremely successful at helping you do this!

Take advantage of online reviews and especially Google reviews to showcase what you do and how well you do it. Even a negative Google review can be balanced by a positive response.

Article by Lisa Bainham

Practice Manager at The Old Surgery Dental Practice in Cheshire.
Voted Practice Manager of the Year 2016 at the prestigious Dental Awards.
President – Association of Dental Administrators and Managers (ADAM).

References:
Software of Excellence Whitepaper. Facing the Challenge of New Patient Acquisition. 2014
National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants and Lawyers (NASDAL). 2015
Software of Excellence Whitepaper. Facing the Challenge of New Patient Acquisition. 2014
BrightLocal. Local Consumer Review Survey. 2014