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Every business has to deal with dissatisfied customers. And in urgent care, the odds are stacked against you. The people seeing you probably don’t want to be there, and many come in feeling unwell. Top that off with some uncontrollable factors — like unexpectedly high visit volume jacking up wait times — and you have a higher chance of people leaving upset.

If you’re unable to resolve the situation when dealing with angry patients, you don’t just risk losing them as a return patient. Angry people are more likely to post reviews, hurting your chances of attracting new patients.

That said, you can teach your staff how to deal with angry patients in a way that helps them diffuse the situation. You can also take steps to help curtail these situations (even when it comes to wait time.)

How to Deal with Angry Patients

Your standard operating procedures should provide staff with a clear process for these situations. More importantly, you want to train staff on these guidelines so that not only is everyone consistent, but they’re prepared when it happens. Base your guidelines on the situations you handle most frequently, but Alan Ayers, President of Experity Consulting, recommends these general rules of thumb to consider:

  • Examine the situation from the patient’s perspective — the patient’s perception of a situation is their reality, so put yourself in the patient’s shoes to determine why the patient is upset.
  • Assess the true needs of the patient — anger comes from feelings of injustice, so it’s important for patients to be able to express their concerns uninterrupted. Staff should show empathy by rephrasing concerns back to the patient, and take a “lets solve this together” approach that respects the patient’s dignity but also protects the center’s financial interest.
  • Exercise self control — regardless of how aggressive a patient may be, staff should never be “baited” into escalating an emotionally charged situation. Staff should remain calm, cool and collected in all interactions and be thoughtful and deliberate in their words and actions.
  • Acknowledge and respond promptly to patient complaints — unaddressed anger festers and patients become further put off if the staff ignores their concerns, or insults them by dismissing their concerns as “non-issues.” Even if there is no ready solution, assure patients their concerns have been heard and will be systematically addressed.
  • Apologize when the center makes a mistake — this involves admitting the mistake was made, making appropriate reparation, and then taking steps to assure the error does not occur again. Even if there was no mistake made, a sincere apology that considers the patient’s perceptions should be provided: “I sincerely apologize for the frustration you’ve experienced today.”
  • Build partnerships with patients — after apologizing to the patient, develop a follow-up plan on how the center and the patient will move forward. Such helps the patient understand his options and provides an opportunity for the center to perfect its operational processes, thus improving the perceptions of future patients.

Following these simple steps can help foster a meaningful dialogue with patients focused on improving the urgent care experience. The ultimate end result should be happier patients, reduced stress on staff and providers, and positive word of mouth — all of which benefit the center’s bottom line.

How to Avoid Dealing with Angry Patients

The best way to avoid dealing with angry patients is to keep them as happy as possible – or eliminate some of the factors that make them angry to begin with, We mentioned that many situations feel out of our control. But are they really? Let’s assume your staff has mastered exceptional patient care. We know that the top reason patients leave without being seen is wait time. It’s fair to say that wait time and waiting room time are then the most likely reasons to either exacerbate or create a bad situation.

Here are some ways you can address these factors for a better patient experience:

Wait time: Reduce wait time by using a Patient Engagement (PE) solution that not only cuts time through pre-registration, but also makes the wait more bearable with smart queues (letting patients get in a virtual line,) and real-time updates to wait length status. Learn about this in the blog Solving the Top Reason Patients LWBS: Wait Time

Waiting room time: PE helps speed things up ahead of the treatment, but if providers and practitioners are bogged down, you probably have some opportunities to be more efficient. If your EMR/PM is built for a hospital, it’s likely  bottlenecking your workflow. Consider an EMR/PM that is built specifically for urgent care – reducing clicks, helping improve accuracy, and streamlining everything to reduce charting to less than a minute. Hear what Insight Urgent Care had to say about efficiencies gained by switching from Athena to Experity

Additionally, you can help with front desk efficiency that not only helps with throughput, but also leads to cleaner billing processes. Check out Urgent Care Billing Optimization: How to Improve Your RCM and our Front Desk Checklist PDF for Better Urgent Care Billing

Curious about an urgent-care-specific EMR/PM? See what that means for your practice. Visit our product page and watch the quick video.

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