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As a consumer-focused delivery channel for medical care, urgent care is built around the basic retail principles of accessible locations, convenient hours, prominent signage, and good customer service. But unlike a trip to a restaurant or store—which can be either an indulgence or a necessity—few patients look forward to their urgent care experiences. Rather, a trip to urgent care is more like a trip to the penalty box—pain or discomfort due to injury or illness, unanticipated expense, and time away from work and leisure.
By considering the patient’s point of view when designing everything from physical facilities to policies and procedures, urgent care operators can turn otherwise negative impressions into positive word-of-mouth—but regardless of what you do, there will always be some angry patients. In the past, the risk was dissatisfied patients would tell a few friends or family members, but today—using websites like Facebook and Yelp, whose comments get picked up by search engines—one dissatisfied patient could deter potential thousands.
When an angry patient asks to “speak with the manager,” the urgent care operator is presented with a unique opportunity to become either a “hero” or an “enemy.” Yet many frontline staff are ill-equipped to deal with confrontation. It’s quite common for staff to take criticism personally, assume a defensive posture, reinforce policies the patient doesn’t care about, and otherwise shut down meaningful communication in resolving the patient’s issue.
Prior to confrontation with an angry patient, front-line staff should be prepared with a plan of action that includes:
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.