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Joy Daughtery Dickinson is executive editor of the Hospital Group of publications at AHC Media in Atlanta and long-time editor and writer of Same-Day Surgery. She has won nine national awards from the Specialized Information Publishers Association and the Association of Business Information & Media Companies for her blogging, news writing, and editing. She makes her home in southwest Georgia.
My daughter’s favorite place in the world is Starbucks. We went to one over the holidays, and she ordered an eggnog blended ice drink. Instead of the beverage she ordered, she was handed an eggnog latte. She pointed out the mistake to the barista, who immediately corrected the error.
That idea of giving people what they want, or making it right if you don’t, is behind a new money-back guarantee at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. Patients use an app to enter a code for the condition they had treated and can provide feedback on their treatment. They also have the option of selecting “I would like a refund.” The refund page knows how much the patients paid. Patients can request a refund on a sliding scale from $1 up to thousands. Even if the hospital made no mistakes, patients receive a refund within five days.
The app, named Geisinger ProvenExperience, was launched at the end of 2015. It follows Geisinger’s “surgery-with-a-guarantee” program that has been written up in our Same-Day Surgery publication, along with a story about other guarantees.
“We’re going to do everything right. That’s our job, that’s our promise to you,” said Geisinger Health System President and CEO David Feinberg, MD, when he spoke at the annual Health Care Symposium at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA. “And you’re the judge. If you don’t think so, we’re going to apologize, we’re going to try to fix it for the next guy, and as a small token of appreciation we’re going to give you some money back.”
The health system’s early experience with the app indicates that patients aren’t necessarily looking for a refund, Feinberg said. “They tell us, ‘when you make a mistake, what we want is for you to own it and apologize, and then we can talk about it.’”
Apologizing to patients has been controversial, due to liability concerns. Also, some critics say hospitals sometimes use apologies to manipulate patients and families. (See “When does a hospital’s apology switch to being manipulation?” in our Healthcare Risk Management publication.)
So are guarantees the way to go? Even Feinberg isn’t certain. “I don’t know if a money-back guarantee or warranty is the right way to do it,” he said, “but I do know if we don’t figure out how to do it, somebody else is going to do it.” (Editor’s note: Get hospital-related breaking news as it happens on Twitter @HospitalReport.)