How to Diffuse a Frustrated Patient
When an angry customer is in your office, it makes the entire staff feel like everyone is walking on eggshells to accommodate the patient’s demands.
An upset patient commands immediate attention and expects you to respond. The problem is that flustered office staff members might not know how to handle the situation. Your team’s response will make or break the interaction and have an undeniable impact on your reputation.
Whether you are fielding phone calls, responding to emails, or talking to a patient face-to-face, it’s essential to know the best strategies for managing upset patients. What you say is critical to the patient’s satisfaction and could impact future references for your practice when they leave.
Step 1: Attention
First of all, it’s vital for the patient to feel heard. Offer your attention by listening to what they have to say. If you are talking in person, invite the patient into a back room so they aren’t causing a commotion in the main lobby.
Let the person talk and be careful to avoid correcting or arguing at this point. If needed, take notes so the patient knows that you are engaged in the conversation. You might use phrases such as:
- Please explain the situation.
- I’d like to hear your point of view.
- What happened?
- I hear what you are saying, and I’m here to help.
- You are right, and I can see how this is a problem.
- Let me make sure I understand this correctly.
Step 2: Be Apologetic
One fast and effective way to reduce the intensity of the conversation is by offering an apology. Often, the patient wants to hear the apology and acknowledge a mistake was made.
Here are a few ideas if you want to add an apology into the conversation:
- I’m sorry for your trouble.
- I can see why you are upset.
- I apologize for the difficulty.
- Sometimes mistakes are made, and we are genuinely sorry.
- If I were in your shoes, I would feel the same about the situation.
Step 3: Appreciate
Next, build a better rapport in the conversation by showing appreciation for the person. Displaying appreciation brings the conversation full circle and helps the patient feel like they are part of the solution.
Show appreciation by using comment such as:
- We appreciate you.
- Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
- I’m grateful we can talk about this issue.
- Thank you, I’m more than happy to help with this issue.
- Thanks for your patience.
- We appreciate your loyalty, even when things go wrong.
Step 4: Amend
Finally, look for opportunities to correct the problem. The goal is to help the patient feel better about the circumstances, which means you need to make things right again (if under your control). The specific correction depends on the issue at hand and how you can help them feel like the situation is resolved or at least progressing towards resolution.
Examples of correcting the problem usually start like this:
- We want to make things right.
- Here’s what we are going to do to correct this problem.
- I suggest…
- Let’s work together to find a solution.
- What can we do to resolve this situation?
- As an immediate solution, we can…
- What would you consider a reasonable solution?
- I can’t help with this. But I know who can…
Open Communication to Avoid Upset Patients
Make sure your healthcare organization has sound systems in place to minimize the risk of upset patients. One of the most common causes of patient frustration is a lack of responsiveness from the provider to requesters during the ROI process. You can solve these problems by using a quality system that integrates your ROI process with real-time status updates.
At RecordQuest, we reduce your staff member’s stress and keep your patients happy with a system for submitting, reviewing, and releasing patient information. Rest assured that we maintain the highest levels of HIPAA compliance and offer the ongoing support you need. For more information, schedule a demo or contact us to learn about the solutions available for your practice.