I still come across many practices unaware of, or sometimes choosing to ignore, potentially damaging comments and complaints placed on-line by patients who have had a poor experience for whatever reason.
Equally, there are often very positive comments which are not being acknowledged or used to boost morale within the practice and share with patients.
For NHS dental practices, even those with only a small NHS contract, the easiest and most widely promoted patient feedback opportunity is through the practice NHS Choices page which has been centrally created for all NHS providers.
Anyone searching for your dental practice name on-line is likely to come across your NHS Choices page very quickly and be given the opportunity to provide feedback.
Try it for yourself and have a look at your profile page, particularly if not yet familiar with it and, more importantly, not actively managing it.
Practices should routinely undertake on-line searches of the practice name to identify other feedback portals and to see what is being discussed on-line about your business.
There are two important areas to focus on with your NHS Choices page.
Firstly make sure that it is up to date and that all information on the page is accurate. The page will have been created with information readily available at the time the site was established and someone within your practice would have been asked to take responsibility for this. Do you know who this is?
Practice and team details are accessed by the NHS telephone services such as 111 to assist with enquiries from existing and potential new patients.
Secondly make sure that someone within the team has been given responsibility for checking and responding to all feedback left on the page. This does not happen automatically and the person who keeps the page up-to-date may not yet have the authority to do this.
Individuals can request access and approval to undertake both of these roles by simply sending an e-mail through to email@example.com with your practice details and the individual’s e-mail address.
Once someone is registered for comment responses, they will be automatically e-mailed with details of all comments added to your practice page so that responses can be managed quickly and effectively. For this reason it is also good practice to have more than one person trained and registered to cover for each other.
If you are new to the NHS Choices portal, useful training resources can be found here:
NHS Choices Training Resources
Managing Patient Feedback
Adverse patient feedback should always be handled professionally, non-judgementally and sensitively just as you would with a patient in the practice.
Recognise the concern raised and highlight any action which has been, or will be taken to resolve.
Don’t attempt to resolve the complaint on-line – let the public see that you have it in hand and that something is being done to resolve. Brief explanations can help.
Never question or challenge the patient on-line but focus on the facts provided and how it will be resolved. In the majority of cases, a well handled complaint will boost your reputation.
Always encourage off-line discussions and ways to resolve the concern by providing contact details for your practice manager. This is no different to complaints in the practice where you would take the patient to a quiet room rather than try to resolve in public.
The post will already have been moderated by the NHS team prior to publication to ensure it is not malicious or offensive but if you still feel that this is the case, you have the option to refer back to the NHS team to have it corrected or removed.
If you have not previously responded to NHS Choices comments, here is a short video clip which explains how it works:
Responding to NHS Choices Comments
I often provide client practices with help and guidance on responding to customer service complaints including on-line. If you would like help or support with this important area of your business please contact firstname.lastname@example.org