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Maybe the Worst Patient-Experience Story You’ve Ever Heard

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Exclamation point warning sign above "Disaster" signIf Healthcare Success has an “Action Central” news desk, it’s my office.

Client success stories pop-up regularly from around the country, and each narrative that comes our way makes a valuable contribution to our 20-plus year experience in marketing to patients. We like that.

The “good-news stories” are wonderful insight. We keep on top of what’s current and what’s working in health care marketing. There’s always a take-away idea about attracting new patients.

And now and then, our radar detects a “horror story” about the competition in a particular medical marketplace. Although negative stories like the following one can have a rough edge to them, even these offer lessons to be learned.

For reasons that will become apparent, I’ll disguise the participants in this true-story that originates (surprisingly) from a market area that’s known for it’s friendly population.

Healthcare should be personal, shouldn’t it?

A new provider (a head-on competitor to our client) recently opened its doors in this community. The new facility arrived with a familiar name and reputation. But it wasn’t long before patients were ditching the “big brand” in favor of our client’s care.

The reason? It was just that: Caring. It turns out that the big system office didn’t seem to care. They were (and still are) driving away patients by treating them like a number on a page, and with no customer service sensitivity at all.

Marketing Insight: Patients are willing to change providers to find quality care that’s delivered with personal attention, and providers and staff that truly care. Check your administrative and operational procedures for patient sensitivity.

But wait. There’s more to this story. (Here’s where it really gets good.)

This client benefited from influx of new patients who were literally driven away from the impersonal competitor. What’s remarkable is that it happened repeatedly; enough to be detected and confirmed by hearing the same tale from new patients.

Our client offered another real-world illustration of a couldn’t-care-less patient experience. This one was even worse than the first.

As kids sometimes do, our client's son recently fell and broke his arm. It was a Sunday, and they opted not to go to the hospital Emergency Room in order to avoid the usual irritating inconveniences. Instead, they went to an urgent care office where an x-ray confirmed the break.

In the course of treatment, the physician proceeded to complain—in front of parents and patient—how at his old position, he didn’t have to do splints. (Not a confidence-builder sort of comment.)

But, just to make the experience even more shocking, the treating physician consulted “Doctor Google.” Again, in front of the patient and parents, he looked online for “how to splint a broken arm,” pulled up a YouTube video, and proceeded to set their child’s broken arm while watching a how-to YouTube video.


If you put some of the obvious implications aside for a moment, this experience was clearly shocking. It was as if the patient and parents were not in the room. Grumbling about personal complaints, and watching a video about a fairly basic medical task is not only going to drive patients out the door, it’s fast-burning fuel for negative word-of-mouth, and a reputation killer.

Marketing Insight: "Patients are not an interruption; they are the purpose of provider’s work."* Let’s hope this extreme example doesn't happen often, but patients, parents and family expect and deserve quality professional care that’s delivered with authority and respect.

We always enjoy the “good news” stuff that crosses our desk, but there are genuine nuggets of learning to be found on the occasional “bad news” side. The overarching lesson here is that the definition of excellence in clinical care is incomplete without patient satisfaction, personal attention and genuine caring.

See how Healthcare Success transforms doctor marketing by generating exposure and increasing qualified leads!

Jamie Roney


* From What is a Patient?
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