Why Geisinger has refunded patients hundreds of thousands of dollars in 9 months

'The effort is to do it right for every patient every time'

Geisinger Health System has paid more than $400,000 to patients as part of an initiative launched last fall that refunds patients who were unsatisfied with their experience, Justin Strawser reports for the Daily Item.

Through Geisinger's ProvenExperience initiative, patients rate their experience on an app and can request up refund of up to $2,000 of their out-of-pocket costs if they're dissatisfied. Geisinger gives patients their full requested refund. A patient advocacy team then conducts a study to look into the complaint, assess its legitimacy, and takes steps to ensure related problems don't happen again.  

The refund program helps identity specific issues that bothered the patient, such as bedside manner or hospitality, according to Greg Burke, an internal medicine physician and Geisinger's chief patient experience officer. The program is not focused on "differences of opinion" for medical care decisions, Burke said.

"The effort is to do it right for every patient every time," Burke said. "Just like any legitimate or ethically sound business, you back your product. Except I think the stakes are higher."

Geisinger President and CEO David Feinberg explained, "The way I see it, if you go into Starbucks and you're not happy with your order, they don't sip your latte and argue that they made it correctly. They just take care of you on the spot." He added, "We need to be disruptive to move the practice of providing a great patient experience forward and so the decision was made to give unsatisfied patients their money back."

As of August, Geisinger had refunded more than $400,000, according to the health system's end-of-year financial report. The system expects the figure will grow to closer to $500,000 by November, Burke said.

Burke added that so far, the initiative has taught Geisinger that patients are dissatisfied with ED wait times and the amount of time it takes to schedule an appointment with certain departments. In addition, patients have encountered impolite behavior from some employees.

Geisinger has acted on the patient feedback, including by implementing same-day appointments, providing staff with additional training, and hiring a new corporate chef.

Overall, according to Feinberg, the initiative has improved the system's patient satisfaction scores, and the system's financial health "remains strong." Geisinger had a $167.5 million profit for the fiscal year the ended June 30, a nearly 5 percent increase over previous fiscal year, according to the system's annual financial update (Strawser, Daily Item, 10/4; Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 10/5; Murphy, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/5).

5 myths physicians believe about patient experience

5 myths physicians believe about patient experience

More than amenities, clean rooms, or quiet during night, the factors that most affect patient experience relate to communication and coordination among the care team—factors that physicians, as "Influencers in Chief," are in a unique position to influence.

But many physicians hold false beliefs about the patient experience. Download our infographic to learn the top five patient experience myths—and how to overcome them.

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