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Is Writing an Apology Appropriate for Service Recovery?

Question

We would like to print cards with our logo and some phrase/mission/value statement to be used for patient service recovery. One program we are looking at is writing a personal note to the patient when we have failed to apologize and explain how the situation is being addressed. Does this make sense?

Answer

I think your idea to use the hospital’s logo and mission is excellent. The message needs to be written by hand. My suggestion for effective service recovery is that you include

  1. a thank you to the patient for bringing this issue to your attention;
  2. an apology: We are sorry you did not receive the care you were expecting;
  3. a request for input: We want to fix this, and if you have any ideas on how we can improve this, please provide them .

When it is too late to repair the problem, ask what you can do to repair the relationship. My experience is that 99 percent of the time, the patient will say, “I just don’t want it to happen to anyone else.” Follow up with a note telling the patient that this won’t happen again because you have fixed the problem by _________describe changes you’ve made). Thank the patient for helping you to provide better care.

Two final points:

  • Let the patient know to contact you if he ever needs health care again, so you can assist him in obtaining the best care.
  • Flag him in the system, so you are aware he’s had a problem and can greet him the next time he visits.