Every hospital should have a social PRO to reduce the menace of touts
Disputes involving hospitals are becoming commonplace nowadays. The reasons being mainly death of the patient, huge hospital bills, impaired trust, differing expectations among several others. Such incidents further undermine the doctor-patient relationship, which is already tenuous at best, especially these days. Emotional reactions, at times, may aggravate conflicts between doctors and patients. This deteriorating doctor-patient relationship manifests as violence against doctors and hospitals and damage to hospital property and essential equipments at times. If we analyze these incidents, we often find miscommunication or failure to communicate, to be at the root of these conflicts. Such conflicts give a bad name to the whole of the medical fraternity.
Another issue that is of grave concern is the rising number of touts. Patients are often give long waiting times for their surgery or investigations. About 50% of these will default everyday.
Not willing to wait, most patients land in the clutches of the touts who take money from them to jump long queues, not only for surgery, but also to get investigations done quickly, either through their contacts at the hospital or at a private clinic and using the loop holes of patients missing their appointments.
They take money for admission, or significant discounts in total treatment costs.
People are available for hire who attack hospitals and nursing homes on behalf of the patient who fail to pay the hospital bill and force to hospital to settle for a much lower sum (The Telegraph, 6.2.18).
The reason why these touts are flourishing is because there is no social public relationship officer (PRO) in the hospital.
Having a social public relationship officer (PRO) in the hospital is one strategy to avoid conflicts or disputes in hospitals. It will also eliminate touts.
PRO is the first point of contact for the patient in a hospital and so has a vital role in communication or dissemination of the right information and knowledge to patients and their families.
Communication is an interactive process. Good communication is the key to building trust leading to a satisfied patient.
Essentially acting as ‘counsellors’, PROs can communicate with patients and address their concerns about various issues such as essential drugs, admission priority, discounts on total charges – if any, loans available (on the spot, reverse mortgage), where to buy cheaper drugs, are investigations necessary, to name a few. By helping the patient understand these complex issues, they can find solutions to their problems. He/she can arrange a meeting between the patient and the doctor to resolve issues, if the patient is unsatisfied.
In a nutshell, public relations helps maintain good will and understanding between the hospital and the patient and contribute to building an effective doctor-patient relationship.
‘Word-of-mouth’ is how prospective patients choose their doctor or hospitals. They rely on the information they get from their friends and family or what they read on social media.
Remember, one satisfied patient will speak positively about you to 10 prospective patients, but an unsatisfied patient will speak against you to 100 probable patients.