Want a Refund on That Gallbladder Surgery?

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Until recently, money-back or customer satisfaction guarantees were traditionally associated with retail purchases. But now, at least one healthcare company is jumping into the fray.

Until recently, money-back or customer satisfaction guarantees were traditionally associated with retail purchases. But now, at least one healthcare company is jumping into the fray. Geisinger Health System recently began offering patients refunds for unsatisfactory experiences at its hospitals and other facilities in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. The integrated health services provider is believed to be the first hospital system in the U.S. to adopt a refund policy for patients.

David Feinberg, M.D., President and CEO at Geisinger Health System, says providing unhappy patients a partial refund is a "small token of appreciation" for providing useful feedback that can then be applied to fixing gaps in patient experiences.

One 49 year-old patient received a $210 refund in February after an appointment left her in tears. Another patient who was asked by a Geisinger Medical Center finance department for a "down payment" towards an operation to repair a herniated disc was granted a $150 refund she had requested.

The refund program, which Feinberg created, began as a pilot last fall and was expanded to all patients in early April.

So far, Geisinger has refunded or waived charges totaling nearly $80,000. Only co-payments and deductibles are considered under the refund program. Refund amounts have ranged from $20 to a few thousand dollars.

To help make it easier for patients to request a refund, Geisinger has created a mobile app called GeisingerProvenExperience which patients can use to share their experience and then request a refund if they're dissatisfied with the care they've received.

Meanwhile, any of Geisinger's 30,000 employees can reach out to patients who felt they had less-than-stellar experiences and offer "service recovery" which may include free lunch or dinner vouchers, parking passes, or gift certificates that can be used at a hospital gift shop.

When Feinberg first announced the plan, other industry executives called it a "dumb idea," according to The Washington Post. But now that feedback to the program has boosted Geisinger's patient satisfaction scores, industry executives are becoming more receptive to the idea.
At least one other healthcare system - University of Utah Health Care - is exploring a similar program, according to The Washington Post.

Under the Affordable Care Act, government payments are increasingly being tied to patient satisfaction and quality ratings

It remains to be seen whether Geisinger's model catches on with other healthcare providers. Still, it's refreshing to see an innovative approach to patient-centricity in a healthcare environment where people regularly complain about being charged $15 for a Tylenol or thousands of dollars for one-time medical tests.

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