Healthcare News & Insights

New trend: Hospital offers patients refunds

For many patients, health care is starting to resemble a retail purchase in more ways than one. Price shopping, customer reviews and a focus on patient satisfaction have become the norm. And now, just like most retail establishments, one hospital system is offering refunds to patients who aren’t happy with their experience. 

An article in the Washington Postman handing out cash discusses the new trend. Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Health System initially launched a pilot program that gave patients refunds in certain circumstances. It just expanded the program to its entire state health system, including hospitals and clinics, earlier this month.

The reason behind the decision was simple: Geisinger wanted to make sure patients received an excellent hospital experience in all regards, from quality care to compassion and kindness from staff.

So the health system decided to give patients a way to recoup their losses if they felt their care was lacking in any area.

How it’s working

While skeptics said allowing refunds would lead to mass demands for paybacks from patients, Geisinger said that hasn’t been the case. So far, according to the Washington Post article, the health system has received 74 requests for refunds, and it’s waived about $80,000 so far.

Only a patient’s maximum copay or deductible is eligible for a refund. Patients can request a refund in several ways – the fastest is through the hospital’s ProvenExperience mobile app, which also allows patients to generally rate their experience during their stay.

If Geisinger determines a patient should receive a refund, it notifies the person within three to five business days, then writes off the patient’s financial responsibility.

Most patients who request refunds have only done so for compelling reasons, such as excessive waits in the emergency department, serious miscommunications about the cost of a procedure, and behavior from clinical staff that lacked compassion and caring.

And although refunds have affected the hospital’s bottom line a little, Geisinger is also reaping benefits from the initiative, including better long-term relationships with patients and higher scores on patient satisfaction surveys.

Geisinger doesn’t just rely on refunds to please unhappy patients – it also uses other tactics to go the extra mile and boost patient satisfaction. Staff reach out to patients who rate any aspect of their experience poorly to remedy the situation. Sometimes, they distribute vouchers for free lunches and dinners, or vouchers for purchases at the hospital’s gift shop.

Consumer philosophy

So far, the hospital’s willingness to put its money where its mouth is regarding the patient experience is paying off – and this strategy could work for other facilities, as well. The University of Utah Health Care system is already looking into creating a similar patient refund program. Additional facilities may follow suit.

The philosophy makes sense in a consumer-driven healthcare environment where patients shop around for their health care and are more concerned about getting their money’s worth during treatment. Plus, it gives hospitals more motivation to provide high-quality service for all aspects of a hospital stay since any missteps directly affect their profits.

Would your hospital consider giving refunds to patients? Let us know in the comments.

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