Geisinger makes ‘disruptive’ move — refunds for patients treated unkindly

Geisinger makes ‘disruptive’ move — refunds for patients treated unkindly

Geisinger Health System said Wednesday it wants to know whether patients were treated with kindness and compassion, and will allow patients who feel they weren’t to claim a refund.

Not only that, but Geisinger says it will allow the unhappy patients to decide the size of the refund.

Dr. David T. Feinberg, Geisinger’s CEO, said in a news release that it might be Geisinger’s most “radical” program ever, and that other health care executives told him not to do it.

Dr. David Feinberg, the CEO of Geisinger Health System.

“I really felt dejected,” he said. “Then I thought about Kodak executives discussing digital photography. And Blockbuster talking about online video options. Were they also told ‘Don’t do it?’ That’s when I said to myself, ‘We’re doing it.'”

The program has been launched as a pilot at Geisinger’s main hospital in Danville. It involves surgery patients enrolled in the pilot using a mobile app developed by Geisinger to name the size of their refund. The refund will consist of all or part of the patient’s co-pay.

For instance, a patient with a $1,000 co-pay would be able to use the app to choose a refund from $1 to $1,000, with the refund processed in three to five business days.

Feinberg said in the news release: “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. What matters to me is that every patient is satisfied with their treatment and so I started thinking, ‘What is our guarantee? What is our refund?’ We need to be disruptive to move the practice of providing great patient experience forward and so the decision was made to give unsatisfied patients their money back.”

The pilot is called “ProvenExperience” and is an offshoot of Geisinger’s “ProvenCare” approach to certain surgeries which brought national attention to Geisinger in 2006. Geisinger last year merged with Holy Spirit Health System in Cumberland County. 

With ProvenCare, Geisinger said it would charge a flat rate for procedures such as open heart surgery, with no extra charge to the patient or their insurer if the patient developed a complication that required additional medical care and time in the hospital. It was acclaimed as a “guarantee,” and a step toward hospitals taking more responsibility for outcomes, and removing the perverse incentive where a hospital receives more money if it does a poor job that results in the patient needing additional care.

Feinberg announced the new program Wednesday at a conference in Florida held by Press Ganey, a firm that helps hospitals measure patient satisfaction. He predicted it will “transform” the hospital industry.

“Historically, Geisinger’s reputation has been based on transforming the way health care is delivered,” he said. “We’ve been held up as a national model for providing both high-quality and cost-effective medical care and our ProvenCare program has garnered national – and international – praise for eliminating unwarranted variation and applying scientific best practices. Now is the time to focus on compassion.”

He further said he doesn’t believe patients will abuse the program, even with its reliance on the “honor system.”

“Ultimately, they just want to be acknowledged and to spare other families any pain they might have experienced,” he said.