Now that the holiday gifts have been unwrapped and droves of people make it back to the stores for returns and refunds, should dissatisfied patients unhappy with the care they got receive refunds as well?  ….. And does this make for improved medical care or just good health marketing?

Art Caplan, at the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center poses just this question.  He asks:

“If you went to a hospital or a clinic and you weren’t satisfied with the quality of care you received, should you get your money back? Should somebody give you a rebate or some kind of a cash discount if you were unhappy?”

A prominent healthcare program in Pennsylvania, the Geisinger Health System, announced it is going to offer money-back guarantees to dissatisfied patients who were disgruntled about the service quality provided.  Criteria include wait time, communication and problems with logistics.

Caplan laments I’m afraid that we’re already pretty far down the road of the business of medicine, and therefore these money-back guarantees don’t bother me especially much. For people who are dissatisfied with the quality of the food they receive or with waiting too long, it does make some sense to start to say, we’ll give you something, like a rebate; a voucher for something else; or a free gift, such as a newspaper or access to cable television, while you’re staying with us.

The premise is that the more a patient is satisfied with the quality of care gotten, the higher the compliance will be for treatment and followups. Caplan further opines ” I admire the Geisinger Health System’s willingness to announce that if you don’t like the way we’re treating you, then we’re going to try and make it up to you or make good on this. It’s disruptive, but there are some things that deserve some disruption in healthcare, and this area of consumer satisfaction might well be one of them. My only reservation is whether patients start to think more about such matters as how long they waited to get their car back from the valet or how long they had to sit in the waiting room, rather than asking hard questions about the actual care they received, by diverting them more to the frosting and away from the cake of whether we did a good job of providing care.”


Physicians, healthcare facilities and health providers in general should always try to provide quality of care and in most instances I believe they do so.  It is a matter of professionalism, integrity and ethics.  The question is, will physicians and hospitals try harder if there is a question of rebates or money to be returned?  I personally think that professionalism trumps the fear of money involved.


What is your opinion about this?  Comment in the box below and share your thoughts.