Patient satisfaction has always been a gauge of healthcare quality and delivery. The patient experience extends far beyond the exam room – it begins with scheduling the appointment, the front office staff, and the waiting room. And it extends to patient follow-up and billing.
rater8 analyzed over 100,000 patient surveys across the USA, hoping to identify recurring trends in patient experience and patient satisfaction. We compiled a list of the most commonly raised patient satisfaction concerns, and how to address them in your medical practice. Doing so will lead to improved patient satisfaction, higher scores and patient retention, and increased patient volume.
Reduce Patient Wait Time
The leading complaint listed on patient satisfaction surveys is excessive wait times.
Doctors’ time is very limited and valuable, but so is the patients’.
Nationwide, the average wait time in medical practices is 21 minutes. CG-CAHPS asks patients whether they were seen within 15 minutes of their appointment times; it’s even underlined for emphasis.
Wait times are often inevitable. Doctors fall behind schedule, patients show up late, or some visits require more time and care than expected.
Designate a waiting room liaison and keep patients informed of their wait time. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing the doctor will be ready in 5 minutes, only to be left waiting for another 40 minutes. Patients are more understanding when there is transparency.
When in the exam room with the patients, physicians should thank them for their patience and understanding if the patient experienced a longer wait. Acknowledgement goes a long way.
More importantly, take a step back and identify what is the greatest bottleneck.
Improve the Patient Waiting Room
The waiting room is the first chance to tell patients you care about them.
Patients often dread the waiting room, but small enhancements can improve patient satisfaction.
Your waiting room doesn’t have to be bleak and barren. Instead make the waiting room fun, interactive, and practical.
To enhance the waiting room and overall patient experience, consider offering:
- Cable TV
- A broad range of magazines and newspapers
- iPads, tethered to chairs, so kids can play interactive games and adults can browse the internet or read online magazines
- Free WiFi so visitors can stay connected
- Plenty of electrical outlets
- A business desk with laptop space so visitors can stay productive during the middle of the workday
- Phone charges
- Free water, coffee, and basic snacks
- Game consoles. Pediatric Ophthalmic Consultants, based in NYC, offers interactive, wii games to keep kids engaged and entertained. The video game consoles allow the kids to keep busy as they wait to be seen by doctors, or while doctors are discussing treatment plans with the parents.
You can also get more creative. Spice up the waiting room with a massage chair. This way, visitors can unwind and relax as they wait to be seen by doctors.
These small gestures go a long way and may be worth the investment.
Don’t Rush Patients
After analyzing 100,000 patient surveys, the second biggest hit to patient satisfaction is rushing patients through the exam. Patients can sense when doctors are eager to rush out the door.
It’s very common for patients to ask questions. As a physician, it is important to give patients the time and space they need to come up with questions.
Before leaving the patient in the exam room, simply ask the patient “Have I addressed all of your questions? Is there anything else you would like to ask?”
These two simple questions take seconds to ask but can reassure the patient that they are valued and cared for.
Also, encourage patients to reach out to the office if any questions come up later.
Online Billing and Payment
Sending or writing checks is time consuming and inconvenient. In 2018, your medical practice should accept online payments.
Online billing portals provide patients more insight and accessibility into their charges. It offers patients a place to review and pay at their convenience.
Online billing is easier for both the patient and practice.
It will alleviate the burden of the front staff and streamline the accounting and billing processes.
Online scheduling a nice luxury that improves the patient experience. Doctors often have variable schedules so online schedule isn’t necessarily viable for each practice. But many patients, especially the younger ones, do not like to pick up the phone and would much prefer the online convenience. Providing online scheduling, through a service such as ZocDoc, also allows patients to schedule appointments during off-business hours.
Patients’ lives and schedules get hectic so friendly appointment reminders are appreciated.
Patient reminders also serve a valuable purpose of drastically reduce no shows.
With appointment reminders, practices can also take the opportunity to remind patients to arrive X minutes earlier. Doing so will reduce delays for both the doctors and patients.
Most practice management scheduling portals come with this feature and capabilities. If you’re not leveraging this tool today, you should be. Most appointment reminder systems have automated text or email patient reminders.
Once the patient leaves the office, it’s important to collect feedback about their patient experience. Patient satisfaction surveys help assess how your doctors and practice are doing, if you’re meeting goals, and what you can do to improve. Measuring success and identifying improvement opportunities will ultimately enhance the overall patient satisfaction.
Reaching out to a patient who is upset is a great opportunity to turn an unhappy patient into a practice evangelist – similar to the way if you are upset at something at a restaurant and the manager comes over, apologizes, and offers something like a free dessert. This simple gesture can turn a disgruntled customer into someone who feels good about the fact that their concerns were addressed and remedied.
How do patient satisfaction surveys work?
There are a series of questions we ask patients – each one relating to particular individuals like the doctor, front-office, or nurses. Rather than asking generic questions about their experiences, patients can rate each individual.
This allows practices to better understand what is contributing to their patients’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Once you identify these trends and areas of improvement, it’s time to implement changes and continue to monitor!
To offer the best quality of care, patient satisfaction should be continually monitored and reported. And patient satisfaction surveys are a tool to enhance the patient experience and elevate your care.