Best Practices for Improving Patient Satisfaction
A Critical Factor for Success
Today's health care consumers have more choices of providers and access to more Internet-based information on outcomes, patient satisfaction, and comparative costs than ever before. Thus, health care experts believe that the measurement of patient satisfaction will play an increasingly important role in the growing push toward accountability among health care providers. Christopher Guadagnino, Ph.D. asserts that “satisfaction is related to the overall effectiveness of communication between physician and patient and is necessary for achieving good outcomes, while ineffective communication can lead to poor quality.”
How to Maximize Your Patient Satisfaction
Here are some initial recommendations to help you evaluate and improve your own patient satisfaction, based on the conclusions in the suggested reading below. Watch for further best practices in future provider newsletters.
◆ Listen to your patients and respond as a TEAM. Because both you and your staff influence patient perceptions, working together as a team is critical if you want to increase patient satisfaction. To start the process, use a survey to obtain feedback from your patients regarding what they like and don’t like about their current experience. Once you have this information, meet with your staff to discuss and implement ideas to improve the patient experience.
◆ Prepare patients for their appointment. Have a clear policy regarding how the staff should instruct a patient prior to their appointment. Without such instruction, the patient may arrive unprepared, increasing the level of anxiety associated with their visit. For example, make sure the patient knows to bring their insurance cards, identification, understands their payment options (i.e.: credit card, check, or cash), has directions to your clinic, completes any forms that you may have on your website prior to their visit, understands how long the visit is going to take and what to expect, etc.
◆ Minimize patient on-hold time. If there are regularly more calls than staff to answer the phones, patients’ perceptions of your office may be affected. To avoid this, track your call volumes over a couple of weeks so that you better understand your high volume times. Use this information when scheduling staff and/or to shift staff to ensure you have sufficient coverage at the front desk during peak times.
◆ Establish expectations for wait times in the reception area or exam room. If you are running behind, it is important that the front desk staff provide the patient with an accurate estimate of how long the wait will be and provide the patient with the option to reschedule if the current wait time does not meet their needs. You should also have a late arrival policy within your office. This information should be shared with the patient when they schedule their appointment so that expectations are clear and complaints are avoided.
◆ Provide clear information and directions when they leave the clinic. When a patient arrives for their first visit, they can be overwhelmed because of the paperwork they must complete, information they must bring, the pain they’re in, and uncertainty of what to expect. After their visit, they may leave without asking the questions they may later wish they had asked during their visit. Providing your patients with information regarding their diagnosis, what to expect from their treatment and what to do next is not only helpful for the patient but can also provide key details to their loved ones who are providing them with support at home.
Please let us know if you have any of your own suggestions you would like to share with the network. They can be submitted by calling ChiroCare at 651-389-2006, 1-866-714-0524, or e-mailing us at: .
» Preston, Susan Harrington. “The Best Way To Improve Your Staff’s Efficiency” Medical Economics, August 1997; p 58-66
» Chesanow, Neil. “Can’t Stay On Schedule? Here’s A Solution” Medical Economics, November 1996; p 174-191
» Majzun, Rick. “The Role of Teamwork in Improving Patient Satisfaction” Group Practice Journal, April 1998; p 12-16
» Dahl, Owen J. “10 Quick Steps To A More Efficient Practice” Physician’s Management, July 1996; p 32-42
» Crum, Larry D. “Do Patients Need A User’s Manual For Your Practice” Today’s Internist, January/February 1998
» “What Are You Waiting For? Only You Can End Patient Delays” Patient Satisfaction and Outcomes Management, November 1997
» “After Five: Are Extended Hours Worth It?” CBM On Call-Advantage for Health Care Providers, First Quarter 1998
» Crosby, James. “Nine Ways To Conduct More Efficient Office Visits” Family Practice Management, May 1997; p 83-90
» Perceptions of Provider Communication and Patient Satisfaction for treatment of Acute Low Back Pain, Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: October 2005 - Volume 47 - Issue 10 - pp 1036-1043.