Three Ways to Improve Patient Satisfaction

Joe Weinlick
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As consumers gain more choices and control over their medical care, patient satisfaction is a crucial issue in the health care industry. With the widespread use of social media and the Internet, unhappy patients have the power to damage a hospital's reputation. By paying attention to the patient experience as a whole, health care businesses can improve quality of care and keep profits steady.

In 2013, satisfied patients became even more important to businesses in the health care industry. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began adjusting the reimbursement amounts for hospitals based on their patient satisfaction scores. In 2013, the Affordable Care Act stated that 1 percent of hospital reimbursements could be affected by patient scores; while it sounds trivial, that single percent represented $1 billion in revenue in 2013. The affected reimbursement percentage will continue to rise until 2017, making it crucial that health care businesses examine and improve the patient experience.

Clear Communication

For a patient, it is frustrating when a doctor uses complicated and confusing medical terminology. One way to improve patient satisfaction is to train staff to communicate clearly. The lead caregiver should explain the situation in understandable terms and let the patient know exactly what to expect going forward. Does the care plan involve an overnight stay? Will fasting be required before a procedure? When can patients expect to meet with the care team? How long will they wait between tests? By laying out the plan in advance, doctors can help set expectations and establish trust. Though nothing can take away the fear of a medical crisis, open communication can prevent confusion and the fear of the unknown.

Bedside Manner

Bedside manner extends far beyond the few minutes a patient spends with a doctor; it also applies to the way patients are treated at every step of a visit. If the billing clerk is harsh or unhelpful, it can taint an otherwise excellent health care experience. A receptionist who ignores the patient or acts rudely can establish a negative feeling that lasts throughout the visit. In a health care organization, perhaps more than in any other business, employees should be engaged in the company mission and committed to treating patients with kindness and respect. Health care is intimidating and terrifying for many people, and a positive and supportive atmosphere can go a long way in improving patient satisfaction.

Be on Time

Many patients make an instant judgment about a health care business based on its timeliness, so a practice that makes every effort to run on schedule can set a positive tone from the start. It is crucial to find ways to get patients in and out on time. Schedule longer appointment times to create a buffer, give fewer patients to each caregiver, or bring in extra doctors to reduce wait times. In many cases, the extra expense can go a long way in improving patient satisfaction. When you are running behind, communication is key. Let waiting patients know what is happening and when they can expect to see the doctor. Regular updates can diffuse tension and anger.

Improving patient satisfaction can be a challenge, particularly for businesses that are strapped for time and resources. Though the process may require an up-front investment, it can pay off in long-term patient loyalty.


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