In an increasingly digital world, patients want easy, virtual access. They want to be able to see their medical records, to schedule appointments, and to communicate with their providers online. In the current pandemic environment, patients are also increasingly using telehealth options for their physician visits. Tips for improving patient satisfaction include a focus on using technology to meet patients’ needs and desires.
One way to find out what those needs and desires are, is to ask patients directly. Provide them with a brief survey about their visit or interaction. Offer the option to complete the survey online, providing the link in an email immediately following their visit. Ask pertinent questions regarding the level of customer service received in addition to the quality of care they received.
Patients expect good customer service from their healthcare provider, just as they do from a retailer or other business. An independent practice should focus on developing a strong provider-patient relationship that includes pleasant and personable interactions with all clinical staff, from the front desk to the reservationist setting up the follow-up appointment. While patients are focused on technology, they also still want that personal touch.
Once the survey is completed, the independent physician and the practice team should read the responses carefully. There may be areas of the practice or the healthcare delivery that can be improved, to improve patient satisfaction.
Patients tend to focus on certain areas when thinking about their own satisfaction with their healthcare provider, including:
- Feeling like a real person rather just another patient
- Ease of scheduling, including the availability of appointments and convenient scheduling methods
- Communication with the provider and the clinical team, including the ability to contact staff online
- Overall experience with the staff in the physician’s office.
Steps for improving patient satisfaction successfully should include:
- Leveraging technology to enhance the patient’s experience with the practice. Electronic health records (EHRs) enable the patients to access their own records, including lab results and diagnostics. An effective EHR system can also remind patients of upcoming appointments, offer convenient scheduling options, and provide a portal for communications.
- Reducing the wait time for an appointment, both in terms of when appointments are available and the time spent in the waiting room before seeing the physician in the exam room. Reduced wait times are key to increasing the level of patient satisfaction.
- Spending more time focusing on the patient during the visit. Research has shown that satisfaction rates improve with visit length increases. Chatting with the patient and, more importantly, listening to the patient can make the patient feel more valued and more connected with the provider.
- Improving communications, both through electronic means and in face-to-face interactions. Patients want their physician to explain diagnoses and treatment plans in clear and consistent terms. A convenient option to follow up an appointment with questions and concerns will also contribute to improved patient satisfaction.