Is the Patient Always Right? Assessing Patient Satisfaction

How Do Your Patients Rate Your Customer Service and Satisfaction?

female nurse happily chatting to patient .
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In retail, as the saying goes “the customer is always right”; but what about the “customer” in a health care setting? With the advent of healthcare reform, many hospitals have implemented the Patient Satisfaction Survey and found that patient satisfaction does not necessarily mean quality health care. Statistics show that those happiest with their care do not necessarily have lower mortality rates or fewer hospital stays than those who either did not respond to surveys or responded negatively.

Patient Satisfaction Takes the Forefront

Given the continuing efforts of national healthcare reform and the impact on Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance, it benefits not only hospitals but also private practices to keep their patients happy. The patient satisfaction ratings are fast becoming a part of the insurance community’s quality assurance assessment.

What used to be word of mouth referrals have turned into reviews on the internet as there are numerous websites that list physicians and let their patients offer feedback. Since reviews can stay on these websites for years, getting a negative review or poor feedback costs the medical practice an untold number of patients, which equals potentially incalculable revenue loss. While no one wants to lose current or potential patients, physicians and other medical personnel and staff cannot simply bow to the whims of each patient either.

Assessing Your Medical Practice for Customer Service and Satisfaction

So what is the answer? First, consider your patients and how they would define a successful experience in your office.

What would their surroundings look like? A pediatrician’s office will be far different than a geriatric oncologist’s office.

The patients will be different, the family of the patients will likely have a different outlook, the activity level would be different. Obviously, the staff would conduct themselves accordingly.

  • Would your patients consider your parking facilities satisfactory for their needs?
  • How are patients and their caregivers greeted in person and on the telephone by office personnel?
  • Is the staff attentive enough in person, by phone, or in correspondence?
  • Would your patients like online check-in or email updates?
  • Do your patients feel that their billing is handled professionally, proficiently?
  • Do they feel they wait too long initially or in the exam room?
  • What do your patients think of the temperature in the clinic; are they too hot in the waiting room or too cold in the exam room?
  • Do your patients feel that they have been heard and understood by staff and physicians before they exit the building?
  • Do they understand all procedures and treatments, diagnoses and medications fully?
  • Are the patients in your clinic satisfied that their needs were met?

Getting Patient Feedback to Improve Customer Service

Knowing your patients and their needs are fundamental to providing satisfactory patient care. If your office has never considered a patient satisfaction survey, perhaps it is time for some feedback.

There are numerous ways to gather patient opinions and feedback from the very simple suggestion box, to staff originated letters requesting feedback, email surveys, to the many companies that offer consumer survey products. Depending on the size and tenure of your practice, the expense can be minimal to very costly so consider carefully the potential return on your investment.

Analyze the Feedback

Next, analyze the feedback. Depending on the vehicle you choose to gather the information, this can be a quick or lengthy process. The important thing is to end up knowing what your patients consider a complete and satisfying experience in relation to your practice.

Additionally, understanding what feedback to address is important. Knowing that three percent of your patients think your waiting room is too cold and six percent think it is too hot is of no critical value, but finding that even three percent consider your staff rude is vitally important. Patient health and medical care are a priority for obvious reasons, but considerations that address the emotional and sometimes psychosocial needs of patients and possibly their loved ones as well are important too.

Address the Results of Your Patient Satisfaction Analysis

Finally, address the results. Knowing your patients, creating surveys, and getting feedback do no good if the data is not considered and the discoveries are ignored. It is important for the livelihood of the medical office to include patient survey results in day-to-day operations.

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