8 easy ways to improve patient satisfaction
We all know that patient satisfaction is not only the way to keep your current patients happy, but it’s how you get new patients through your door. Since the healthcare industry is more competitive than ever, patient satisfaction is the key to both your reputation and your livelihood.
But what do patients want? It turns out they don’t mind the cold rooms and paper-thin gowns. What they want is to be seen and heard. Patients want to be treated with respect and feel as though you’re their partner, not their boss.
Based on our searches, here are some easy ways to make this happen.
1. Encourage a positive attitude among your staff
Just like your spouse is a reflection of you, so is your staff. A 2019 study found that the most important determiner of patient satisfaction was the medical staff’s attitude.
Some ways to foster a positive attitude among your staff:
- Model a positive attitude
- Connect with your staff on a personal level
- Make sure your staff knows that you appreciate them
- Show understanding and empathy if they’re going through a personal or family issue
2. Time together, not time waiting, is what counts
It probably comes as no surprise that patients hate waiting to see the doctor. The less time they spend waiting, the more satisfied they say they are with their doctor.
But that’s not the only part of the visit where time is important. Patients really want to spend more time with their doctor. They want to be seen and heard. Even just a few minutes can make a difference. If you can’t spend extra time, making the visit more personal can give them the quality they’re looking for.
3. Listen carefully and intently
When your patient talks, listen. And don’t interrupt.
From the moment you walk in the door, give your patient the opportunity to speak. You can start by asking what they’d like to get out of the visit, in addition to the main reason for their appointment. They might be afraid to ask for assurance about their health or a referral for a second opinion, so give them that opportunity.
Toward the end of the visit, ask for their thoughts about what you’ve said. Do they agree with a diagnosis and planned next steps? Would they like more information? Have a conversation about how they’re feeling and what they’d like to do next.
4. Make personal connections
Keeping up with every patient’s family life and work life seems impossible when you see so many patients. How are you supposed to remember everything about everyone?
During your visit, or immediately after you leave the room, write down what they shared about themselves, their family or work, and their life. Make it a practice to add that information to their chart along with their medical information. Did they start a new job? Have they taken up a new hobby? Are they planning a big trip? If so, make a note so you can ask them for an update next time.
The more personal you are, the happier your patients will be.
5. Educate your patients and encourage self-advocacy
The famous Francis Bacon quote, “Knowledge is power,” is famous for a reason. The more details you provide a patient, the better they’ll understand the reasons for your advice and the more likely they will be to follow it. Plus, it may inspire them to learn more on their own, which leads to better self-advocacy.
To make sure patients don’t forget what you’ve discussed, provide them with educational materials. This could be a pamphlet, a list of websites to visit or even an email that summarizes next steps.
6. Include family members when requested
Some patients want family members to be a part of their team. Others feel strong-armed into letting a family member take over. If you believe your patient is able to decide on their own, ask them privately if they’d like to have any family members involved.
If they do want their family involved, make sure you engage with everyone equally. Don’t turn all of your attention to one and ignore the other. The quality of your interpersonal care is key to patient (and family member) satisfaction.
7. Dress for the job
Believe it or not, what you wear does matter. In a 2018 study, over half of patients said that their physician’s attire was important. Whether you’re an ophthalmologist, gynecologist or orthopedist, that white coat still makes a difference. If you’re a surgeon, many patients are just as satisfied if they see you in scrubs.
Researchers in these studies also asked opinions of formal vs. casual attire. Just like the white coat, patients prefer traditional business clothing under the white coat.
8. Use email
Communication is key. And these days, email is the way to go for most patients. But before you fire off a friendly, “I hope you’re doing well,” we suggest you follow the American College of Physicians’ Ethical Guidance for Electronic Patient-Physician Communication:
- Don’t let email replace in-person appointments.
- Discuss what type of information you will and won’t share electronically, and get the patient’s consent before you send your first email.
- Use a patient portal if you can.
- Document all emails in the patient’s medical record.
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