It is often difficult for physicians and practice staff to assess patients’ satisfaction with their practices. Did a patient wait too long? Did the physician allow time for the patient’s questions, and were follow-up instructions clear? Were the staff members helpful and courteous?
Patients may not freely share their impressions with a physician or practice manager, but will offer their opinions to friends, family and consumer rating websites, such as Angie’s List or Yelp. When patient feedback is collected and acted upon in a meaningful way, the physician’s office can use the data to create satisfied and loyal patients who will help a practice grow.
Remember some of the successful experiences you’ve had as a customer or patient in the past. What made those experiences exceptional? Incorporate those elements into your success measures. Consider how the following elements relate to your definition of a successful experience:
- hours and access that are convenient for patient base (same-day appointments, after-hours availability for urgent needs)
- online medical consultation and services
- staff knowledge
- the physician’s professionalism (bedside manner)
- patient education opportunities
For more information on creating a successful patient experience, view the following resources:
Patient satisfaction is not just about interaction with the physician. The experience the patient has when making an appointment, being greeted at the front desk, working with staff on billing issues and any other instance of patient-practice interaction can affect overall satisfaction. Ensure that the entire practice staff understands what you want the patient experience to be and how they can contribute.
For more information on open access scheduling and the benefits and challenges associated with adopting this type of system, refer to the, "Open access scheduling: Could it improve your patients' experiences and your bottom line?," document.
For more information on how practice staff can improve the patient experience, refer to the, "Front office staff as directors of first impressions," document.
The vulnerability that patients often feel in any health care setting can result in them being slow to share their concerns. Make your office a welcoming environment for open communication. Additionally, developing communication channels to reach your patients outside of the office is a powerful way to nurture satisfaction and keep patients informed. Communications channels may include:
- online medical consultations (e-visits)
- a practice website including hours of operation, physician/staff biographies, contact information and wellness information
- welcome communications for new patients, including important practice processes, hours, emergency contact numbers, etc.
- e-mail communications for existing patients (practice news, wellness information and care reminders)
- printed wellness brochures
For more information on improving communication with patients, view the following resources:
The AMA encourages physicians to proactively measure and respond to patient satisfaction data. Physicians’ practices that collect and act on patient satisfaction data can:
- inform quality improvement efforts
- make informed staffing decisions
- gain a competitive edge
- make improvements in patients’ health, compliance and confidence in treatment
- inform contract negotiations
- use information to contradict negative ratings/profiles
- give patients a constructive outlet to provide feedback on their experience
- reduce malpractice suits
- prepare for and improve performance on federal and private patient satisfaction initiatives
- show patients that their physicians care about their input
Consider sharing what you’ve learned with your patient base and let them know how their suggestions will translate to improvements to your practice operations.
Measuring patient satisfaction is also important for physician practices because it is a common metric considered by Medicare and private insurers. Many insurers are now incorporating patient satisfaction into their profiling and rating programs, with several hiring outside companies to measure data to assist in patient decision-making or payer reimbursement. Some additional consumer- and industry-facing initiatives focused on patient satisfaction are as follows:
- Clinician and Group Practice Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CG-CAHPS) is developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Medicare will soon require physicians to implement this physician practice-based version of the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS). The patient experience data will be available to the public via the Physician Compare website by 2013, as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Quality and patient experience measures will be listed.
- American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is incorporating patient experience data collection into the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) requirements. ABMS will use several of the CG-CAHPS questions as part of the measurement of interpersonal and communication skills requirements.
- Consumer rating sites often have an unscientific and biased approach to rating a physician on patient experience data. Small samples, inconsistent validation practices and a lack of dispute resolution procedures are common. Unfortunately, many consumers use these sites in their decision making.
When physicians collect patient experience data with their own tool, they can give patients an alternativeto online rating sites. The AMA offers a surveying product through a partnership with Press Ganey. Explore the RealTime patient satisfaction solution to see if it’s right for your practice.
When physicians collect patient experience data with their own tool, they can give patients an alternative to online rating sites. The AMA offers this surveying product through a partnership with Press Ganey. Explore this solution to see if it’s right for your practice.