Patient giving the thumbs up with her doctors in the background

Boosting Patient Satisfaction

Communicating clearly with patients may not be the easiest task for many medical personnel.  They are focused on the care of the patient and their path to continued health.  Those medical personnel who do not focus on clear communication and the patient’s satisfaction of their care may be compromising their business and its growth though.

Utilize Patient Feedback

 

Person filling out a customer satisfaction form

 

In 2013, the Medical Group Management Association conducted a research project to more fully understand the impact that patient satisfaction has on medical practices.  They found that 80 percent of the best performing practices utilized some form of patient satisfaction feedback.  These could be surveys or web forms that allowed patients to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  Having staff to quickly follow up on that feedback greatly increased the satisfaction of patients.  It also allowed medical practitioners to improve their service delivery.

While this has been a voluntary practice in medical marketing, it is becoming more of a common process in the field.  Health insurance companies and the government health insurance directives now rely on patient satisfaction responses to evaluate how a practice is performing.  Practices that employ surveys that evaluate patient satisfaction may find themselves ahead of the curve.  Granted, these efforts can take valuable staff time but the end result is beneficial for the overall business.

Surveys and feedback through a website can do more for a business than simply refining how the business operates.  Many optometric websites have noted that they have found that it lets the patient know that the staff truly cares for their welfare and wants to serve them better.  It also creates a stronger connection and dialogue that is often absent in many medical environments today.  While patient feedback can improve performance in a practice, it can also create lasting relationships between a caregiver and the client.  In the end, satisfied clients are more likely to refer their friends and family to a physician.  It has been noted that clients who are engaged with a medical practice will generally refer at least 18 people to the practice.  This is a valuable reason to expend the staff time it takes to garner patient feedback and follow up on it.

Give Your Patients Options

The request for patient satisfaction can, and should, take several forms.  Not everyone is comfortable using online tools so practices that use a comment card, as well as, a follow-up email or web form, will have greater success getting the feedback that they are looking for.  It should be noted that any email communication should be limited as people as asked for feedback for almost every business they interact with.

Before starting a feedback program, medical practices should clearly plan out how the information they receive will be used.  Understanding which staff person will be responsible for following up on feedback will streamline the entire process.  Also, it is important to clearly define how information will be reported to the physician or dentist and on what schedule.  For instance, in dental marketing strategies, this allows the dentists to make important decisions about the overall practice.  Included in the planning process is deciding what questions need to be asked.  Surveys that include only general, open-ended questions will garner few responses and most likely, elicit less valuable information.  When crafting a survey, it is better to include a mix of response types such as ratings, as well as, a final open-ended question that allows the client to add any additional information that they feel is important for the medical practice to know.  The topics that can be covered are far ranging and specific to each practice.  Many practices ask about the ease of appointment scheduling, wait times, time spent with the physician and asking if the patient would refer the practice to a friend.  These are general areas.  Each staff member will need to decide what is most important for them to understand to improve service delivery.  It is essential that surveys or requests for feedback be kept short and simple.  Questions should target all aspects of the patient experience but be kept to a minimum to maximize the number of people who will agree to respond.  Remember, dissatisfied patients, if they are not followed up with, will simply go to another practice.  They will also share their experience with their friends and relatives thus preventing the practice from reaching those potential clients.

Ask the Right Questions

 

Business man surrounded by comment bubbles with one-word questions written in them

 

If a physician or dentist suspects that there are problem areas or staff members within their practice, they can insert more specific questions to draw out information that will allow them to improve their practice.  These questions can address issues such as client care, customer service and wait times.  At times, simply asking, “What do we do better to improve your experience” can allow patients the freedom to point to areas that would make their visits easier.  Concluding a survey with this type of open-ended question can give a medical professional insight into aspects of their practice that they may not have previously considered.

Many practices with medical websites find that response rates may be fairly low but the information they do glean is high quality.  In designing a customer satisfaction program, the practitioner will need to decide when they must take decisive action on a problematic area.  Many strive for a 20 percent response rate from clients.  The use of multiple survey methods helps them achieve that.  For smaller, more specialized practices, this response rate may be lower.  However, when a physician sees repeated comments on a particular issue within a set timeframe, this can give them the motive to take action to take corrective steps.

When staff notices a trend in patient comments, they should become a topic of staff meetings.  The inclusion of staff allows for a more objective view of the feedback.  Staff are also able to give creative solutions to improve performance because they more closely interact with patients on a daily basis.  Also, staff members in different roles will have diverse perspectives on the improvements that will have the most impact on the improvement of the practice.  This level of staff interaction also engages them in the decision-making process and cements their commitment to overall improvement.

If a customer satisfaction survey program is planned well, it can have a significant impact on the development of a successful practice.  Medical practitioners dedicated to improving their service delivery to their clients can gain valuable insights by including multiple feedback opportunities to patients.  Not only does it engage the patient, it also lets them know that the staff truly care about their experience in the office.

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