Just as you diligently prepare your space for optimal patient safety, you should also nurture the quality of care you provide to improve patient satisfaction at every touchpoint.
You can achieve this next-level standard of care with your own team by implementing best practices for patient satisfaction in healthcare.
In this article we will cover:
- What is patient satisfaction in healthcare?
- Why is patient satisfaction important in healthcare?
- What affects patient satisfaction?
- How do you measure patient satisfaction in healthcare?
- How does patient satisfaction affect reimbursement?
- What improves patient satisfaction?
- Can technology help improve patient satisfaction in healthcare?
- How to start improving patient satisfaction today
What is patient satisfaction in healthcare?
Patient satisfaction is a measure of the quality care determined by how positively or negatively the patient perceives their care.
How happy are your patients—both during their office visit and at home, as they follow your protocols? The answer to this question defines patient satisfaction, which is just as important as clinical outcomes. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine cites studies that have linked patient satisfaction to improved health outcomes.
Why is patient satisfaction important in healthcare?
You don’t need to be told why patient satisfaction in healthcare should be a priority. And you know it when you see it. The patient that walks out of your office beaming with relief and completely confident in your healing abilities—that’s the perfect candidate for your patient satisfaction survey. Providing a positive healthcare experience means more positive reviews, which means more trust in the services you provide.
Research shows that well over half of medical professionals care just as much about improving patient satisfaction in healthcare as they do about improving clinical workflow and patient safety. Healthcare is patient-driven now more than ever before, as patients expect to be treated as people—not merely as conditions or numbers. Even just a bit of authentic engagement with your patients can go a long way to help drive your bottom line. Patient satisfaction in healthcare is truly a win-win for all parties involved.
Your satisfaction depends on theirs.
Over the last couple of decades, some fascinating research has repeatedly illustrated how patient satisfaction in healthcare can ultimately benefit providers. When your patients are happier with their experience of care, you’re likely to notice:
- Greater loyalty: Like in any field, satisfaction feeds on itself, as patients who feel it develop a bond—that, after a while, no other practitioner can replace.
- Higher retention: Patient satisfaction leads to trust, and trust leads to compliance. Your recommended check-ups and follow-ups will be much easier to execute for a patient who’s actually looking forward to them.
- Increased profitability: Not only do they book more appointments, but patients who are loyal and compliant may attract new ones—potentially, entire expanded families. As your reputation grows and referrals become a regular part of your practice, retaining them will become easier, as will increasing your profitability. Patient satisfaction in healthcare is a proven bottom-line booster.
- Higher staff morale and career satisfaction: Who doesn’t like knowing their work changes lives? That knowledge is a huge motivator for coming into the office and doing one’s best work, even on the most challenging days. Patient satisfaction in healthcare bonds care teams, which often feel like families after collaborative long term care.
- Increased productivity: As with any profession, high morale brings higher productivity. Members of the team who are passionate about their work tend to do more of it—without counting the hours. When clinicians enjoy their co-workers and feel comfortable in their work environment, turnover is much less frequent. Patient satisfaction in healthcare instills pride and joy in the care team as well as in the patients.
- Reduced malpractice suits: Patients who are satisfied, trusting, and loyal are less likely to ever consider suing, even if a small mistake should occur over the course of a lifetime of treatment. Research from across the world has demonstrated a direct correlation between patient satisfaction in healthcare and malpractice suits. Knowing how your patients rate you and why can help you understand—then strategically mitigate—your risk.
All of the above may also increase the satisfaction of clinicians, both professionally and personally. Happy patients make for happy care teams—inspiring an even deeper motivation to maintain high-performance reputations. Again, like in any other industry, success and positivity feed on themselves.
As you make those checks on your daily appointment list, keep in mind that each scheduled patient could be waiting for medical care in your competitor’s waiting room. Patient satisfaction in healthcare is a critical element of your practice management and should be on top of mind at every appointment.
Today more than ever before, healthcare takes a myriad of forms, and patients have more treatment alternatives. If you don’t strive for patient satisfaction in healthcare settings, you may lose patients—or even allow them to lose faith in the system altogether and never want to return to any medical waiting room. Stronger relationships simply lead to longer relationships. It’s a win-win scenario.
What affects patient satisfaction?
A wide range of medical journals has analyzed why patients leave an office satisfied and psychologically prepared to return for their follow up. Let’s consider some of the most commonly cited factors.
According to the National Library of Medicine, longer wait times negatively impact patients’ perceptions of clinical care. Those who wait longer—be it at a medical center, emergency department, or federal department of health—perceive their diagnosis, instructions, and healthcare delivery as less trustworthy. Patient perspectives are taken very seriously now that all health systems are pursuing higher patient satisfaction scores.
Many patients end up visiting the emergency department because they are unable to reach a primary care provider. So, improving patients’ telephone communication with primary care practice providers is critical—it can increase care quality and decrease care costs.
Recording phone interactions, storing them in patients’ electronic medical records, and then discussing outcomes at a monthly quality staff meeting, can help your practice improve healthcare quality. Patients’ perceptions of care quality improve rather quickly when their questions are answered more frequently and when their appointments are easier to schedule. These quality measures enhance customer satisfaction in healthcare settings and improve opinions about the healthcare industry in general.
Patients’ perspectives on today’s quality of healthcare are highly linked with cleanliness. They want to see that their clinical care provider is committed to infection prevention—and there’s no better way to show them this than to maintain an impeccably clean office environment.
When patients walk into your office, do they see an abundance of hand sanitizer and infection control signage? Do you offer a face mask or other sanitation measures? Are your glass entryway doors sparkling clean? Are your carpeting and flooring spotless? Do your restrooms have a smell? Are exam rooms disinfected regularly? Every successful healthcare system must demonstrate a robust commitment to maintaining a safe, clean environment. Patient satisfaction in healthcare settings requires constant attention to minute details—sitting in a waiting room inspires close observation.
The correlation between patient education, patient empowerment, and patient satisfaction in healthcare has been researched extensively and follows what common sense may conclude. Whether it’s in primary care, hospital care, or medical center care, patients who understand their conditions and treatments and feel more empowered to participate in their health outcomes are more satisfied patients.
There are many ways to educate patients and many different preferences among them, so it’s best to offer as many options as possible—brochures, email campaigns, in-office videos, treatment demos, and, most importantly, face-to-face explanations and responses to even the most seemingly simplistic questions. Your care quality improvement will surely be noted by patients who feel educated about their care. Patient satisfaction in healthcare begins with patient empowerment.
How do you measure patient satisfaction in healthcare?
It’s not easy for healthcare providers to observe and quantify patient satisfaction in healthcare. That’s why the healthcare industry has devised these innovative measuring methods and devices.
Patient Satisfaction Questionnaires
Patient satisfaction surveys have been used successfully to translate subjective patients’ perceptions into quantifiable data that inspires improvements in healthcare delivery.
To measure patient satisfaction, health systems must first determine which aspects of the patient experience they should measure. Researchers agree on a set of valid survey questions concerning specific patient populations. Finally, they reach out to random individuals to request face-to-face interviews. If that’s not possible, they survey their subjects via phone, mail, email, or text.
The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey (or HCAHPS survey) is the first patients’ perspectives survey of the hospital experience that has been standardized and reported in the U.S. It’s a critical indicator of patient satisfaction in healthcare.
The HCAHPS patient experience survey asks discharged patients 29 questions about their recent hospital care. It assesses the hospital experience with robust questions about MD and RN communication skills and care team responsiveness, as well as the cleanliness and tranquility of the facility, prescription and discharge instructions, and the general service quality of healthcare provided during a patient’s stay.
Primary care providers and other specialists are also quickly getting on board with this model and trying to achieve the highest scores possible, so as to keep up with their competition. This robust competitiveness for scores has been quickly and steadily improving patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Feedback and complaints
All clinicians should provide a forum where your patients’ voices can be heard. Creative ways of collecting feedback from patients might include an office guest book, “great idea” box, contests, and giveaways, or even “Get to Know Us” events hosted at local venues where your staff can solicit opinions that help you improve quality measures. Ask if there is anything else your team can do to enhance care delivery—you never know what tiny change can improve your patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Though patient feedback should not be your sole practice assessment, it can certainly clue you into patients’ perspectives that can either inspire them to return or turn them away. Because you always want to be improving your care delivery model, announcing the fact that you’re seeking feedback will allow you to collect more data more consistently, and enable you to achieve excellent patient satisfaction ratings in healthcare scores.
When patients are researching potential healthcare providers, the first thing they do is jump online and peruse reviews. In fact, recent data shows that 80% of patients now use the internet to make healthcare decisions.
The same survey found that the majority of patients base provider choices on reviews—if they see one with less than three stars, they can change their mind about a referral, and they may even switch providers after reading other patients’ assessments. Patient satisfaction in healthcare requires constant monitoring of and responding to online reviews.
How does patient satisfaction affect reimbursement?
Research by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services demonstrates a clear relationship between improved quality of care, patient satisfaction in healthcare, and reimbursement. When hospitals and other health systems compete for customers, they end up lowering costs, improving care quality, and upleveling patient outcomes.
These results have shed light on how hospitals can improve care processes that impact reimbursement. Medicare reimbursements, for example, are partially dependent on patient satisfaction in the healthcare portion of the survey. According to the AMA Journal of Ethics, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services withholds 1% of Medicare payments—30% of which are linked to HCAHPS scores.
Compliance regulations often lead to reimbursement penalties for hospitals with low patient satisfaction in healthcare metrics. Surveys help rank performance of healthcare organizations and pinpoint the processes that need improvement. Some hospitals forfeit certain reimbursements when their survey results are not up to par.
Patient satisfaction in healthcare surveys also helps build a healthcare organization’s brand reputation, which enables it to attain more reimbursement and market share. Surveys are valuable, strategic assessments that drive competitive advantage and market share growth. Best practices at many high-performing hospitals reward a care team’s effective communication of patient financial obligations.
What improves patient satisfaction?
When your team is more efficiently processing data and managing workflows, clinicians are freed up to focus on connecting with patients. These industry best practices can help:
- Determine what your patient expects from the visit. Along with the facts, they may be craving reassurance and relationships with you and your staff. Asking them directly may work for some, but others will show you what they really need.Maybe they’re intently reading your pamphlets to fully understand their condition and your treatment. Perhaps they’re studying the credentials on your wall to reassure themselves that they’re indeed in good hands. Maybe they’re craving human connection and trying to joke with your staff. Observe, take note, and respond accordingly. If you fulfill their expectations, you’ll earn their trust and, eventually, their praise.
- Really listen. Don’t jump straight into solutions before understanding the patient’s experience and perception of their unique health circumstances. Accept the fact that people now do more research and ask more technical questions. Although it may be tempting to roll your eyes at a Googler-turned-expert-overnight, be prepared to engage and even praise these patients. They yearn to understand the science behind their conditions and your care.
- Allow them to be part of decision-making. When a diagnosis is not immediately clear and multiple care options are on the table, ask patients to choose which treatment or regimen they’d like to try first. Some may want to dive right into the most aggressive course of action, while others prefer to take more conservative, less invasive measures in the beginning.No two patients react to treatments exactly the same way—so you may as well experiment together. The more in-control they feel of their health, the less stress they’ll experience. And anxiety has never helped any patient heal. Remember this when aiming for better patient satisfaction in healthcare.
- Get to know the real person inside the patient. Character and lifestyles offer crucial clues to care plans. Is the patient hyper-active? Sedentary? Does the patient eat a healthy diet, or fuel up once a day on fast food? Do they prefer following doctors’ orders immediately, or reading about them first? Is the patient organized? Forgetful? How stressful will it be for them to stick to a complex regimen?Understanding the character traits that make up an individual will enable you to personalize treatment protocols at the first appointment—instead of managing surprises on the second or third. Engaging with the human behind the condition helps them feel connection and trust, all while helping you deliver more effective care.
- Dress the part. Surveys show that patients prefer to be treated by healthcare providers who are dressed semi-formally. Giving exams in a three-piece suit may be intimidating. On the other hand, wearing a surfing T-shirt to your first appointment will probably lead to questions about your credibility—no matter how alternative your specialty may be. The majority of patients also prefer to see an easy-to-read name badge somewhere on their healthcare practitioner. And of course, always wear your smile. It’s contagious.
Can technology help improve patient satisfaction in healthcare?
Like all industries, the healthcare industry has adopted technology that improves patient services. In today’s value-based healthcare paradigm, your compensation is no longer based on the quantity, but on the quality of the health services you provide. Improving the care that clinicians on your hospital staff are providing is difficult if you don’t have proper data about patient experience. Technology enables you to measure and qualify value-based medical care—and, to greatly improve patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Just as robotics can improve surgery outcomes, analytical software can improve the quality of care—for both giver and receiver. Like hybrid operating rooms can enable minimally invasive procedures, software can ensure less strenuous protocol compliance for your patients. Similarly to how infection-detecting technologies make patients feel more confident when stepping into your hospital, software solutions can reassure them that their medical records are bug-free.
Faster, more streamlined communication and information access relieves much of the potential stress on both patient and provider. And there’s so much more a quality platform can do for your team while it promotes higher patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Are you striving to align your organization’s goals and mission? Struggling to improve your team’s transparency and accountability? Trying to streamline processes or fill communication gaps that leave team members stressed and confused? You can accomplish all of these goals and better focus on patient satisfaction in healthcare with the right Patient Relationship Management software.
A high-quality Patient Relationship Management system will soon become your best friend, as it simplifies your days, weeks, and months by enabling you to do the following:
Streamline provider workflow and communications
Patient monitoring technology can help prevent missed emails or texts from getting opened too late to be useful. Tracking patients’ progress allows providers to assess improvement, adjust medications, and schedule interventions.
Digital charting allows physicians, nurses, and staff members to catch changes and pivot more quickly and easily. Fewer mistakes mean more satisfied patients—especially those who are experiencing multi-systemic conditions that require a variety of specialists.
Reduce clinician burnout
Say goodbye to burnout caused by redundant tasks and repeated messaging. Technology greatly reduces clinician workload and stress levels. No more time-consuming charting and data entry that have nothing to do with actual patient care.
The insights these types of platforms provide can significantly improve your patient satisfaction scores. Once they’re authentically on board with your mission, results-driven team members will be more than happy to embrace any intuitive technology that enhances your culture of care—and improves your patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Boost patient compliance
Technology makes all processes transparent and synchronized, so staying in touch with patients can be accomplished with a few simple clicks of the mouse. That means it’s easier to stay on top of them, enabling patient compliance and optimizing the effectiveness of your healthcare strategies.
Technology can help every healthcare system gently prod patients to follow the advice of their healthcare providers via texts or email reminders alerting them to take medication, make lifestyle changes, and attend follow-up appointments.
Digital platforms can also help educate patients about their conditions and treatments, inspiring engagement in their own care. Now that recording and retrieving data—as well as educating people—is easier than ever, providers can catch errant patients and inspire healthier behavior in real-time. Compliance leads to better outcomes, which improves patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Minimize prescription error
Many healthcare professionals initially turn to technology to promote patient safety. It can reduce medication error by allowing clinicians to electronically send prescriptions to pharmacies. Medical alerts and clinical flags are visible to entire care teams and can be quickly, efficiently resolved—without the patient ever becoming aware of them. Prescription quality improvement has been a coveted healthcare system benefit for specialists across the board.
On the patient side, medication doses are often skipped or overused. Some people have trouble remembering when and how much medication to take—which can lead to antibiotic resistance and prolonged recovery. Reminders sent via emails, text messages, or even automated calls can greatly reduce medication error and misuse.
Improve clinical outcomes
By upleveling access to current patient information and patient history, technology helps providers develop holistic care strategies. Diagnostic or medication prescription errors are more easily prevented when patient information is complete, robust, and shared by all providers who interact with the patient.
Information technology enables a bird’s-eye view of patients’ overall health, history, and the patient’s expectations—which makes it easier to catch potential mistakes and anticipate compliance gaps.
Minimizing anxiety and communication breakdowns saves time, energy, and resources for both patient and provider, enabling higher healthcare quality, more favorable outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Lower overall costs
Efficient distribution of resources over time will inevitably lead to cost-cutting, which can help ensure that clinicians’ compensation remains at satisfactory levels. The biggest factor in today’s skyrocketing healthcare costs is the bureaucratic insurance claims process—time-consuming, labor-intensive, and frustrating for both patients and providers.
Technology can help speed up claims processing, improve turnaround times, and ultimately cut costs. Automated data collection and communication help document all events that lead to a claim, improving staff efficiency and lowering healthcare costs—thus, increasing patient satisfaction in healthcare.
When choosing your platform for enhanced patient satisfaction in healthcare, make sure it’s customizable to your organization’s needs and team’s quirks. Check to see if it allows you to make your own rules while building the best platform for your particular workflow.
Make sure it empowers you to see the big picture so you can make data-driven decisions. Most importantly, ensure it gives your team the greatest advantage by hosting all communications in one place. You’d be surprised how quickly good software helps you put more smiles on more patients’ faces.
Start improving patient satisfaction today.
Welkin has helped dozens of medical organizations just like yours earn their well-deserved five stars in patients’ eyes. We have set them up to use each care touchpoint to garner maximum patient satisfaction in healthcare spaces.
If you’re determined to do the same, tap into years of patient management success with our Guide to Patient Experience. Enable the workday to flow smoothly for your team members so they can deliver an unmatched quality of care to the patients who need it—at the times when it matters most.