Over the past several decades, healthcare has evolved from a service focused model to a patient-centric, outcome-focused model where patient satisfaction and healthcare outcomes are critical metrics for institutions and private practices alike. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), CMS now ties Medicare reimbursements to patient satisfaction scores. That means patient satisfaction is a new priority for hospitals and healthcare practitioners nationwide. But what does patient satisfaction and the quality of healthcare service delivery really mean to your group practice? Believe it or not, it means more than Medicare reimbursements.
Years ago ‘patient satisfaction’ used to mean patients were simply… well… happy. They kept coming back and they referred their friends and family. On rare occasion, patients left due to dissatisfaction, but for the most part, people kept their general practitioners for a lifetime and those relationships were passed from generation to generation… like priceless heirlooms. They were relationships built on a history of trust, and there was very little that could change them.
Patients’ quality perceptions have been shown to account for 17 to 27 percent of variation in a hospital’s financial measures such as earnings, net revenue and asset returns. Moreover, negative word of mouth can cost $6,000-$400,000 in lost healthcare revenues over one patient’s lifetime.
Today, however, consumers want more, and by more, we mean instant gratification from everything, including their healthcare providers. Our culture now has everything on demand. Want a ride somewhere? Order an Uber car. Need groceries? Order them online and they’ll be delivered to your door the next day. Want a date? Sign up for Tinder and find someone to meet for dinner in less than an hour.
While ‘on demand’ is a completely unrealistic expectation for most healthcare providers, it’s the ‘new normal’ for service delivery expectations in the U.S.
Unfortunately for healthcare providers, that means patients often want instant fixes for their health ailments too – opting for the prescription rather than doing the hard work it typically takes to get their health on track more naturally. While that doesn’t mean doctors have to cave in to the pressures of always delivering quick fixes, it does mean they have to keep a much closer eye on patient satisfaction than ever before.
Whether you have two providers in your group practice, or many, there’s good reason to measure patient satisfaction more formally than you may be doing today. Here are 5 practical reasons to get moving on a plan.
- Patient outcomes are linked to patient satisfaction. Not surprisingly, patients who are more satisfied with their healthcare experience are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and maintain their relationships with providers over the long haul. For your practice, that translates into lower readmission rates, reduced hospital stays and overall reduction in burdens on the healthcare system.
- Practices with higher patient satisfaction have more patients and revenue. Satisfied patients are more likely to keep coming back, and to recommend providers to family and friends, giving your practice ‘free positive advertising’ that equates to increased revenue. Patients have plenty of choice these days, so they often look to family and friends for referrals. Be sure the story they tell about your practice is an overwhelmingly positive one, then use that feedback to find new patients and revenue.
- Higher patient satisfaction reduces malpractice risk. As much as positive referrals fuel growth for your practice, conversely, practices with low patient satisfaction scores are shown to have higher risk of being named in lawsuits. While only one in eight patients who suffer an adverse medical outcome due to actual negligence file a malpractice claim, patients are more likely to file a claim when aggravating circumstances are involved.That suggests their decision to file a claim involves more than perceived negligence. Aggravating circumstances typically include poor communication and lack of disclosure. Leveraging modern technology such as HIPAA-compliant video to improve patient communications and engagement throughout their healthcare journey can have have a dramatic effect on satisfaction scores.
- Improve process and systems based on real data. Many group practices are reluctant to conduct patient satisfaction surveys, yet in doing so, often uncover remarkable findings about what’s truly important to patients, and it’s not always what they would think. While many ambulatory providers believe wait times are most important to patients, survey data may reveal that the doctor’s bedside manner and the staff’s attitude of caring override wait times by a mile. Uncovering hidden trends in satisfaction survey data can help you streamline and improve processes and systems and understand clearly how patients perceive the experience.
- Get your entire staff ‘rowing’ in the same , patient-focused direction. Your patients interact with multiple members of your staff every time they visit. If the experience is inconsistent to say the least, or downright negative with even one staff member, then patient satisfaction surveys can quickly reveal the sources of negative experience and give you objective data from which to act. Not only does the doctor’s bedside manner matter, patients want to feel comfortable, welcomed and cared for at every step in their journey. It’s important to ensure your frontline workers have consistent, positive interactions with every patient, every time.
Measuring patient satisfaction starts with asking and listening. Since many group practices do not conduct satisfaction surveys, just doing so with your patients will go a long way in building their respect and trust. Be sure to review and take action on survey feedback that points to overarching trends that are in your control.
Surveys also give you a clear, data-driven method for ensuring your staff are all delivering a positive , consistent experience that will pay dividends to your practice for years to come. If you need an easier way to improve patient engagement and satisfaction, check out a HIPAA-compliant healthcare video recording system.