8 Simple Tips for Improving Patient Satisfaction
As medical reimbursement becomes more closely tied to patient satisfaction, healthcare providers are placing an increased emphasis on improving the overall patient experience. Now more than ever, setting the standards for customer service is of key importance. Research has shown that patient satisfaction has a direct impact on clinical outcomes, patient retention, and medical malpractice claims. Yet, many medical groups and healthcare organizations still continue to struggle with satisfying their patients.
By putting some simple strategies into place, a practice can improve patient satisfaction and boost patient perception. There are many different ideas on how to improve the patient experience, below are just a few simple suggestions:
- Smile more often: A happy staff can significantly improve patient satisfaction. A simple smile and personal greeting may seem obvious, but in many offices the front desk staff refuses to look up from what they are doing to acknowledge or make eye contact with a patient when they are signing in for their appointment. Front desk staff is the first and last impression of your office, so it is prudent to invest in happy people.
- Eye Contact: Nothing says "I don't care" like a staff member staring at her computer or cell phone while a patient is speaking. Whether it is a staff member, nurse, or physician, reviewing charts or staring at a computer screen rather than the patient when they are speaking gives the impression that you are not listening. While multi-tasking is often necessary, it is critical to maintain good eye contact so that the patient knows you are listening.
- Apologize when necessary: If the doctor is running late, a simple, heartfelt apology can go a long way with a frustrated patient. If office staff cannot seem to find the lab results or they have misplaced paperwork, an apology is necessary. While this seems obvious, it is surprising how many offices fail to recognize the patient’s time is important too.
- Acknowledge patients by name: Everyone likes to be acknowledged. Acknowledging patients by name is a simple way to personalize their experience. Make it an expectation for staff to greet your patients by their names. This simple act is often overlooked, but it can do wonders for making your patients feel valued by your practice.
- Listen: Listen to the patient without interrupting them. Active listening is an important part of effective interaction and a skill that tells patients you are interested in what they are saying. Although the provider may be listening there are certain techniques that can signal they are actively engaged such as: not appearing to be rushed, eye contact, posture that is open and inviting, using gestures, asking relevant questions, and repeating part or all of what the patient says.
- Explain: Explain to the patient what is going to happen next. It might be the patient's first time at the practice or the first time for a particular procedure. A simple explanation usually won’t require a significant amount of time, but it can make a patient feel much more comfortable knowing what to expect.
- Be Proactive: Encourage employees to be proactive in their response to situations. Each employee should be responsible for making sure every patient is satisfied. If a patient has an issue or complaint, answering 'I don't know' is never acceptable. There is always an answer or a solution to the problem. If you do not know, find someone who does.
- If you don’t know find out: Every employee should know how to handle customer complaints and concerns. “It is not my job”, “I don’t know” or “I am not the right person” are not ever appropriate answers. “Let me find out” or “Let me help you” is the correct way to respond to any patient with an inquiry.
All of these best practices are simple ways to improve customer service and patient satisfaction. Though they may seem very basic, many offices are not utilizing the most fundamental interpersonal skills in their daily interactions with patients. By making these basic actions a standard in your office, your patients will experience increased satisfaction and have a better overall experience.