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10 things patients hate about healthcare practices

Lack of online patient scheduling and other shortcomings could be affecting your patient retention.

unhappy patients in waiting room

Patients choose to receive care from your practice, so if they aren’t satisfied, they’ll likely head elsewhere. Finding your replacement shouldn’t be too difficult either, considering there are close to 1 million professionally active physicians in the U.S. as of October 2018, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

To keep your practice bustling, you need to provide the level of service your patients desire. Here’s a look at several factors that cause patients to seek care elsewhere.

10 ways healthcare practices commonly frustrate patients

1. Lack of online patient scheduling

If patients still have to call your office to request an appointment, it’s time to modernize your system. Results of a recent survey revealed 81 percent of patients would prefer to schedule doctor’s appointments online, and 40 percent want this convenience so badly, they would consider switching providers. Online patient scheduling offers 24/7 access to appointment bookings from anywhere, making life easier for everyone.

2. Unfriendly office staff

Every person at your practice contributes to the overall patient experience. If people dread picking up the phone to make an appointment because they don’t want to deal with your rude receptionist, that’s a real problem. No matter how much they value your care, if your office staff makes patients uncomfortable, there’s a possibility they won’t return.

3. Subpar communication between appointments

More than half (52.4 percent) of patients who missed at least one medical appointment in the past year forgot to attend or cancel, and 28.6 percent incorrectly noted the time, according to a 2017 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) survey.

Sending automated emails or text messages to confirm appointments and remind patients of upcoming dates they’re scheduled to be in your office increases front office efficiency. It also reduces no-shows and cancellations, while boosting patient retention.

4. Not feeling heard

If you don’t ask your patients questions or you cut them off when they’re trying to explain their symptoms, don’t expect to be held in high regard. Patients deserve your time and respect — even if you think they’re overreacting or are off-base with their self-diagnosis.

5. Inability to give direct feedback

Patients appreciate having a platform to speak their mind. Many aren’t comfortable sharing feedback face-to-face, but they’re happy to complete a post-visit survey.

Sending an automated survey after each visit shows people you respect their opinion and welcome their suggestions. It’s one of the best patient retention strategies, because it allows you to address issues in a timely manner, ultimately strengthening your online reputation.

6. Difficulty getting an appointment

When patients have a health concern, they want an appointment as soon as possible. However, a 2017 Merritt Hawkins survey revealed it takes an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient appointment in 15 major U.S. metropolitan areas. Leaving a few appointment slots open for last-minute bookings or offering group appointments can allow you to serve patients when they need you most.

7. Long office wait times

Most patients don’t expect to be examined as soon as they walk into your office, but you won’t score any points by keeping them waiting too long. The vast majority of people (84 percent) consider wait time at least somewhat important, and 30 percent have even walked out of an appointment because of a long wait, according to a 2018 Vitals survey.

8. Uncaring bedside manner

No doubt, you’re a very skilled doctor, but if your bedside manner is lacking, you’re probably not too popular with patients. Kindness and compassion go a long way, so give your patients the same caring treatment you’d want your own loved ones to receive.

9. Poor phone habits

When a patient calls your office with a question, they expect to receive a response the same day. You might look at the message and consider it a non-urgent manner, but it’s not likely they share this sentiment. If you can’t return the call, always make sure a member of your staff has it covered before everyone leaves for the day.

10. Not being kept in the loop

From a patient’s perspective, it’s maddening to undergo tests at a doctor’s office and have to wait weeks to receive results — if they get a call at all. Keep patients satisfied by letting them know at the time of the test how long it will take to get results, then calling as soon as they’re in.

Is it possible your patients hate your healthcare practice? Find out by asking these important questions.

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