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4 practice mistakes that hurt patient satisfaction

Practices that fail to prioritize patient satisfaction could experience lower patient retention rates.

Male patient waits in lobby of healthcare practice

Achieving high patient satisfaction levels depends on more than delivering quality care. In fact, the experience patients have before they make it to the examination room can cause patients to never return.

Read on to uncover four things that could be negatively impacting patient retention at your healthcare practice.

Patient satisfaction killers and how to correct them

1. Your waiting room is messy

A waiting room in bad shape is no way to welcome new or long-time patients. Ripped, worn furniture and scattered magazine subscription cards give patients the impression that the entire practice is unkempt, and that’s not what you want. At the bare minimum, your waiting room should be peaceful and clean.

Of course, there’s no better way to make a great first impression than with a modern, inviting waiting room. A stand-out waiting room often includes:

  • Free wifi
  • A large flat-screen TV tuned to an uncontroversial channel at a quiet volume
  • New, comfortable, and sleek furniture
  • An array of interesting magazines and books
  • A self-service coffee or espresso machine

You don’t need to incorporate every aspect of a great waiting room into your practice right away, but try out a few. One or two simple upgrades can have a positive impact on patient satisfaction.

Check out: 30 statistics about patient experience

2. Your staff is harried

If your practice is like most, then your administrative staff is extremely busy answering phones, verifying insurance information, ordering office supplies and so on. There are two ways to address the issue of busy administrators and both pay dividends.

First, make sure your staff understands that your number one priority is to deliver an exceptional patient experience. Explain to your staff how much you value and expect polite and personal customer service.

Second, invest in ways to automate more routine practices tasks like patient appointment scheduling and appointment reminders. The less time your staff spends completing rinse-and-repeat tasks, the more time they can spend focusing on patient satisfaction.

Read: How to boost patient satisfaction by empowering your staff

3. You rush your patients

While you might see 20+ patients in a day, remember that your patients only see you occasionally. Are you doing everything you can to give your patients the time, energy, and focus they need?

To boost your interaction with patients every day:

  • Leave enough time to see all of your patients. If you are chronically behind and overworked, consider hiring a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner to help you.
  • Avoid physician burnout: Take vacations regularly. Make sure you take a lunch break. Get some exercise.
  • Validate your patients instead of dismissing them. If they come to you with a well-researched concern, try not to scold them for their overly-zealous Google diagnosis. They are doing the best they can. Hear them out and give them your fair, professional opinion.

Look: 5 ways doctors are hurting patient satisfaction — and don’t know it

4. Your staff has nowhere private to relax

Your busy, overwhelmed administrative staff and nurses deserve a quiet place to enjoy their coffee and a snack for a couple of minutes each day. Does your practice provide them with a place to catch their breath? If not, consider designating a certain area for them to kick their feet up.

Not convinced a break room is a worthy investment? In truth, breaks help us work better. Says Tony Schwartz, head of a productivity consulting firm, to Fast Company: “When demand in our lives intensifies, we tend to hunker down and push harder. The trouble is that, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”

So, consider providing a nice place to take a breather. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — just a quiet space with a comfy chair and maybe a coffee machine. Giving your staff the opportunity to recharge will help them work more effectively for the rest of the day.

Also see: 3 Signs Your Front Office Staff is Burnt Out — and How to Help

If you want to improve the patient experience from start to finish, then don’t forget to take a good look at your home base: your office. Clean up and modernize your waiting room. Ensure your front desk staff has what they need to be friendly and responsive. Try to relax and relate to your patients. And finally, make sure there’s a nice place for you and your employees to unwind and catch your breath! A few small changes can go a long way in boosting patient satisfaction and patient retention.

For more on this topic, check out “Healthcare heartbreak: Why patients break up with practices.”

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