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Patient satisfaction in healthcare: What really matters to patients

Practices that focus on surface-level perks are missing the mark when it comes to patient satisfaction.

patient satisfaction in healthcare

Some healthcare industry professionals think features like a gorgeous waiting room are the kinds of things that result in satisfied patients. However, others believe safe, quality, and compassionate care is at the top of the list for patients.

As a dedicated healthcare provider, you strive for excellent patient satisfaction. For more than one-quarter (27 percent) of doctors, the gratitude received from patients or the relationship they build with them is the most rewarding part of the job, according to the 2018 Medscape Physician Compensation Report.

Although surface-level perks like a cappuccino machine in the waiting room are nice, several other features take precedence for your patients. Read on to find out how to truly achieve patient satisfaction.

6 factors that influence patient satisfaction

1. Timely communication

When patients have a health concern, they want their doctor to address it immediately. This might mean seeing them in person, speaking with them on the phone, or attending a virtual visit.

You might not deem most issues an emergency, but patients haven’t had your medical training. If they’re unsure what even the most minor symptom means or how to treat it, having to wait days to speak with you will seem like an eternity.

Check out: 5 ways doctors hurt patient satisfaction — and don’t know it

2. Easy access to important files

Some 90 percent of healthcare practices have a patient portal, according to a 2018 survey conducted by healthcare nonprofit Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). A 2017 survey published by the group revealed 78.8 percent of patients with access to a portal have used it. Specifically, 83.3 percent of patients have logged into the portal to access test results and 59.3 percent have done so to view their personal health record.

No one enjoys being left in the dark, especially when it comes to their health. Offering quick and easy access to important files allows patients to stay informed and improve patient satisfaction.

Look: 6 health technology tools patients expect your practice to have

3. Receiving realistic timelines from the practice that are met

Some patients can be demanding, but most just want to be in-the-know. Clearly communicating timelines for things like how long they can expect to be in your waiting room, when they’ll receive test results, and how long it will take for you to return their phone call will make a world of difference for your overall patient satisfaction.

Despite your best efforts, it’s not always possible to meet original deadlines. When delays happen, keeping patients informed is a must. Patients might feel a bit frustrated by the wait, but they’ll appreciate that you respected them enough to keep them informed.

4. Being treated kindly by staff

Patient satisfaction in healthcare is hugely linked to the team of people running your practice. From the receptionist who answers the phone to the nurse who takes patients’ vitals, your entire staff must treat patients with genuine warmth.

Hiring the right people is key, but afterwards, you need to keep them engaged. Providing ongoing training and engaging your staff will boost their levels of job satisfaction, allowing them to perform better.

As a busy doctor, you might not be aware of how your staff treats patients. Sending patient satisfaction surveys is a great way to find out what they’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement.

5. Receiving clear instructions

Patients put their health in your hands, so they need to know how your practice works. Your staff, yourself, and your practice website should provide easy-to-understand guidelines for patients on how to contact the office, make appointments, handle after-hours emergencies, and request prescription refills.

When people feel lost, they become frustrated. Enjoy higher levels of patient satisfaction when it’s easy for anyone to navigate your practice.

Also see: 5 pages your medical website needs

6. Having reasonable requests honored

During office visits, many patients request referrals, medications, and lab tests. In fact, a 2018 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed 68 percent of patient visits included at least one request, and 85.2 percent were fulfilled. When these requests were denied, satisfaction ratings dropped 10-20 percent.

Results of this study shouldn’t inspire you to grant more patient requests, just to increase your satisfaction ratings. However, it should motivate you to really listen to patients. Allow them to state their case, and if you don’t agree with it, explain your reasoning and offer an alternate solution.

When it comes to healthcare, patients have their choice of providers. If they’re not satisfied with your care, they’ll head elsewhere, so make every effort to be the practice they deserve.

Want more information on the topic of patient satisfaction in healthcare? Check out “Low patient satisfaction causes and how to address them.”

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