These days, patient satisfaction is crucial to the success of a medical or dental practice. A satisfied patient is a returning patient. What’s more, a satisfied patient helps you attract more patients to your practice with positive word-of-mouth or flattering public reviews.
Unless you’re actively collecting patient feedback, it can be hard to tell what kept a patient from returning to your practice. Read on for 10 common pieces of feedback patients wish they could give their healthcare providers.
Common patient feedback and how to address it for high patient satisfaction
1. Be present in the exam room.
Many patients feel their providers spend too much time looking at their computer screens and not enough time making eye contact. Though you must thoroughly document appointments in your EHR/EMR, it’s important to demonstrate to patients that they are your priority.
One way to do this is to explain to patients that you’re taking copious notes while they’re speaking so you can provide the best care now and into the future. Another approach is to bring someone to help assist you with documentation, so you’re free to focus your full attention on your patient.
2. Don’t overbook my appointment slot.
Most patients understand their appointment might come with a bit of a wait, but they become frustrated when their doctor is running 30 minutes, an hour, or even two hours behind. In fact, almost one-third of people have walked out of an appointment due to long waits, according to a report by Vitals.
Double- or even triple-booking appointments is a common cause for long waits. When you double book appointments, this can put you behind schedule, and patients will feel like you’re not invested in their personal care.
For this reason, you should not double-book appointments. If you find yourself behind schedule for other reasons, instruct your staff to be transparent with patients in the waiting area about how long you’ll be.
3. I want to see the provider I was scheduled to see.
You can’t possibly see all patients all of the time. Luckily, you have a great team of other care providers — including physician assistants and nurse practitioners — that can help carry the load. Sending a colleague to cover your appointment might not seem like a big deal to you, but patients do not like having their providers changed without their knowledge.
When patients are scheduling their appointments, be transparent about who it is they will actually be seeing. If a switch happens last minute, do your best to inform the patient before they arrive at your office and be flexible with their options for rescheduling if they are not OK with the change.
4. Don’t make me wait 2-3 weeks for my appointment.
When patients have an urgent health concern, they want to speak with their doctor as soon as possible. Unfortunately, “as soon as possible” sometimes means 2 or 3 weeks for some practices.
It’s not unusual for highly sought-after doctors or doctors in rural areas to book out far in advance. But failing to see your patients in a timely manner can cause them to seek care elsewhere.
To increase patient satisfaction as it relates to availability, consider leaving open slots for same-day appointments or leaving space one day a week for urgent matters.
5. Don’t make me request my test results.
When patients get tests done, they often leave your office feeling anxious about the results. Make it a point to connect your patients with their results in a timely manner, or delegate the task to another provider at the practice.
If you have a patient portal, you can also release test results to your patients electronically. Just be sure to send an email letting your patients know that their results are available to view if your EHR/EMR does not do so automatically.
6. Answer your phone.
Patients become increasingly dissatisfied when they can’t reach their providers, especially if they’re trying to make an appointment. Although it may not be feasible to always answer the phone, try your hardest to return all calls within 24 hours. It may also help to offer an alternative method of reaching your practice, such as online appointment scheduling, and email for general questions.
7. Your staff can make all the difference.
Your staff members are the people your patients speak with when they call to schedule an appointment and the first people patients see when they walk through your front door. Even if your patients love you, a bad interaction with your staff can keep them from returning.
To achieve high patient satisfaction, instruct your staff on steps they should follow for a good patient experience. This could include greeting patients with a cheery “Hello!” when they enter, offering them a beverage before they take their seat, and keeping them informed of expected wait times. This will help ensure all your patients have a satisfactory experience.
If several patients provide negative feedback about a staff member — whether in person or via patient satisfaction surveys — discuss the feedback with the staff member in question. Everyone has bad days, but a pattern of poor service should be concerning to you.
8. Accessible parking is important to me.
If your practice is located in an urban area, your patients might have difficulty finding free or nearby parking. If you are unable to provide free or validated parking, offer your patients information on your website about where they can park and how much they can expect to pay.
9. Give me an idea of cost.
Patients often don’t know how much they’re expected to pay when they seek care, and a surprise bill can reflect poorly on your practice. According to Accenture, 65 percent of patients say transparency about the cost of healthcare services is critically or very important to their overall patient satisfaction. Whenever possible, have a member of your staff verify their benefits before coming to visit you and, to the best of your ability, walk them through how much they might expect to pay.
Also see: 30 statistics about patient experience
10. Communicate issues with me.
Like any business, unforeseeable problems will arise at your healthcare practice. Patients generally understand this and are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt — as long as you are transparent about what’s happening.
Did they wait on hold for 15 minutes to schedule an appointment? Thank them for their patience, explain that call volumes were unusually high, and inform them of options to schedule appointments electronically (if you have such options). Were you an hour late for their appointment because another patient received a tough diagnosis? Thank them for understanding that you will drop everything to do all you can for a patient in crisis.
Interested in learning more ways you can elevate patient satisfaction and retention? Download our whitepaper “From first impression to post-visit: The doctor’s guide to improving each touchpoint for better patient experience.”