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5 ways doctors are hurting patient satisfaction — and don't know it

See what behaviors cause poor patient satisfaction and how you can change for the better.

Patient retention is a key component of a thriving medical practice, but many healthcare providers are inadvertently turning patients away. Seeking more than just an accurate diagnosis, people expect a positive experience at every stage of the care process.

If patients aren’t fully satisfied with their visit, there’s a strong chance they won’t return. In fact, 27 percent of healthcare providers have lost patients to other practices, according to our 2018 Online Reputation Management Survey.

To create and maintain a healthy practice, providers must understand what causes poor patient satisfaction levels. Here are five ways doctors unintentionally sabotage their own practice.

They’re visibly frustrated with technology

EHR and EMR systems are designed to help doctors provide a higher quality of care, while streamlining the patient experience. However, all software platforms are not created equal.
Frustration with an EHR systems and problems incorporating new technology into patient care can lead to lower levels of patient satisfaction, according to a May 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

EHR and other forms of technology are only effective when properly implemented. Doctors must choose user-friendly systems, and also take the time to develop a proficiency with them.

Related: 5 emerging digital healthcare technologies doctors should know

They don’t offer online scheduling

These days, just about everything can be completed online. Consequently, patients don’t appreciate having to pick up the phone to make an appointment.

Nearly half — 42 percent — of patients would prefer to schedule an appointment online than by phone, but only 17 percent have that option, according to our research in 2016. Online scheduling also boosts business, as 26 percent of patients with access to this feature choose same-day or next-day appointments, effectively filling time slots that would otherwise remain empty.

Some 66 percent of U.S. health systems will offer online scheduling by the end of 2019, according to a report from Accenture. Doctors who fail to provide this convenience risk realizing lower levels of patient satisfaction.

Check Out: 5 reasons healthcare practices should offer online scheduling

They don’t effectively communicate after appointments

The time a doctor spends with a patient is only part of their overall experience with the provider. If communication is poor, people don’t feel like they’re a priority.

Patient retention rates can be improved by sending automated confirmations and reminders prior to the appointment. Promptly distributing patient satisfaction surveys after the visit can further open the lines of communication by giving people a voice.

Requesting feedback presents a valuable opportunity for doctors to learn what they’re doing well and what needs improvement. After all, the only way to know what patients want is to ask.

They don’t make patients feel heard

Giving patients a platform to discuss the pros and cons of their experience with a healthcare provider can boost loyalty, but only if it produces actionable results. When the practice doesn’t acknowledge online reviews or use feedback to make positive changes, people feel ignored.

Patients’ time is valuable. Opting to share their thoughts and opinions with a healthcare practice is a voluntary move made to help the doctor better serve them. Ignoring their critiques is a sign of disrespect that can have a negative impact on patient retention rates.

Look: 4 ways healthcare providers sabotage their online reputations

They don’t show good bedside manner

People expect an accurate diagnosis and effective care plan from their doctor. However, it takes more than that to achieve a high level of patient satisfaction.

A provider who behaves in a gruff or condescending manner makes people uncomfortable. Whether patients are receiving preventative care or being treated for a serious health condition, they deserve compassion and respect from their doctor.

If patients’ questions are met with a condescending response or they’re kept in the dark about their health, they probably won’t be eager to return. Good bedside manner starts during the appointment and ends with a post-visit follow up.

Many doctors don’t take the time to assess the health of their own practice. Looking inward can help providers learn better ways to serve their patient base. Retention rates are a clear indicator of patient satisfaction. Doctors who lack a high volume of repeat patients need to realize they might be the problem, and seek ways to change for the better.

For more tips like these, check out our series on how to improve the patient experience. Start with Part 1: pre visit.

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