One of the most important changes from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will kick in over the next few years when patient satisfaction becomes an integral part of physician reimbursement. This is already the case in large practices and hospitals where a portion of their payments is linked to satisfied patients. So the key issue is: How do you create satisfied patients?
The government logic behind the change was simple. Physicians with satisfied patients should receive higher payments than physicians with dissatisfied patients because satisfied patients are more compliant and healthier, and healthier patients are less costly to the nation’s healthcare system.
The ACA’s new quality metrics put the patient in the driver’s seat on what constitutes quality care – by adding patient satisfaction to the quality-payment equation. It also spells out the contributing factors of patient satisfaction:
- timely appointments
- timely care
- physician’s communication skills
- patient’s opinion of the physician
- patient’s opinion of the staff
- office that runs on schedule
In essence, healthcare reform makes patient satisfaction more about the caring than the care. Thus, private-practice physicians who enjoy high patient satisfaction should also use it as a healthcare marketing strategy and feature it prominently in their medical practice marketing and patient education materials.
Five Tips for Improving Your Patient Satisfaction Scores
One of our physician clients summed up his recipe for creating satisfied patients with the following simple tips:
1. Hire Happiness
Whether you have a medical practice, dental practice, veterinary practice or another type of healthcare provider service, realized that you can train an employee to do just about anything you need done. You cannot train an employee to have a positive attitude or a sunny disposition. You have to hire happy, personable people to interact with your patients, improve morale in your office and, ultimately, reduce your employee turnover.
2. Stay on Schedule
The goal is to see patients within 15 minutes of their appointed time. One of the biggest patient complaints is “waiting” for up to an hour or more until the doctor sees them. Patients have busy lives, too, and they perceive long waits as both inconsiderate and inconvenient. One more thing: Stop calling your reception area “the waiting room.” It will be less likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. Make Eye Contact
The first few minutes of every patient visit are critical. If you are focused on a computer screen or reading a lab report instead of making direct eye contact with the patient, you will be perceived as uncaring and impersonal. In other words, listen to your patients with your eyes and your ears.
4. Manage Expectations
Openly share information that patients frequently ask for – prescription refills, after-hours emergencies, when they can expect lab results, etc. Publish this information on your website and in your printed patient information materials so patients know exactly what to expect.
5. Set an Example
Your staff will follow your lead. If your messaging and actions point to running on schedule, being kind and helpful to patients and their families and not letting things slip through the cracks, your staff will mimic you. Make sure they understand that making a patient’s day is a beautiful thing. Make sure they understand that you can improve the quality of your care and customer service simply by being friendly and helpful to patients.
Keep in mind that patient satisfaction has always been a metric for quality care. For the time being at least, the ACA has simply formalized the metric.
If you would like more information about patient satisfaction surveys, healthcare website design, mobile websites, social media for doctors and dentists or healthcare Internet marketing in general, call 800.679.1200.
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