Poor patient satisfaction scores can hurt an organization’s reputation and bottom line. As patients are becoming more savvy healthcare consumers providing an exceptional patient experience is not only a key to success, it is necessary for survival. Avoid these seven deadly sins when implementing a strategy for improving the patient experience:
1. Lack of Empathy
Empathy is a crucial component of patient care. A study from the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that patients whose physicians were rated as more empathic had higher rates of satisfaction compared to patients whose physicians were less empathic. Putting a hand on a patient’s shoulder, asking about a family member, or even noticing a new hair cut can make a patient feel cared for and recognized as an individual. These small but meaningful gestures go a long way but don’t necessarily take additional time or effort.
2. Nonverbal Language
Lack of eye contact, crossed arms, or staring at a computer screen are just a couple “nonverbal” language cues that can unknowingly send the wrong message. It goes without saying, but everyone from the front desk staff to the provider should be mindful of their own body language. Research has shown that eye contact and social touch are significantly related to patient perceptions of clinician empathy, connectedness, and liking.
3. Access Challenges
Poor access is one of the top challenges facing medical offices nationwide. It can affect patient satisfaction scores and even result in delayed treatments and compromised clinical outcomes. Patients today want the convenience of going online to schedule an appointment, request refills, view their test results or medical records, and pay their bills. A couple of simple ways technology can help improve patient access is by implementing a well-managed scheduling system and an efficient patient portal.
Time is precious for both patients and clinicians. One study found that reduced waiting time leads to increased patient satisfaction and greater willingness to return. Additionally, increased waiting time and reduced time spent with the physician are associated with noticeable decreases in patient satisfaction.
5. Poor Communication
Eighty percent of serious medical errors in healthcare are the result of communication failures. Breakdowns in communication can lead to serious risks and patient complications. From check- in to check-out, there are numerous interactions where the lines of communication can be broken. Research has clearly demonstrated the relationship between good communication and better patient satisfaction. By making efforts to improve communication, medical practices can expect to better patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Patients do not like wasting time on inefficiencies and duplication. Filling out patient-related forms is one prime example. Patients today have a lot of experience online and often prefer to complete required paperwork prior to their visit. Providing them with this option, will better their overall experience and increase engagement.
Nothing says “I don’t care” like healthcare professionals avoiding eye contact with “civilians,” or patients being ignored by nurses who haven’t yet clocked in. Receptionists carrying on about their personal matters in front of patients in the waiting room, or an elderly patient almost getting hit in the parking lot by a medical technician that was running late. These common scenarios can have a lasting effect on patient satisfaction regardless how exceptional the rest of their visit.
Creating an exceptional patient experience has many components of which none are the latter. It is about making a human connection, showing empathy, listening, responding to concerns, and addressing every aspect of a patient’s encounter.