Ideas for improving patient satisfaction
Patient satisfaction has become an even more important metric for the success of any healthcare practice. But it seems like it’s even tougher than ever to keep patients happy.
Several studies have brought insight into strategies that can potentially improve patient satisfaction. While some of these ideas have been discussed for a while, there are aspects of each of these that are a bit unexpected.
Access to information and communication
One of the biggest things that can help improve patient satisfaction is offering an easy way for your patients to communicate with their doctors and access medical data. Recently conducted research backs this up.
According to a recent survey (http://patientengagementhit.com/news/do-health-it-tools-for-patient-engagement-improve-satisfaction), 73 percent of patients cited that access to their medical records and information could help improve their satisfaction. And, out of all the options for increased access to medical information presented, the most popular option of those surveyed was an online patient portal.
Yes, the patient portal ranked higher than phone calls, emails, and text messages!
That’s good news. In a separate study conducted by the American Hospital Association (AHA), more than 90 percent of hospitals are now making a patient’s medical records available via an online portal (http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/aha-finds-patient-access-medical-records-higher-ever).
In addition, the same AHA study showed that more hospitals are offering tools to allow patients to communicate with providers through messaging within the portal.
Forget the stereotypes
Yes, a patient portal and online communication tools are great. But we all know that there are patients that simply will not use the tools provided.
Here’s the thing though — they may not be the patients you expect.
According to a study cited by Patient Engagement HIT (http://patientengagementhit.com/news/do-health-it-tools-for-patient-engagement-improve-satisfaction), baby boomers are actually the most likely to use technology to access medical information. And millennials are the least likely. (No, you’re not reading that wrong.)
Of those surveyed, 62 percent of those in the baby boomer generation said that they frequently use technological patient engagement tools. Just 42 percent of millennials said the same thing.
So, don’t fall into the generational stereotype trap. Your older patients may actually be engaging more with you than your younger patients.
Customize the experience
When it comes to patient satisfaction, there’s not a one-approach-fits-all solution. Some patients will flock to the additional technology and access to information. Others simply want to be able to talk with their providers when they need something.
And that’s the big challenge providers face right now. Patient satisfaction isn’t a simple piece of software to learn or even a program to implement. It’s bigger than that. It’s a culture shift.
In a recent article published on Healthcare Dive (http://www.healthcaredive.com/news/happy-patient-healthy-hospital-taking-a-cue-from-the-hospitality-industry/422743/), several experts shared tips on how they’re taking cues from the hospitality industry to help customize the experience for patients.
Paul Roscoe, the CEO of Docent Health in Boston, said that one of the keys to success is to understand the patient’s needs, like a tennis player who is trying to recover from an ACL injury and wants to play again in three months. “Those are the things that aren’t captured in an EMR today,” he says.
Roscoe also says that once the care goals are established, the communication methods are customized as well. Some patients will prefer delivery of information online, while others will want more face-to-face interaction. It’s a matter of understanding your patients and being able to tailor an experience specifically for them.
“The key is personalized, anticipatory service to relieve fear and anxiety through clear, easy-to-understand communication and coordinated care between providers and facilities,” says Paul Westbrook, a healthcare consultant.
No, this isn’t an easy way of running a practice. But it’s this type of care — going the extra mile to make your patients feel as comfortable as possible — that can really have a huge positive effect on your practice.
So, what can your practice learn from these insights? Are there simple things you can do to improve communication or hospitality? What about rethinking the way you present technology to your younger and older patients? Even if not all of these things are achievable right now in your particular situation, the trends here are worth giving some serious consideration.