Improving Patient Satisfaction: Quick Tips for Medical Providers

25 Nov

Joint Commission (JCAHO) reviews & (HCAHPS Scores) are key tools both medical departments and patients alike use to analyze the overall success of a medical organization. As the frustration over healthcare costs and treatment continue to rise, these evaluation instruments are becoming increasingly important as patients nationwide are formally documenting their medical experience and beginning to include these tools in their decision-making process.

Patients and families are now heading online, reviewing the experiences of others, and “comparison shopping.” What differentiates your private practice from the doctor next door? How do you improve the overall experience for patients you serve, on a limited budget? Through my work as a Child Life Therapist, the following are just three quick tips which have been utilized and proven to not only ease course of treatment, but improve patient satisfaction as well.

Improve waiting times: One of the single most important ways to improve the patient experience begins in the waiting room. In emergency rooms, clinics, and even private practice settings some wait time is anticipated. However, excessively long wait times can very quickly lead to loud, angry, frustrated patients. Additionally, in situations such as this, patients who attempt to speak with medical staff are often kept in the dark as to the cause(s) of “the hold up.”

While rushing through patient visits or divulging private information (as explanations to waiting patients) are not the answer, there are a few helpful solutions. Many medical providers have reworked the way in which patients are scheduled (to avoid overcrowding). Treatment clinics are developing and implementing mechanisms to alert patients to unexpected changes in wait time. These mechanisms also come with a “script” (simple prompts) for staff when engaging patients regarding wait time. Finally, arriving on time for scheduled appointments is also key. Though you would think it would go without saying, it’s surprising how many patients are left twiddling their thumbs in the waiting rooms, all while the medical provider is not in the office or on hospital premises.

Distraction for Children: This distraction can come in the form of small play items to entertain children while they wait, or formal therapeutic distraction / procedural support from a Child Life Therapist for frightened children once they are called into the exam room. Simply put, calm children many times translates to calmer parents as well.

Past the Clinical Touch: In my work experience, patients who reported most positively on their medical experience often did so when medical providers appeared to go “above and beyond” standard clinical expectations. Examples of this include, taking a quick moment to: form a personable rapport, explain complicated medical jargon, involve the patient / family fully in treatment decisions, respect cultural differences, or provide / refer holistic treatment options.

Overall, patients report higher satisfaction scores when they are kept informed, given choices, and treated as a whole individual whose physical treatment and emotional needs are equally important. Ultimately, when in doubt, the tenants of Patient / Family Centered Care are a wonderful guide.

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