Physicians face increasing requirements from payers to provide “value” – high quality care at a low overall cost however, an important aspect of value that’s often overlooked is patient satisfaction. Today more than ever, doctors must ensure patients’ experiences with the practice are as positive as possible.
Benefits of satisfaction and engagement
Patient satisfaction is vital for many reasons:
- High levels of satisfaction result in engaged patients – people who partner with their providers and actively participate in their own care. This leads to better health outcomes, higher quality and lower overall costs of care.
- Patient expectations are rising. As consumers assume a growing portion of their cost of care, they’re demanding more information and a better experience in the practice.
- Higher satisfaction levels lead to a better reputation for the provider, which helps attract more patients. This is especially true in today’s digital world, where online reviews can have a big impact – positive or negative.
- Payers are starting to measure and reward doctors for patient satisfaction. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), for example, uses patient survey results as a component of its quality measures.
And finally, when a patient has bad experiences with a practice, they may forgo care, go to a different provider, or be less active in managing their health. Such behaviors can have a negative impact on quality, costs, and doctors’ reimbursement.
For tips to get started, download 15 Ways to Improve Patient Satisfaction.
So how can physicians increase patient satisfaction? First, they must understand it. Patient satisfaction can encompass many elements, from ease of scheduling appointments to how well the physician communicates.
Payers have their own definitions, which are reflected in the satisfaction surveys they administer to patients. CMS and many other insurers use Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys, which include questions about the following dimensions of satisfaction:
- Access, such as the ability to get an appointment as soon as needed, to have phone calls returned promptly, and the length of time spent in the waiting room.
- Friendliness of staff, including the courtesy and helpfulness of clerks and receptionists.
- Communication, including how well the provider listens to the patient, explains information and answers questions.
- Shared decision-making
Payer surveys can help physicians understand how patients perceive them – and where they need to improve. Oftentimes, with a little extra work, doctors can significantly increase their satisfaction ratings and overall outcomes.
An external care coordination team can help practices address many of these needs, and create a more engaged, healthier population – especially with high-risk patients.
The bottom line: patients need to be treated as customers. When that happens, it’s a win for everyone involved.