Patient satisfaction is becoming a key phrase in healthcare, and physicians are learning first-hand just how important it is to make their patients not only healthy, but also happy. The patient experience is a critical factor in measuring the quality of care, and now that quality is tied to reimbursement, patient satisfaction scores have a direct impact on a physician’s bottom line.
In addition to the physician, the medical staff plays a vital role in improving the patient’s experience. Excellent customer service encompasses many facets, but one of the surest ways to increase satisfaction levels is to practice proper etiquette. Simple gestures such as making eye contact and smiling while interacting with patients makes them feel welcome and leaves them with a positive impression of your practice.
The following medical office etiquette tips can help improve patient relations and outcomes:
- Be Engaged: Spare time is a luxury in a medical practice these days, but a patient should never feel rushed while interacting with their doctor or nurse. You may not be able to extend patient visits, but if you are engaged and attentive during a visit, patients will feel more valued. When asking critical questions, take the time to actively listen to the answers. Avoid the urge to interrupt or finish the patient’s sentences. Make eye contact while they speak to let them know that you are focused on them and not just their electronic health record.
- Use Nontechnical Language: If possible, try to refrain from using medical jargon and acronyms while interacting with patients, as they might not understand your terminology. If you must use an abbreviation or medical term, consider offering a definition in context to clarify meaning.
- Give Them a Heads Up: Let the patient know what is going to happen next, and try to include as much detail as possible. For example, “I’m going to get your vital signs now. Then the doctor will be in to see you in about ten minutes.” The objective is to minimize uncertainty and manage expectations. Although you may not always be able to give an exact timeframe, it helps to make the patient feel at ease by letting them know next steps.
- Practice Proper Phone Etiquette: The patient experience extends beyond in-person visits and includes telephone interactions as well. Patients appreciate prompt service, so try to answer inbound calls before the third ring. Greet callers in a friendly, professional manner, and communicate with a smile throughout the call – it instantly makes your tone and demeanor more approachable. Always ask permission before placing a patient on hold, and close the conversation by asking if there is anything else you can do for the caller.
- Be Nice to Your Coworkers: Good manners should apply not only to patients, but the staff as well, regardless of pay or position. Negative relations between staff members can undermine positive interactions with patients.
Employing good manners and following etiquette rules like those listed above can make a significant difference in how a practice is perceived by its patients. Patient satisfaction is a key component of provider scorecards, so it’s important to make it a top priority.
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