Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare: Importance and strategies to improve it
As technology continues to transform the healthcare industry, so do rising customer expectations. Yet many healthcare organizations fail to effectively and consistently respond to the changing landscape and customer expectations, resulting in inefficiencies for both businesses and patients.
Inefficiencies often present themselves in the form of delayed and inconsistent treatment. This in turn leads to increased churn rates, poor reviews and feedback, legal issues, lower revenue streams, and even a negative impact on patient health outcomes.
Healthcare companies have started focusing their efforts on boosting patient satisfaction. By committing resources to streamlining aspects of the patient experience (like scheduling), organizations can provide a more consistent patient experience, better business outcomes, and—ultimately—significant cost savings.
Here, we’ll discuss patient satisfaction in healthcare, including why it matters, contributing factors, and how to drive patient satisfaction for improved viability, profitability, and patient health outcomes.
What is Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare?
Patient satisfaction in healthcare refers to a patient’s perception of how well their care provider meets their expectations. It’s a broad, subjective assessment that can be based upon many different factors; but at its root, patient satisfaction is all about the quality of care a patient feels they’ve received.
It’s important to note that while the two concepts are closely related, patient satisfaction does differ from patient engagement. Patient engagement is the level at which healthcare consumers actively participate in their health, wellness, and care. While satisfied patients are typically, by nature, engaged patients, a high level of patient engagement does not necessarily also mean a high level of patient satisfaction.
For this reason, it’s crucial that healthcare organizations leverage patient-centered care strategies that bolster both engagement and satisfaction.
Why Patient Satisfaction Matters
It’s no secret that businesses can achieve significant savings by boosting efficiency. The most obvious approach for improving the business’s bottom line typically starts and ends with optimizing internal workflows and processes for a more streamlined, cost-effective operation.
And while this is certainly important, it’s also equally crucial to invest in improving and properly managing patient satisfaction. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but intentionally prioritizing how patients perceive their quality of care can positively impact several key areas of the business. Here’s why:
- Greater patient satisfaction correlates to greater clinical success. Healthcare consumers who feel valued by their care providers are more likely to take an active role in their care. When the process and experience of receiving healthcare services is easy, seamless, and satisfactory, patients are more confident in their care. This confidence translates to fewer missed or canceled appointments that they may otherwise deem unnecessary, as well as a level of comfortability that encourages honesty and vulnerability as it relates to their health. Satisfied patients therefore receive more consistent care that’s accurately tailored to their needs, and therefore leads to better clinical outcomes overall.
- Greater patient satisfaction can positively affect branding and generate the potential for new customers. Around two-thirds of consumers say they’ve had a negative experience with a healthcare provider. This means there is a clear opportunity for healthcare organizations to create patient experiences that give them a leg up against the competition. 77% of today’s patients use online reviews as their first step to finding a new caregiver; so it’s absolutely vital to ensure your current patients have good things to say about the care they’re receiving. By fixating on making operational improvements that both directly and indirectly impact patient satisfaction, your business can ensure greater brand perception and, in turn, attract more new patients,
- Poor patient satisfaction can result in legal implications for healthcare givers. It’s no secret that healthcare providers face medical malpractice claims as a professional reality. In some cases, these claims are unavoidable, but other malpractice suits are a result of frustrated, unhappy patients who feel they’ve been slighted. If a patient doesn’t think their healthcare provider delivers excellent care at each turn, they’re more likely to take legal action when something unfavorable occurs. Well-supported, satisfied patients who trust in their providers’ experience, care instructions, and medical advice, on the other hand, are less inclined to seek legal recourse. Instead, they’re more likely to work with the provider directly to remedy an issue.
Benefits of Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare
Healthcare organizations that pay particular attention to patient satisfaction have a clear advantage over their competitors. Unlike their counterparts, these companies weave patient satisfaction as a clear objective into every part of the business, and in turn realize several benefits:
- Higher customer retention – Patients are consumers of healthcare, and therefore act as “customers” of a healthcare business. Of course, the dynamics between patients and providers are much more complex, layered, and delicate than in that of a typical business-to-customer relationship, but the result remains unchanged: Satisfied customers continue to consume a business’s product or service, while unsatisfied customers will likely find an alternative. By ensuring high levels of patient satisfaction, healthcare organizations boost the likelihood of patients remaining loyal to their caregivers. Since increasing customer retention by just 5% increases profits by 25-95%, most healthcare organizations can’t afford to lose their patients to competitors.
- Increased profitability – Customer retention aside, higher patient satisfaction rates also mean greater profitability across the board. Satisfied patients book more appointments when working with your caregivers is a breeze. Plus, they refer your services to family and friends, and even publish their contentment on online review sites.
- Increased productivity – At the crux of a patient-driven operation is a strategy that removes barriers to productivity. To truly ensure improved patient satisfaction, businesses must first leverage tools and processes that make employees’ daily work seamless and efficient. A successful approach to patient satisfaction is one that also boosts productivity.
- Higher staff morale – Healthcare workers take pride in knowing they deliver high quality care to every patient during every interaction; but inadequate tools, inefficient processes, and poor means for communication hinder their ability to do their best work. By emphasizing patient satisfaction (and providing the right tools and process to support that initiative), businesses can boost staff morale and create a culture of empathy, support, and collaborative success.
Factors that Impact Patient Satisfaction
Ensuring greater patient satisfaction isn’t as simple as telling staff to put their patients first. It requires real, notable changes that alter the operation as a whole. But getting it right means first addressing the common factors that currently inhibit high patient satisfaction levels, including:
- Wait times – Insufficient scheduling tools and practices, inefficient data collection methods, and poor communication make it difficult for providers to adhere to appointment times throughout the day. This is especially true If administration and schedulers don’t have a real-time view of where providers are or the status of their current appointments. Patients are left waiting to be seen without any reliable updates, which is frustrating and diminishes their confidence in the provider. No one wants to wait an hour to be seen by a caregiver, only to feel they’re rushed through their own appointment to make up for lost time; but it’s an unfortunate reality when the organization doesn’t have efficient processes or sophisticated tools for support.
- Communication between departments about a patient’s case/needs – Equally irritating for patients is feeling like they have to repeat their symptoms, medical history, and needs to every care giver they see. But if an organization doesn’t have the right tools to capture, edit, and access the most up-to-date patient details in real time, they often waste precious moments asking the same questions. This causes patients to feel unheard and wonder whether they’re receiving adequate care based on the most accurate information possible.
- Processes for feedback – Patients are always bound to have feedback—both positive and negative—after receiving care. But if their provider doesn’t have a clear process for collecting that feedback, patients start to feel voiceless, and may resort to airing their grievances in an online, public forum. In the same way, businesses that collect feedback but don’t actually acknowledge or incorporate criticisms are likely to lose their patients to competitors who are more willing to recognize their shortcomings.
- Interaction with doctors and staff – Gone are the days in which patients will accept calling their provider’s office with a question or concern, leaving a message, and waiting days (or weeks) for follow up. Customers of every type of business expect a higher level of communication, and healthcare consumers are no different. If an organization doesn’t provide patients with the tools and systems that open quick communication with doctors and staff, they’ll find it difficult to keep them engaged and satisfied with their care.
- Scheduling process – Scheduling is incredibly vital to any healthcare operation, yet many still use outdated manual processes (like spreadsheets, online calendars, or even whiteboards) to schedule patient appointments. A lack of real-time transparency into schedules makes it nearly impossible for schedulers to build efficient schedules that make it easy for patients to receive care when they need it. Plus, inadequate scheduling practices increase the chances for double-bookings or underqualified providers who aren’t prepared to deliver the right care—both of which negatively affect patient perception, satisfaction, and outcomes.
- Post-visit follow up – Proper, satisfactory healthcare doesn’t just end the moment the appointment concludes. Patients expect (and deserve) open lines of communication and consistency of care throughout their lifetime. Yet many healthcare organizations don’t offer structured processes or tools for easy post-visit follow up with providers. If a patient has a lingering question or concern, they must spend additional time seeking out those answers. What’s worse is when they schedule a follow up appointment, and are met with an entirely different practitioner.
How to Improve Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare
Your business will reap some clear benefits by reducing or eliminating efficiencies that impact the back office. Instead of adopting cool new tech in the name of streamlining operations or wasting time wondering where to start, emphasize a strategy that’s built with patient satisfaction in mind.
This approach will empower patient-facing teams to deliver the highest quality of care possible and enable back office teams to run like a well-oiled machine. The result is a business that’s properly equipped to successfully perform at every turn, and satisfied patients who are blissfully unaware of the often complex moving parts behind the scenes.
To start improving patient satisfaction across your healthcare operation, try implementing these key best practices:
1. Use intelligent scheduling
Take the guesswork and human error out of your scheduling process to ensure your patients always receive excellent, timely care. With intelligent scheduling tools, staff schedulers can easily handle time-sensitive and recurring appointments, match the right provider to the right patient (based on location, qualifications, preferences, and more), and accommodate schedule changes in real time. Some technologies even keep up-to-date records of patients’ medical information and providers’ credentials, so patients are always met with well-prepared caregivers at the right time. Even better if the system you choose automates the scheduling process, so administrators can instantly build efficient schedules that serve the needs of all patients without missing a beat.
2. Enable real time accountability of your workforce
Accountability is especially difficult to track and measure for organizations with mobile, fixed-location, or a blended workforce, like home healthcare companies. This makes it difficult for supervisors to understand where providers are, where they’re going next, the status of their current appointment, and their availability. But with the right tools that improve workforce visibility, organizations have a real-time understanding of what’s being done and by whom, and employees know their hard work is recognized. This creates a culture of accountable, engaged staff who are dedicated to providing the best patient care possible.
3. Improve integration across applications
Various disjointed systems cause data silos and lead to crucial information falling through the cracks. An electronic health record (EHR) system is a great start, but alone isn’t enough to keep accurate records across the entire organization. To provide as seamless a patient experience as possible, organizations need applications that can easily talk to one another (while remaining compliant and secure). That way, providers don’t waste time re-entering data into separate systems, and patient-provider interactions are backed by accurate, real-time data that’s connected to payroll, your EHR, and more; so the patient experience from start to finish is totally streamlined.
4. Improve communication across departments
Healthcare providers are busy and, in the case of a mobile workforce, always on-the-go. This makes real-time communication a complicated feat, and one that inadvertently leads to missed phone calls, ignored messages, and lost updates. Caregivers and administrative staff alike need tools that centralize communication in a single, user-friendly place. Bonus points if the technology you choose also enables communication with providers, with updates about appointments, medication reminders, and healthcare progress forms. Better communication internally and externally leads to a more transparent operation, and one that enables stronger relationships between providers and their patients.
Boost Patient Satisfaction with the Deskless Productivity Cloud
Your healthcare organization’s ability to ensure patient satisfaction is directly tied to its business outcomes, cost savings, and competitive viability. Implementing a modern, patient-centered operational strategy can feel overwhelming, though, particularly if your current tools and processes are lacking.
Skedulo’s Deskless Productivity Cloud arms healthcare companies with everything they need for seamless workforce management, scheduling, communication, and more—all of which are imperative to the satisfaction of your patients.