In the business world, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Satisfied customers tell an average of nine people about their positive experience, while dissatisfied ones are likely to tell 22 people about their negative one.
Healthcare, for all intents and purposes, is a business. That means it’s important for hospitals, health systems, physician practices and other providers that want to be financially sustainable to ensure their customers, in this case patients, are pleased with the service(s) they provide.
Patient satisfaction is one of the key measurements for quality of care and affects clinical outcomes, patient retention and medical malpractice claims. It also offers providers insights into various aspects of medicine, including the effectiveness of their care and their level of empathy.
The most common method used by the healthcare industry for measuring patient satisfaction is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which is backed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It consists of 27 questions about patients’ most recent hospital stay and focuses on the following topics:
- Nurse communication
- Doctor communication
- Responsiveness of hospital staff
- Communication about medicines
- Discharge information
- Care transition
- Cleanliness and quietness of hospital environment
- Hospital rating
The benefits of patient satisfaction for healthcare providers are numerous. Probably the biggest is that patients with better care experiences often have better health outcomes. Patient satisfaction also leads to patient loyalty, improved adherence to medical advice and treatment plans, increased retention rates and enhanced provider reputation. For providers, patients who are more satisfied with their healthcare positively affect the satisfaction of physicians and staff, resulting in increased productivity and reduced turnover.
High levels of patient satisfaction undoubtedly impact hospitals, health systems and physician practices. In the United States, industry estimates place the loss of a patient due to dissatisfaction at more than $200,000 in income over the lifetime of a practice. A study by Press Ganey noted that hospitals with patient satisfaction in the 90th percentile experience nearly a one-third increase in patient volume, and a similar one found that hospitals that rank amongst the best inpatient satisfaction are also some of the most profitable and financially sound institutions.
There are multiple ways healthcare providers of all sizes can achieve improved patient satisfaction. For example, having friendly and competent staff increases the probability your patients receive a favorable first impression. This is especially true when a patient contacts his or her provider using a telephone. Providers should establish standards to ensure that the telephone is picked within a certain time, mode and tone of speech are cordial and a triage protocol is followed which helps to ward off the unnecessary calls.
Research shows that the average time for a patient to complete a scheduling call is 8.1 minutes, and agents transfer patient calls 63 percent of the time. Utilizing a healthcare-specific phone system that is HIPAA-compliant helps streamline provider and patient communication, decrease delays in response time, perform web-based faxing and more. Through digital patient outreach, it also minimizes patient no-shows and cancellations, which can be costly for providers.
Patients who don’t keep their appointments cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually, and no-shows cost a single-physician medical practice an average of $150,000 per year. However, medical practices actively working to minimize no-shows can reduce no-shows by up to 70 percent.
Additional recommendations for improving patient satisfaction include:
- Focusing on patient education
- Personalizing the patient experience
- Ensuring employee satisfaction
- Setting patient expectations
- Training staff appropriately and ensuring they have good patient-provider communication skills
- Listening to patients without interrupting them
- Respecting patient confidentiality at all times
- Ensuring adequate nurse staff levels
- Boosting nurse teamwork and care coordination
At RingRx, our HIPAA-compliant patient communication system is designed specifically for healthcare providers, whether you’re a solo physician practice, a large health system or somewhere in between. We make it easy to engage your patients anywhere at any time. View our The Communications Solution for Modern Healthcare white paper to learn how we can help your healthcare company.