Last year Consumer Reports started ranking physicians and other healthcare providers in recent issues. Although most patients generally rated their physicians highly, they were less pleased with their interactions with staff. Overall, 87 percent of respondents said their doctor always showed respect for what they said, and 84 percent said their doctor always explained things in a way that was easy to understand. But only 57 percent said that front-office employees were always as helpful as they should be–a survey result that should capture the attention of practice leaderships.
But the really bad news is that most physicians didn't realize exactly what was going on between staff and patients. And the staff knew they didn't know. Practices are inherently very busy places and the Physician rarely has time to really know what's going on at the front desk, but they need to find out. And one way is to simply ask patients.
1. Online Survey and Polls. Use your web site to ask patients about what they do and do not like about your practice. The web site is the perfect way to poll patients and ask them how your practice can do better at providing services both at the front-desk and in the exam room. Of course, be prepared to act on that survey.
2. Shorten wait times. Long wait times continue to be in the top 5 on the list of patient complaints. And when you really think about it, why is the real reason for long wait times? Apart from a bone fide emergency, there is no other excuse that passes muster. Careful planning of appt times, start times of physicians, and staff training on proper work flow should solve long wait times. Most patients asked said they would rather wait an extra day for an appointment than sit in an office for a couple of hours. It is disrespectful of patients and simply should not be tolerated. Find the problem and fix it.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. There is no such thing as over-communication between practices and patients. If you want patients to comply with treatment protocols…..communicate. Communicate is an interesting word….it requires listening as well as speaking. We all know patients who want to tell you about their great aunt Bessie's experience, but those are not the normal patients. Most patients are as busy as you are, have active lives and want to get back to them. If you listen to their questions….give them web sites and reading material about their disease process or medications….offer them a warm smile, a listening ear and treat them with respect, you will have happy compliant patients who want to do the right thing.
Healthcare has many variables that requires most practices to have several balls in the air at one time. There is no shortage of stress and confusion. Practices are being asked to take on more and more complex equipment and spend more money while reimbursements are going down.
So, do simple things to make your patient's life easier. ….. and by the way, make your life easier too. Pay attention, be kind, and know that everyone in the office is measuring up to your high standards.