Most healthcare organizations, from walk-in clinics to hospitals, collect patient satisfaction data to evaluate their services and quality of care. Organizations must not only prove that their facilities are worth investing in, but also that the care they offer is worth the patient’s loyalty.
What is Patient Satisfaction?
Patient satisfaction is considered a desirable outcome for all healthcare facilities. As a critical measure of care quality, according to the research from the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, patient satisfaction can be attained when healthcare professionals pay attention to what’s valuable to people the moment they walk into a facility.
Healthcare providers need to keep patient happy. In the wake of patient-centered reform, the demand for patient satisfaction data has increased as well as the transparency of those results.
Some healthcare facilities even hire professionals to keep track of the trends and collect patient feedback from websites like Healthgrades.com, ZocDoc.com, and Facebook and Twitter. The practice, known as “reputation management,” is a direct response to the effort by healthcare systems to attract patients as the out-of-pocket cost for health has risen, according to The Washington Post.
Patients have assumed a more consumer role when it comes to their healthcare, and hospitals and organizations are adjusting their improvement plans accordingly. According to Vocera’s 2016 Rise of the Chief Experience Officer report, more than half of healthcare professionals say they value patient satisfaction as much as safety and clinical improvements.
“The patient used to be maybe 10th on the list of a hospital’s priorities…now there is a new recognition that the patient is important,” -Leah Binder, president and chief executive of Leapfrog Group.
According to the interview for the Post, the importance Binder refers to includes a level of attentiveness in their care, as well as quieter hallways and facetime with nurses.
What Do Patient Satisfaction Surveys Measure?
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), surveys measure the following factors:
- Effective communication with staff
- Responsiveness of hospital staff
- Medical office waiting time
- Hospital environment
- Care transition
- Access to care (referral time, gaps in appointments)
A typical satisfaction survey used across hospitals is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. The survey is assisted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and collects insights into satisfaction and hospital quality based on a patient’s most recent hospital stay.
In the U.S., over 4,000 hospitals voluntarily offer inpatients the choice to fill out the HCAHPS survey after their discharge.
According to the CMS, the HCAHPS has three broad goals that, over time, have changed the way healthcare management is evaluated. The three goals include:
- Opportunity to compare hospitals objectively on topics that matter to consumers
- Creation of new incentives for hospitals to improve quality of care
- Opportunity to raise the accountability of care provided in return of the public investment
Doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics and other healthcare facilities also have access to surveys that measure factors related to their own systems. These providers can also conduct their own survey by hiring a company to design it.
What’s the Difference Between Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction?
Although patient satisfaction and patient experience might sound like they’re the same thing, they represent different factors. While satisfaction measures whether a patient’s expectations were met, to assess patient experience, a professional would have to ask detailed questions about an event and find out if it happened or how often it happened.
According to the AHRQ, two people that might have received the same treatment could have different expectations of how their care was supposed to be delivered.
How Can Healthcare Improve Patient Satisfaction?
Being in tune with factors like empathy, over more serious ones like health technology or curing an illness, might sound questionable, but that assumption is changing.
For example, a study conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Orthopedic surgery found that empathy was the strongest driver of patient satisfaction. The study, which focused on identifying factors of continuous quality improvement, also measured waiting time and patient health literacy.
The findings allowed the surgical and administrative teams to figure out ways to improve their services. According to the study, “as patient satisfaction plays a growing role in reimbursement, targeted educational programs to enhance empathic communication skills in hand surgeons should be considered.”
Kindness seems to play a role in patient satisfaction, too. “Patients talk about whether a doctor or nurse was kind to them, or whether their experience was fast and convenient. It’s assumed that the doctor is going to treat their illness or condition,” said Lisa Suennen, a healthcare company advisor in an interview with The Washington Post.
To keep up with the market, healthcare organizations tackle the patient satisfaction factor like any other clinical responsibility. The importance of this type of achievement has led some hospitals and facilities to create their own departments of patient experience which oversee satisfaction surveys, customer relations, patient guides and even patient experience awards.
In another case reported by The Washington Post, a hospital that hired a patient experience officer followed their strategy to establish hourly rounds, a system where nurses are expected to check in on a patient and not wait for them to use the call button.
Why is Patient Satisfaction Important for Healthcare Management?
Supporting patient satisfaction can have several positive effects, including improving patient retention rates, securing a positive local reputation, and preventing possible malpractice lawsuits, says the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery.
The average medical/surgery hospital charges tend to exceed $10,000, so hospitals can’t afford to lose patients or revenue due to issues of patient dissatisfaction.
In the U.S., it’s estimated that the loss of a patient due to dissatisfaction can result in a loss of over $20,000 in income “over the lifetime of the practice,” according to the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery.
“Today the patient sees himself as buyer of health services. Once this concept is accepted, then there is a need to recognize that every patient has certain rights, which puts a special emphasis on the delivery of quality of healthcare.”
That means not just keeping patients health, but also reassuring them that you care for their needs from the moment they walk in the door.
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