Patient satisfaction is the benchmark by which practice performance is measured. As obvious as it may seem to strive for positive results, many practices miss opportunities to grow as an organization by ignoring some seemingly simple facets of great patient care.
While there are many ways a practice can improve, we’ve identified five key areas to look at first — before your patients do.
1. Don’t try to be perfect
Before you begin tweaking and adjusting procedures and workflows, pulling levers and pushing buttons, consider putting yourself and your staff in the correct mindset that, despite everyone’s best efforts, no practice is perfect all of the time. You may knock it out of the park more often than not, but there will be mistakes and negative outcomes in patient care — discomfort is just part of the nature of healthcare.
Instead of striving for perfection, teach your staff and colleagues the importance of sharing responsibility when bad things do happen. Give everyone involved the freedom to make mistakes and reassure your organization that a mistake is just another opportunity to learn. Fostering this type of environment will help mitigate future disagreements among staff by removing blame from the equation while retaining a sense of ownership and responsibility. This type of environment can be infectious and dissuade unhappy patients from pointing the finger when something is amiss.
2. Ask your patients how YOU are doing
It’s probably the most common question in medicine — “how are you feeling?” While this question is most often aimed at making a diagnosis, the patient-physician relationship is a two-way street and sometimes healthcare professionals can benefit from asking the patient “How am I doing?”
Feedback from your patients can be an invaluable resource when diagnosing problems within your own practice. Further, this exchange of feedback often fosters an environment of sharing which hopefully gives patients a sense of belonging and participation in their healthcare. All too often patients are afraid to ask questions or raise concern out of a sense of inferiority brought on by a toxic environment. One quick easy way to improve patient satisfaction is simply by asking “are you satisfied?” if not “why not?”
3. Continue to Evolve Systems and Technology
The disciplines of Medicine and technology will always be interdependent partners, but when your practice is at capacity, it’s easy to ignore how one affects the other. Although your waiting room is full, how do you know there isn’t a glitch in your scheduling software double-booking patients or a slowdown in performance of your outdated and overworked computer systems causing longer than usual wait times?
Staying abreast of evolving technological needs and availability is an important factor in providing efficient quality care. It’s unlikely that your staff is going to raise their hand and let you know how much of a headache the outdated systems are causing, and it’s unlikely that you, after seeing a multitude of patients, are going to want to dig into complex technological research at the end of the day. One way to avoid falling behind and being forced to overhaul your systems at critical mass is to hire a dedicated IT person or technology specialist to stay focused on updates and new tools. Not only will this help keep your practice running smoothly, your digital assets will remain safe from any kind of cyber threat.
4. Take Responsibility for Mistakes
Everyone on your payroll, including yourself, should be able to say the words “I’m sorry”. Without this sense of responsibility, you run the risk of leaving your patients feeling helpless and alienated.
“I will find a way to help” is infinitely better than “I can’t help.”
5. Create a Company Culture
Nothing sours the patient experience like a visibly unhappy staff member. When the work environment is toxic, nobody is going to be well. Creating a flexible and stress-free work environment isn’t just for startups and progressive tech companies, and company culture isn’t reserved for big brand businesses.
Introducing company perks such as catered meals, periodic massages and flexible time off goes a long way in fostering a productive and positive company culture. Along with company perks, open table discussions help improve communication among staff and open the door to positive change. This overall sense of oneness and positivity helps establish a company-wide attitude that will spill over into the patient experience.