The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

9 ways to raise patient satisfaction to the optimal level

See what behaviors cause poor patient satisfaction and how you can change for the better.

image of patient pointing to tablet screen next to doctor

At a Glance

  • Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems that are up to date and user friendly can improve patient experiences and streamline care processes.
  • Studies show that a majority of patients prefer online scheduling to making appointments over the phone.
  • Sending automated reminders, requesting feedback, and promptly addressing online reviews can create a positive patient experience.
  • Implementing processes to increase patient satisfaction results in several advantages for patients and providers.

Attracting new patients to your practice is one thing. Keeping current patients happy? That’s another matter entirely.

The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) says patient satisfaction centers on "whether a patient’s expectations about a health encounter were met. Two people who receive the exact same care, but who have different expectations for how that care is supposed to be delivered, can give different satisfaction ratings because of their different expectations."

It's a subjective metric influenced by patient expectations and the provider's focus on delivering quality care. Unfortunately, the variables don't always align with one another. Much of the time, poor patient satisfaction is a result of resource constraints.

Improving patient satisfaction is a top priority for most physicians and independent healthcare practices. And patient satisfaction can impact your practice in a big way. For starters, losing patients means losing revenue.

Plus, an average of 60% of patients leave online reviews of their healthcare providers. Since many people read online reviews before making a care decision, patient satisfaction is an important part of reputation management. Additionally, prioritizing patient satisfaction may lead to better patient outcomes and strengthen the reputation of your practice.

When focusing on patient satisfaction, the temptation to splurge on patient-facing healthcare technology and luxurious office amenities is always there. But first, consider making a few upgrades that will benefit your staff while also improving patient care. A well-supported, empowered staff can have a big impact on patient satisfaction. When your team is cheerful, prompt, and professional, patients are more likely to receive patient-centered care. When they’re brusque, dismissive, or visibly overwhelmed, patients could leave dissatisfied — and possibly never return.

Today, people seek more than just an accurate diagnosis — they expect quality patient care at every stage of the care process. Read on for tips on how you can empower staff and use technology to achieve greater patient satisfaction.

An empowered staff can boost patient satisfaction

Employee engagement is difficult in any business. Factor in the stress of working in the medical industry, and the dire need for empowering and engaging your staff is paramount.

A happy worker is a productive worker. Engaged workers are 14% more productive than their non-engaged counterparts, according to Gallup. Similarly, a happy, engaged staff will result in a better patient journey.

When people examine overwork in the healthcare industry, they most likely focus on physician burnout. Though 63% of physicians indeed feel burnout, medical staff also feel the pinch. In fact, 28% of front-office staff report feeling burned out.

Burnout can significantly impact staff performance, leading to an unsatisfactory experience for patients and increased staff turnover rates, necessitating the hiring and training of new employees. Providers who display gruff or condescending behavior can make patients uncomfortable. Whether patients are receiving preventive care or treatment for a serious health condition, they deserve compassion and respect from their doctor.

It is crucial to prioritize patients' lived experiences, listen to their concerns during the patient encounter, and respect their personal agency in the patient interface. Collaborating with patients on their care is essential for building trust and rapport. Providers who respond with condescension or dismissal may alienate distressed patients, affecting patient engagement. Good bedside manners must encompass the entire patient encounter, from the appointment to the post-visit follow-up. Getting workers to have good beside manners starts with empowering them through encouragement, engagement, and certain technologies.

The L.E.A.D. approach for boosting staff satisfaction

Before delving into the technologies that can enhance patient satisfaction and support staff empowerment, it's essential to recognize the achievements that can be made without technology.

The L.E.A.D. approach can help ensure that you are hearing your staff, giving them the support they need, and growing with them as a team. This process involves:

  • Listening. Actively solicit feedback from your staff to identify their pain points, areas where your office may be lacking, and how you can better serve them. This can be achieved through regular weekly meetings or anonymous surveys done monthly or quarterly. By prioritizing open communication channels, you can foster an environment of transparency and collaboration, leading to good medical care and overall staff satisfaction.
  • Encouragement. Regularly acknowledge and commend your administrative staff, highlighting the significance of their contributions to the office and the team. Seize these moments to empower them to assume greater responsibilities and challenge themselves, whether it involves embracing new tasks or implementing strategies like medical therapy to manage stress and prevent burnout. By fostering a supportive environment and promoting personal growth, you can cultivate a motivated and resilient administrative team.
  • Acknowledgment. Showing appreciation ranges from a straightforward "thank you" to implementing comprehensive office-wide rewards or bonus systems. The important thing is to make sure your team, individually and together, knows they’re appreciated — especially when they go above and beyond.
  • Development. Cultivate growth within your team and its members by offering paid opportunities for professional development and advancement. Provide ongoing support and access to resources for learning and skill development. Training could be technical — processing electronic health records or using new equipment — or it could involve improving communication skills to better address patient needs and strengthen the patient relationship.

The above outline can help your team grow, stay happy, and operate more effectively. Most importantly, you’ll have staff members who enjoy their jobs and work environment more. This will help them focus on your patients’ care.

7 ways to empower staff and increase patient satisfaction

Electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems are designed to help doctors provide quality healthcare while streamlining patient visits. However, not all software platforms are created equal, and they are effective only when properly implemented.

Doctors must ensure their EHR technology is up to date, choose user-friendly systems, and give the staff time to become proficient with them. Outdated technology results in an inability to interface with other systems, leading to patient dissatisfaction and frustration.

Many technological advancements can help reduce the burden on staff and prevent burnout. As an added bonus, these same technologies can create a better experience for your patients.

Embrace online appointment scheduling for better patient outcomes

These days, just about everything can be completed online. Consequently, patients don’t appreciate having to pick up the phone to make an appointment. Over half — 67% — of patients would prefer to schedule an appointment online than by phone, and 80% prefer physicians who offer an online booking option. Online scheduling also boosts business, as 26% of patients with access to this feature choose same-day or next-day appointments. This can fill time slots that might otherwise remain empty.

More than 66% of US healthcare providers currently offer online scheduling. Doctors who fail to provide this convenience risk lower patient satisfaction.

Whether you use a standalone solution or one integrated with your EHR, online scheduling can benefit both patients and practices. The advantages include:

  • Empower patients to schedule their own appointments when it suits them
  • Free your staff to tackle other tasks 
  • Reduce phone volume
  • Give prospects a better first impression, increasing the chances they become recurring patients

Implement automated appointment reminders

Automated appointment reminders tie in neatly with online scheduling. With automated appointment reminders, your patients receive email or text reminders of their upcoming appointments with no manual effort from your team.

To reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations, send automated confirmations and reminders prior to the appointment. Much like online scheduling, this removes a large volume of your staff’s outgoing calls, freeing them to focus on other tasks and sick patients. This can also build your reputation as a transparent practice.

Request patient feedback to gauge patient satisfaction

Providing patients with a platform to share their experiences can enhance loyalty, particularly when their feedback drives tangible improvements. Actively engaging with patient feedback is crucial for maintaining trust and ensuring the safety and satisfaction of all patients. Treat a negative review as a chance to learn about and improve your practice.About 64% of patients would return to a practice if a provider responded promptly to a negative review, according to Tebra’s 2023 Patient Perspectives survey. By responding to positive and negative reviews, you manage your reputation and show current and future patients that their experiences matter to you.

64% of patients would return to a practice if a provider responded promptly to a negative review. ”

Sending digital, automated requests for patient feedback allows your practice to ask patients to complete a patient satisfaction survey or leave a public review after each visit when their appointment is still fresh. This provides several benefits such as:

  • Increases the likelihood that your practice receives useful feedback, such as information about patient interactions
  • Prevents staff from having to personally ask patients if they’d like to provide feedback
  • Gives you the opportunity to acknowledge disgruntled patients, make them feel heard, and address their concerns
  • Results in a better-operating practice, increasing the chances future patients have a better experience
  • Makes it simple to acquire feedback from large patient populations

Accumulating positive online reviews enhances your practice's visibility and reputation in the eyes of prospective patients embarking on their healthcare delivery journey. These reviews serve as a testament to the quality of care and patient experience you provide, distinguishing you from competing practices. As patients begin their healthcare journey, they are more likely to choose a provider with a track record of positive feedback.

Patient communication campaigns

In a patient communication campaign, your office sends targeted messages to selected patients segmented by audience type according to their specific needs or interests. These messages can include:

  • Information about new services your practice offers
  • Education about a new health threat, available vaccination, or other public-health-related issues
  • Reminders to book a visit or to schedule an annual vaccination booster

These campaigns, while beneficial for patient outcomes, help to keep your practice top of mind when people have health-related questions, concerns, or care needs. Patient education efforts imprint your brand and forge lasting relationships with your patients.

This work also benefits your staff by helping them feel a stronger connection with patients. These campaigns are a great fit for those new to the practice and working at the front desk because they help the front office staff get to know your different audiences.

Offer a live chat feature to boost convenience

Retail sales sites aren’t the only place where a live chat feature can add value. Allowing visitors to talk to a qualified representative right on your website gives patients the opportunity to ask questions and can prevent issues from escalating.

A live chat option serves several purposes:

  • Current patients can ask questions about scheduling and services, or inquire about a potential medical issue.
  • Prospective patients have the chance to inquire about insurance, wait times, vaccines offered, and so on.
  • Patients who have had a bad experience can speak with a member of your team, giving you the chance to stop a potentially bad review.

Although non-medical companies can allow customer service representatives to handle online communications, your office should make sure qualified medical professionals respond to queries to provide accurate information.

Encourage online registration and check-in

Filling out check-in paperwork can be time-consuming for your patients, and particularly troublesome to sicker patients. It also requires your front desk staff to handle any back-and-forth clarification and manually enter intake forms into your EHR. 

Offering online check-in — or at least making intake forms available on your website before an appointment — allows your patients to provide any necessary information ahead of time, resulting in a smoother in-office experience.

Implementing this process will prevent your patients from having to arrive as early, freeing up your front desk staff to focus on other tasks or spend more time with patients rather than with their paperwork.

Incorporate internal staff text messaging

HIPAA regulations are strict when it comes to internal communications between staff members — especially text messaging. Sharing any patient information on non-secure lines can result in significant fines, loss of staff, and lawsuits.

With proper internal text messaging software and protocols, your staff members can communicate with one another via text messaging. This allows them to share information quickly, address any issues or concerns, and stay in the loop even if they’re out of the office or traveling.

Internal messaging can also enable a more efficient workflow, resulting in a better patient experience. 

Benefits of patient satisfaction

  1. Increased patient retention. Satisfied patients are more likely to return for future visits, leading to higher patient retention rates.
  2. Decreased patient complaints. Addressing patient concerns and improving satisfaction levels can reduce the number of patient complaints.
  3. Personalized care. A focus on patient satisfaction can help providers can tailor care plans and services to meet the unique needs of individual patients.
  4. Efficient healthcare delivery. Improving patient satisfaction contributes to more efficient healthcare delivery processes and physician productivity, optimizing resource utilization.
  5. Positive reputation. Improved patient satisfaction generates positive word-of-mouth referrals, enhancing the provider's reputation in the community.
  6. Better health outcomes. A positive patient experience is associated with better health outcomes, ensuring optimal care and treatment effectiveness.

The big picture

Many doctors don’t take the time to assess the health of their own practice. Looking inward can help providers learn better ways to serve their patient base. Retention rates are a clear indicator of patient satisfaction. Doctors who lack a high volume of repeat patients need to realize they might be the problem and seek ways to change for the better. Alleviating the staff’s stress levels will help them perform better, deliver a better service to your patients, and improve overall patient satisfaction.

You Might Also Be Interested In

How to get patients to keep coming back. Learn what influences patient choices and behaviors in the 2023 Patient Perspectives report.

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Written by

Karmin Gentili

Karmin Gentili has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate HR and compliance consulting. She has worked to further elevate her skills by pursuing and receiving multiple certifications, including copywriting, video scriptwriting, effective content positioning, case study writing, and SEO. Her love of writing motivates her to use those skills to develop content for the medical field that ensures others can work toward achieving their goals.

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