It’s no secret that patient satisfaction and service in the healthcare industry has long lagged behind many other sectors. Fortunately, the industry is beginning to wake up and, at long last, starting to pay more attention to their customers, aka the patients.
But what is it that patients feel is lacking in the current set up? Like so many things in life, it’s not always what you think. When the Cleveland Clinic ran a patient satisfaction survey in 2018, the results were surprising, to say the least.
The top areas of importance for patients were having a doctor who treated patients with respect; interacting with happy employees and seeing clear communication between doctors, nurses and administrative staff. In other words, patients wanted to know the people taking care of them worked as an effective team and saw them as individuals rather than just another patient.
Really. It was that simple. Of course, shorter wait times and low-cost care made the list, but they weren’t top of mind for the group surveyed by the Clinic.
So, building on the Cleveland Clinic results, here are four ways surgical practices can improve patient satisfaction:
1. Treat patients like individuals
It’s easy to understand why individual treatment was way up on the list. When people enter the medical system, they feel out of their depth and a small part of a behemoth system. So it’s understandable that one of the top desires of the Cleveland Clinic patients was having caregivers who see them as individuals instead of feeling that they were just another anonymous case.
Surgical practices can achieve this in numerous ways. Whether it’s providing patients with personalized paperwork/packets, guiding them through the system with the same nurse/coordinator who is familiar with their history/case, and checking in with them before and after surgery. All the small details count for patients.
2. Ask patients about their experience
You can’t improve unless you can measure results. Market research company Forrester believes surgical practices are going to have to improve the way they measure patient happiness. The best providers, says the firm, will access real-time, detailed, specific customer responses to discover what matters most to their patients, and adjust their approach accordingly.
In other words, they will make sure the patient journey is much more personal and tailored to each individual. “Customer experience will be measured in real-time, by frontrunning organizations that want to thrive. The successful healthcare organization will find ways to both identify customer needs and then build out their operations on that insight.”
Surgical practices can survey their patients in numerous formats. Whether it’s online after their visit, on paper in the waiting room, or staff asking the patient face-to-face how they rate their experience, and why. The critical element is analyzing their responses and implementing the feedback.
3. Take a more personal approach to patient engagement & utilize technology
Similar to the Cleveland Clinic data, a survey of consumer engagement strategies by Deloitte found, “health care consumers are less focused on ‘bells and whistles’ and more on convenience, cost, and bedside manner.”
The study found that engaging consumers could have huge benefits for health care. Among the solutions posited are “easy-to-use platforms, high-quality care through newer channels, and security and privacy of health and personal information.”
Many hospitals and practices have developed patient portals that make it easier than ever for patients to access their clinicians, track their data and stay informed about their medical situation.
These are the first steps in transforming the current system from a mostly, one-size fits all model into a highly personalized journey that puts the patient in control of their own medical data.
Telehealth, for example, is helping to make access to quality healthcare more readily available and is increasingly being used by surgeons for routine appointments.
As patients become more technologically savvy and aware of their options, having patient portals and apps in place to follow post-op progress is now expected rather than a “nice to have”. Surgical practices need to recognize this and rise to the occasion.
4. Act in accordance with the (new!) law
Perhaps the biggest boost to patient/consumer happiness will be a legal one. A recently released proposal from HHS is designed to give government health plan members control over their health information as early as 2020. This could conceivably bring about huge changes for patient choice.
The MyHealthEData initiative is designed to “improve patient access and advance electronic data exchange and care coordination.” According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, “For far too long, electronic health information has been stuck in silos and inaccessible for healthcare consumers. Our proposals help break down existing barriers to important data exchange needed to empower patients by giving them access to their health data.”
This is still a new initiative, so, watch this space to see how this new law affects the healthcare industry and the changes that take into effect for surgical practices.
Each journey starts with a single step
While changing the law to give patients more access to their data, treating patients as individuals and increasing the amount of personal engagement in the healthcare system will do wonders for increasing patient satisfaction, it’s not going to happen overnight. But, as patients are become increasingly recognized as consumers and becoming more savvy and demanding, providing personalized patient care will certainly continue to be a top priority for the healthcare industry in 2019.