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Revenue Drain: Your Staff Can Make or Break Patient Satisfaction

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

kind handsThe general public, the news media and hundreds of primary care and pediatric medical practices are sifting through the Consumer Reports ratings that were widely circulated this month in Massachusetts. From a healthcare marketing perspective, the Boston Business Journal was quick to point out that some of the numbers aren’t flattering.

Reading between the lines, we know from experience that some provider practices are likely losing revenue. On the plus side, the patient satisfaction ratings in Massachusetts—which will be expanding to other states—hold a valuable dollars-and-cents marketing lesson for medical practices everywhere.

Here’s how this significant emphasis in physician ratings unfolded. Begin with our recent article titled, Consumer Reports New Ratings of Doctors: It’s All About Patient Experience.

You’ll want to read the full post, but we wrote that the important marketing take-away for doctors everywhere—and all of us concerned about quality of care—is that patient experience is a significant barometer. This is increasingly evident as the patient’s voice is vital to delivery of patient centered care. Often, your office staff can make or break patient satisfaction ratings.

Now that the report is in circulation, the Boston Business Journal drills down on the numbers with an informative article of its own. Noting that the report polled patients about their interactions with—and how they felt about—dealings with the practice nurses, receptionists and billing and insurance support staff. The Journal article observes: “One of the pervasive themes throughout the survey is that Massachusetts patients are generally pleased with their doctors, but markedly less so with practices’ office staffs.

“On average, local doctors rate highly on how well they communicate with patients; the percentage of survey participants who said their doctor always showed respect for what they said was 87 percent, and those who said their doctor always explained things in a way that was easy to understand totaled 84 percent.

“However, just 57 percent of respondents said that the front-office staffers were always as helpful as they should be.” To illustrate, one practice “was one of the lowest-rated in the state, with only 46 percent of patients who would ‘definitely recommend’ the practice to others.”

The business and financial consequences of this are not included in the report, but are widely understood. In general, consumers and employers now have an influential new tool to help determine “where to get the best routine health care.” However, a doctor’s clinical skills and patient interaction are only part of the equation. When patients are unhappy with the office staff, or are unwilling to refer others, a loss in patients and revenue is highly likely.

There’s more about the financial impact (and what to do about it) in this article, The paradox of disappearing patients. The Boston Business Journal article titled, The best primary care in Mass., and the worst: Consumer Reports weighs in, is online here. And if you missed it, the 24-page Consumer Reports information, How Does Your Doctor Compare?, is available here.

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