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The Absurdly Simple Key to Patient Satisfaction that Everyone Forgets

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Male doctor talking to an older male patientPerhaps there is a tendency to take patient satisfaction for granted. It’s the part of doctor marketing that everyone does and, really now…there’s nothing to it. No big deal. Patient presents with symptom…diagnosis confirms…treatment follows…everyone’s happy. Right?

Maybe not. Sound clinical care can resolve the medical problem, but the patient may still have a sense of dissatisfaction. And with patient satisfaction scores increasingly linked to compensation, it’s not just a doctor marketing matter; it’s also an issue of quality of care.

So what’s missing? It turns out that only one in ten physicians ask their patients what they expect from care. While 85 percent of physicians say that it’s important to know what patients expect, it seems that asking the patient about their expectations is a largely forgotten step.

“The gap between physicians' recognition that patient expectations are important and their failure to ask about them constitutes a ‘blind spot,’” according to a study published in BMJ Quality and Safety.

More than 60 percent of health care organizations are using patient satisfaction scores to determine physician incentive payments, reports the American Medical News. And Medicare plans to link 1 percent of pay to hospitals' performance on quality metrics, with 30 percent of that total based on patient satisfaction ratings.

"A lot of people think that the main things affecting patient satisfaction are external things like the lobby, the food, the yard or what the room is like," says researcher Ronen Rozenblum, PhD, MPH, at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

So, how can physicians improve patient satisfaction and quality of care? Chances are patients didn’t arrive at the doorstep to be impressed by the lobby décor. While the environment can also play a role, the forgotten key is that doctors need to ask patients, but they rarely do. In short...you've got to ask.

"The main determinants are related to the patient-clinician interaction, mainly if the clinicians react to the concerns and needs of the patients. It is impossible to address patients' concerns without understanding what they are.”

"You have to get information on patients' expectations. Sometimes those expectations are unrealistic, but what are the chances that you're going to address an expectation that you've never asked about?"

Read more about improving patient satisfaction in our previous post: The Importance of “The Follow-Up” In Medical Marketing.

Lonnie Hirsch

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