“What satisfies my patients?” Thoughts from 16 providers across 9 specialties in 7 States.
It is a simple and yet very powerful sentiment.
With more and more of physician compensation revolving around patient satisfaction, the healthcare industry is left with what looks like an elusive goal – “What satisfies my patients?”. I was all the more curious about this question myself. I spent the better part of the last 5 weeks calling customers, non-customers and anyone else who was grappling with this question. Can patients ever be satisfied? Is it a perpetual train of more and more favors and an occasional thanks with bad online ratings the moment the waiting room does not smell of vanilla? May be send more portal messages and hope that counts for us keeping in touch? Another email campaign?
As I criss-crossed the country with physician practice interviews, what struck me was the amount of overhead employed to chase the elusive goal of a “satisfied” patient who will take a survey (well, one who is truly satisfied that they will share their opinion with others).
As I and several of our clients started unraveling the onion one layer at a time, we stumbled upon something quite obvious. A patient today has a dizzying array of information coming at them. Many of them may start at Google® before their PCP. Yet, the physician’s front office phone is one of the busiest pieces of equipment in the healthcare industry. It is not uncommon to have ½ FTE as medical assistants/front office staff for each provider in a practice. Why is that? Even with such a heavy-handed approach to providing patient care, physician practices get flak on online message boards for being less responsive. How can that be?
The FTE overload and even with that, online message board flak was prevalent across many specialties. Those interviewed for this article include primary care, orthopedics, GI, oncology, cardiology, pulmonary medicine and more. States in the country where the providers were based varied as well – IL, FL, WA, OH, LA, TX, NY and more. Throwing money at the problem seems to not solve patient satisfaction. The system seems like it needs new ideas.
As I started to spend more time on what keeps the medical assistants busy, it dawned on me. I kept notes at three practices on the number of calls medical assistants took and what the matter was during the call. I then tried to piece together when the patient called and when the callback was done. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I had to call a physician practice myself to make an appointment for a family member. I tried the portal and then the phone…and waited for a few days to get the matter resolved. A few patterns started to emerge as I put my own experience together with that of the interviewees.
Before I share what I learned, let me ask you…do you think you are a “satisfied” patient? What causes you dissatisfaction? To discuss further, conctact Badri at firstname.lastname@example.org.