Money can’t buy happiness, but happiness can—and does—make money. Patient satisfaction pays.
In the wake of healthcare reform and its focus on patient-centered care, today’s patients are choosing happiness. Elevated to the role of consumer, they’re now in the driver’s seat. Patients are looking at the healthcare options available to them, forgoing traditional restrictions like convenience of location, and exercising their power of choice across a broader spectrum of concerns—chiefly, the quality of experience your medical practice promises to provide.
As Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director of Accenture Health customer relationship management offerings, says, “Patients are increasingly shopping for healthcare services, seeking the best possible overall experience when they need care.”
Practices and healthcare organizations that have taken heed and jumped on board—prioritizing patient experience with effective strategies to ensure their patients are happy with both the care they receive and how they’re treated—are coming out ahead.
In fact, Accenture suggests that full-throttle patient-centered care benefits your bottom line more than cost-cutting. Their recent study found that organizations delivering “superior” customer experience achieved 50% higher net margins than organizations providing “average” customer experience.
“An unhappy patient is four times more likely to seek care elsewhere within six months,” say the authors of Patient Satisfaction: Quality of Care From the Patients’ Perspective. What’s more, in addition to improving patient retention rates and garnering a positive local reputation, the risk of medical malpractice claims goes down as patient satisfaction rates go up.
Improving Health & Wealth
The financial incentive, alone, to prioritize a positive patient experience for persons treated by your organization is compelling. Consider this, though—the positive patient experience is better medicine. Patient satisfaction, supported by numerous studies, directly correlates to improved clinical outcomes.
Interestingly, improved clinical outcomes make physicians happy, which begs the question—which comes first, the happy physician or the happy patient? “Physician and patient satisfaction are inexorably linked in a beautiful cycle,” says Dr. Françoise Poot in How to Be a Happy Dermatologist. Where one begins and the other ends, who can say? For both patient and provider, happiness depends on the other.
All the more vital, then, to the sustainable success of your medical practice is the imperative to address the patient experience. Do you have an effective satisfaction strategy in place? Does your staff understand the variables along the continuum of care that factor into the positive patient experience?
The What & How of Patient Satisfaction
Patient experience lies at the heart of patient-centered care, so much so that the two phrases are often used interchangeably. But what does either reference mean in terms of concrete, practical applications?
In the 2017 study, Evaluating variables of patient experience and the correlation with design, patient experience is defined as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” The same study depicts patient-centered care as “an orchestrated set of activities meaningfully customized for each patient.”
As definitions go, these two lay out a daunting objective to aim for, let alone to achieve. To up the ante, delivery of patient-centered care requires that healthcare organizations “provide care in a particular way, not just sometimes or usually, but always,” says Bhanu Prakash in his article Patient Satisfaction, published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. “It must be every patient every time.”
That said, understanding what influences patient satisfaction is essential to achieving it. By breaking down our objective into actionable items, we are better able to appreciate, and to provide, the positive patient experience for all our patients.
Are Your Patients Satisfied?
Look around you. Take a moment to reassess your practice and its daily interactions. How would you gauge your current level of patient satisfaction? Is it consistent or sporadic? Has your practice plateaued at “average” customer experience delivery? For an objective appraisal, you might consider your patient retention rate.
Try to identify where you’re falling short. Observe all patient engagements along the continuum of care—from reception to checkout to billing and patient follow-up.
Compile a list of your observations and join us later in the week for Part II of this series, The Patient Experience—It’s Your Bottom Line, as we explore strategies populated with practical and effective applications to ensure high-quality patient experiences that both attract and retain patients for the long term.
And remember, as Prakash says, “The better you are, the better you must become. Quality does not stand still. It should be linear and always ascending. One should strive to provide better care and soar above each and every patient’s expectations.”
For more insights to safeguard your practice’s financial health through effective patient engagement, pick up TCI’s Ready, Set, Engage: How to Create a Patient-Centered Practice.
Jha, Dyutima; Frye, Amy Keller; and Schlimgen, Jennifer () “Evaluating variables of patient experience and the correlation with design,” Patient Experience Journal: Vol. 4: Iss. 1, Article 5. Available at: http://pxjournal.org/journal/vol4/iss1/5
Kirsner RS, Federman DG. Patient SatisfactionQuality of Care From the Patients’ Perspective. Arch Dermatol.1997;133(11):1427–1431. doi:10.1001/archderm.1997.03890470105017
Prakash, Bhanu. “Patient Satisfaction,” J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010 Sep-Dec; 3(3): 151–155. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047732/