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Improving Patient Satisfaction: 5 Low-Cost Strategies

Improving Patient Satisfaction - Patient Talks to Receptionist at Check-in Desk
Today’s healthcare organizations are saddled with the challenging task of balancing medical outcomes, budget constraints, and patient satisfaction. While certain factors affecting patient satisfaction will require ample time and resources to resolve, there are a number of small, inexpensive ways to improve patient satisfaction within various healthcare facilities.

The Importance of Patient Experience

In hospitals, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is a national, standardized assessment of hospital care from the patients’ perspective. This survey is mandated for all hospitals by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and because the results are reported publicly, low scores can hurt the organization’s reputation. Other medical organizations should be concerned with patient experience and overall satisfaction, as well—in office settings, satisfaction can be measured using the Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CG CAHPS) survey. Why do these surveys matter? Patients who are not satisfied with the care they receive at a hospital, doctor’s office, urgent care clinic, or even nursing home may not visit that facility again or recommend it to other people, according to Aligning Forces for Quality. Not only can this hurt the facility’s bottom line, but high patient satisfaction has also been linked to better health outcomes and lower medical malpractice risk.

5 Cost-Efficient Ways to Improve Patient Satisfaction

Organizations may not have the means to hire additional staff or renovate facilities to improve patient experience, but there are a number of low-cost ways to improve satisfaction ratings that can be used in the meantime.
  1. Strive for Better Communication

    According to research by J.D. Power and Associates, patient satisfaction is more greatly influenced by human factors, such as the communication skills of staff members, than it is by the facility itself. “Having an appealing hospital facility matters, but an experienced and socially skilled staff has a greater impact on patient satisfaction,” said Rick Millard, former senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Personal interactions with the staff have a profound impact in both inpatient and outpatient settings.” To this end, hospital leadership should look for individuals who have superior communication skills and a positive attitude when hiring. It can also be beneficial to provide existing staff with training on how to best interact with patients and handle complaints.
  2. Improve the ‘Waiting Experience’

    According to BMC Health Services Research, one of the biggest issues that can impact patient satisfaction is wait time, and while it is not always possible to reduce wait times, facilities can take steps to improve the waiting experience for patients.This might include making the waiting room more comfortable and attractive, giving patients things to do—such as watching TV, reading magazines, or even charging their devices—and providing regular updates on wait times for appointments or scheduled procedures. Most patients would rather hear that there is an emergency that will increase wait times by 10 minutes than to simply be left in the dark, wondering when they will be admitted.
  3. Have Team Members Sit with Patients

    Studies have shown that patients are more likely to perceive medical providers as empathetic and good communicators when the doctor or nurse sits down in a chair to discuss concerns or explain treatment. This, in turn, can increase patient satisfaction scores, according to research in the Patient Experience Journal.
  4. Keep Patients in the Know

    Visiting a healthcare facility is stressful for many patients, and that stress is only compounded when they are kept in the dark about what is going on. Regular updates about wait times, next steps, treatment plans, and current care teams go a long way toward keeping patients calm and satisfied. For instance, patient surveys from Johns Hopkins Hospital revealed that one of the most common requests from patients is for providers to keep them up-to-date on daily care plans and the names of on-call nurses and aides, according to Healthcare Business & Technology.
  5. Keep Noise Levels Down

    In hospital settings, it is important to make the floor a comfortable place to recuperate during the day and to sleep at night. If staff are talking loudly at the nurses’ station, someone is on the phone in the hallway, or a machine is clattering loudly, it can disturb patients and even be detrimental to their healing, according to research from the Center for Health Design. High noise levels can be a distraction to staff, as well. Leaders may want to consider implementing a “sound standard” in hospital settings to help keep noise levels under control. This may involve educating staff about the impact of noise on patients, removing or relocating unnecessary noise sources like ice machines, and/or creating policies that dictate holding group conversations in enclosed areas.

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