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What Patients Don’t Want: Top Complaints About Your Practice

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Time and communication are at the top of the list – how Rendia can help

Patients are assessing your practice at every step of the care journey – even before they’ve stepped through your door. They want to be seen in a timely manner, feel heard and have their concerns addressed. If they’re not, they will move on to another doctor faster than you can put them on hold. Here are some of the top patient complaints, and how you can address them. 

Complaint: There’s a long wait to schedule an appointment. When a new patient calls your practice, how soon can you see them? Studies show that average new patient appointment wait times have increased significantly, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). In 15 large metro markets, the average wait time for a doctor’s appointment was more than 24 days, up 30% from 2014. In mid-sized metro markets, the wait was even longer at 32 days.

Solution: There are several ways to address this issue. MGMA reported that the majority of practices (61%) utilize a patient wait list for next-available appointments. Wait lists should be prioritized by clinical necessity, and some practices keep at least 30% of appointment slots open for same-day appointments. 

“If your practice has alternative availability, such as other offices or new providers, offering these alternatives will go a long way in improving patient satisfaction and patient safety,” MGMA suggested. 

Complaint: There’s a lack of communication. If a patient is new to your practice, they may have a variety of questions and concerns, from directions to your office and parking, to whether you take their insurance, to details around your COVID protocols. Current patients may have questions about what was discussed during their appointment. 

Solution: Consider sending new patients a welcome email with a few videos they can watch before they come in – about your COVID procedures or other information they’ll need to know before coming to your practice – along with any intake forms they can fill out ahead of time. This not only saves time later, but it also helps further educate and engage with patients before they’ve even stepped through your door. For more time savings, create a template for this welcome email

Sending patients a follow-up email after their appointment gives them something to refer back to regarding their condition, treatment options, medication instructions, etc. It also allows them to easily share this information with family members or caregivers who may not have been at the appointment.

Effective communication is critically important in health care. Poor communication can result in everything from low patient satisfaction scores to malpractice lawsuits, according to HIPAA Journal

For more on this topic, read our post, Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Doctor-Patient Communication.

Complaint: Having to wait too long to see the provider. A common patient complaint is that they show up on time for their appointment, only to spend too long waiting for the doctor to see them. Wait times have actually decreased in recent years – a 2018 study reported that the average patient wait time in the United States was just over 18 minutes – but even so, long waits can cost you patients. The study found 30% of patients had left a physician’s office before being seen because of the wait time, and 20% would consider changing providers over long waits. 

Solution: While some things that impact wait times are beyond your control, other aspects may not be. A 2018 MGMA poll found that 49% of responding medical practices had changed processes to reduce patient wait times in the past year, and 22% said they were working on it.

We at Rendia know that it’s actually patients’ perception of their wait time that matters most. Is your practice using that time to educate and engage patients? 

Here are 3 Missed Opportunities in Your Waiting Area to make the most of patient wait times.

Complaint: Doctors don’t spend enough time with patients. Both patients and doctors say they feel rushed more than ever. Backlogs and declining reimbursements put pressure on practices to see more patients in less time. “By all accounts, short visits take a toll on the doctor-patient relationship, which is considered a key ingredient of good care, and may represent a missed opportunity for getting patients more actively involved in their own health, according to Kaiser Health News (KHN).  

Solution: Actions like interrupting patients, not giving them your full attention and failing to ask questions can make patients feel short-changed. Showing empathy by greeting patients by name, making eye contact, asking what brought them in is more important than the actual time spent with them. One study found that 65% of patient satisfaction was attributed to doctors’ empathy, and was not affected by wait time for an appointment, wait time in the office or time with the surgeon.

You can help ensure patients feel that their needs are addressed by training staff to play an active role in patient education. Read more about the importance of staff training in this recent post

That’s where Rendia comes in. Conversions to advanced technology and cash-pay procedures are reliant on properly educated practice staff to explain surgical processes and their benefits to patients in simple, easy-to-understand terms. 

Making the patient feel they have been heard may be one of the most important elements of health care, Dr. Alex Lickerman told KHN. “People feel dissatisfied when they don’t get a chance to say what they have to say … It’s not the actual time or lack of time people are complaining about – it’s how that time felt.”

Download our eBook, Taking Action on Patient Satisfaction: The Ultimate Guide to learn more about proactive patient satisfaction strategies. 

 

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