What’s Impacting Patient Satisfaction Now?


How to gather and use feedback to provide better care

Are patients more or less satisfied with their doctors during COVID-19? The answer may surprise you. Even during this unusual time—especially during this time—it’s important to monitor and respond to patient feedback in your practice. Surveying patients can give you valuable insights into what they value now and where to focus your efforts moving forward. Here are some findings from health care providers over the past few months.

Telemedicine impacts patient satisfaction.

While its explosive growth started as a stop-gap measure when practices temporarily closed earlier this year, telehealth is here to stay. Not only that, but it’s having a positive impact on patient satisfaction, according to Ajay Prasad, founder of RepuGen, a reputation management platform for the healthcare industry. Their most recent study of more than 1,200 providers found that in the majority of practices, patient satisfaction with telehealth visits was higher or the same compared to office visits. 

A recent study found patient satisfaction with telehealth visits was higher or the same compared to office visits.

Prasad believes this preliminary trend “indicates some permanent and widespread changes in patient satisfaction and online reputation management, which go hand-in-hand.” For instance, many low patient satisfaction scores are due to long wait times, which can be reduced or eliminated using telemedicine, he noted. “And since there is a strong correlation between patient satisfaction and the sentiment of online reviews, this trend could have a lasting impact on a practice’s online reputation.”

For more on this topic, read our recent post, Why Your Online Reviews Matter Now More Than Ever. Also, it’s not necessary to adopt an all-or-nothing approach; see Success with the Hybrid Appointment Model.

Competency linked to positive patient interactions.

Recent surveys of call centers found that patient satisfaction during COVID-19 screenings is significantly affected by the perception of competency. If a patient ranked the screener’s ability to address their needs highly, by and large they would report a good interaction.

Another factor contributing to a sense of competency included integrity—the screener must follow through on the actions the patient requests, like scheduling a COVID-19 test after confirming symptoms.

One surprising finding? As long as patients were satisfied that the screener was competent, researchers found little preference between a human or a chatbot screening interaction. For more on this, see How to Automate Your Patient Communication.

Safety matters more than ever.

What role does patient safety play in creating a positive patient experience? A big one. Since the start of the pandemic, evidence has shown that patient satisfaction is closely linked to healthcare organizations’ cleaning and safety protocols. And it’s not enough just to tell patients what procedures you’ve implemented—they want to see what you’re doing to keep them safe.

Updated—and visible—safety procedures are a part of what patients want to experience when they receive care.

Arizona-based Banner Health has focused on integrating patient safety as a key portion of its patient experience efforts, Christopher Stallings, senior director of consumer digital, told PatientEngagementHIT. While patient safety had always been at the center of Banner’s clinical guidelines, he said, it is now playing a marked role in healthcare consumerism. “Safety procedures are a part of what the health system’s consumers want to experience when they receive care.”

Prioritizing patient safety looks like minimizing the role of the waiting room, moving patient intake online, and keeping patients engaged by sending them links to safety videos and other educational materials while they’re waiting in their cars. For more ideas, check out How to Thrive, Not Just Survive, Going Forward.

Gather feedback where you can.

According to Prasad, practices should continue to send surveys to patients who were seen virtually or in-office. “It is very important to continue receiving feedback from patients about their experience, especially when a new service like telemedicine has been introduced,” he noted.

But surveys aren’t the only way to collect feedback. Consider putting together a quick Twitter or Facebook poll. Polling patients can help you learn more about their preferences. Ask a question like, “What are your preferred hours for telemedicine appointments? A) Weekdays, 7 a.m.- 9 a.m. B) Weekdays, 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. C) Weeknights after 6 p.m., D) Weekends.

Keep an eye on your online reviews to see what patients are saying about your practice, and also monitor your mentions on social media. For instance, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a Twitter user’s observation about a package delivery person entering a clinic without a mask prompted a reminder throughout the health system that the mask requirement extends to everyone, including vendors.

Many factors affect patient satisfaction and patient experience, but the fundamental principles remain the same. To learn more, read our eBook, Taking Action on Patient Satisfaction: The Ultimate Guide.

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