Sometimes things don’t have to be so complicated. That may seem hard to believe considering the post-reform healthcare environment; complexity seems to be the norm. However, when it comes to improving patient satisfaction, simply solving the most common patient complaints will often produce immediate boosts in patient happiness. Here are some of the most common complaints and what health facilities are doing to improve patient satisfaction and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores.
More Time, More Explanations
In a national survey, Consumer Reports asked 1,000 Americans to rate typical complaints about doctors and facilities based on a scale from “you are not bothered at all” to “you are bothered tremendously.” The top of the list of patients’ gripes was “unclear explanation of problem” with an 8.3 on the 1 to 10 scale. Also topping the list was “rushed during office visit” (7.8) and “side effects of medication not fully explained” (7.6).
The fact is, patients just want more time to talk with their doctors and nurses to discuss the diagnosis, the treatment plan and options. If documentation tasks and requirements are minimizing your staff’s time with patients, it’s time to re-evaluate and streamline processes. Try transferring patient-related forms to an automated system with online forms or implementing technologies that allow patients to reach nurses and doctors directly. Speed up the systems, but don’t rush the patients.
Food: The Way to a Patient’s Heart
The subject of many jeers and jokes, hospital food. While it may seem trite, improving hospital food is no joking matter. This common compliant among patients can leave hospitals ailing from lower patient satisfaction levels. On the other hand, small improvements in the quality of food can make for a better patient experience. Many facilities are throwing out their fryers and Jell-O molds and offering hotel-style “room service” where patients can order food anytime from a range of options. Others are growing their own vegetables, partnering with local farmers, and hiring innovative chefs. The bottom line is better food service helps improve the overall patient experience.
Be More Transparent
Today’s digital age has turned consumers (i.e. patients) into information-seeking missiles. We can get information and answers at the touch of a screen, anytime. So when it comes to managing the patient experience, being straightforward and clear about news – good and bad – is crucial. This is particularly important when setting expectations on wait times. When patients are waiting for CT scans, cardiac stress tests, MRIs, or even the next doctor visit, uncertain wait times can breed frustration for patients. Be more accurate with times, even if it’s going to be unwelcomed news. Patients having a better idea of what to expect will be less frustrated with the process.
Smile, and Make a Great First Impression
Perhaps the simplest solution to patient satisfaction is practicing with empathy, kindness, and a smile on your face. And, doing so especially when handling patient concerns and complaints. Start the experience off right by scheduling staff to greet and help patients as they enter the facility. Not only will you learn more about what the patient experiences, you immediately make an impression by helping ease patient fears or confusion about where to go, or what to do next. Go back to basics – apologize when something goes wrong. Be positive and upbeat. Smile.