The goal for years has been to help patients become more active in their healthcare planning. As patients become more partner-like, the expectations they have of their healthcare team increases. While some expectations are wants, such as an attractive office and free Wi-Fi, others are needs. When doctors fail to meet these needs they risk lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates and revenue growth because of poor patient satisfaction. Here are six ways that doctors are failing their patients.
- Communication – More than 80 percent of healthcare quality experts report that the number one factor for improving the patient experience is through better communication. Most doctors are using electronic medical records and this tool has created a chasm in the way they communicate with patients. Instead of sitting down and making eye contact while talking with a patient about their condition, they are often looking at a computer or tablet to enter in patient data. This lack of eye contact equates to a lack of trust for many patients. Doctors are happy about this disconnect either. According to HIT Consultant, 16.4 percent of doctors felt the use of electronic medical records was limiting their ability to make money seeing patients in a productive manner.
- Education – Proper patient education starts in the exam room, but should continue after the patient leaves the office. In order for patients to be compliant, they must understand the diagnosis and treatment recommended to them by their provider. There is a clear discrepancy between what the provider says and what the patient recalls. According to a WebMD study, 70 percent of providers said they educated their patients on getting vaccines while only 25 percent recalled having this conversation. More often than not, providers are failing to properly educate patients on how to manage their care. Printed documentation should be provided in addition to in-room discussion, as it provides a concrete way for the patient to be accountable.
- Empathy – In an effort to keep the doctor/patient relationship professional and to maintain a “level head,” many providers distance themselves from becoming emotionally involved with patients. This can result in a lack of empathy, which is necessary for many patients and can affect clinical outcomes. A Cleveland Clinic study found that 82% of respondents reported empathy as an important trait for their healthcare provider to have. Healthcare providers should take the time necessary to allow patients to have their questions answered and their concerns addressed while providing compassionate responses.
- Adequate Time – Many providers are forced to rush patients through their examination in order to keep up with their busy schedule. This fast paced environment provides insufficient time to properly take histories and consider alternative treatments, which can result in the ordering of unnecessary tests.
Just as the fast pace environment can cause unnecessary spending, the inability to take thorough histories can result in the prescribing of medications or treatments that are contraindicated. This can result in potentially fatal outcomes for the patient. To address this, schedules should be adjusted to allow providers enough time to plan and treat patients.
- Long Wait Time – Just as doctors expect their patients to come to their appointment on time, patients expect their provider to also see them within a timely manner. One of the biggest frustrations patients have is a long wait at the doctor’s office. Their time is valuable and must be respected. While emergencies happen and cannot be avoided, if long wait times are ubiquitous to your practice, change is in order.
The key to any successful medical marketing and practice growth strategy is ensuring the needs of the patient are met. While time is often the culprit, changes can be made to allow providers sufficient use of it for treating patients. By doing so, providers can improve their quality of care, which results in more satisfied patients.