How to Create a Patient Satisfaction Improvement Plan

February 15, 2013
Aubrey Westgate

A step-by-step guide to improved patient satisfaction scores at your practice.

As patient satisfaction plays a growing role in reimbursement, it’s critical for practices to find ways to boost patient satisfaction scores. But that’s easier said than done – especially since most practice staff and physicians are already stretched thin for time and resources.

To help, we spoke with Meryl Luallin, a partner at California-based medical practice consulting firm SullivanLuallin Group and a medical practice shadow coach. Here’s how she said a practice can develop an effective patient satisfaction improvement plan.

1. Find out where you stand. The first thing to do is conduct a patient satisfaction survey, said Luallin. “That will give you a good handle on where your strengths and your limitations are in the eyes of a patient.”

Creating and implementing your own survey is an inexpensive option, but it will take time, and you may not be asking the right questions.  If possible, consider asking an outside firm for assistance, or visit for sample patient satisfaction surveys.

Regardless of what survey you use, make sure it includes the “money question,” said Luallin. AKA: “Would you recommend this physician to another patient?” That’s what federal payers are really focusing on, she said. 

2. Determine what you need to work on. Once you receive your scores, a good approach to begin improving them is by focusing on a few key elements. Luallin recommends the “people scores,” in other words, those related to patients’ perceptions of physicians and staff.

“We found that if you raise the people scores, if you improve the caring concern of the nurses and medical assistants and so forth, and if the doctor comes across with better communication, then all of the other scores tend to rise,” she said.

3. Focus on improvement. If those people skills need work, focus on small details that can create big satisfaction improvements. Make sure physicians and staff are connecting to patients on a personal level. For instance, they need to call patients by name, make eye contact, introduce themselves, and display empathy. If possible, use shadow coaching to identify specific areas of improvement.

4. Ask for help. As you are working to improve your scores, consider bringing in a consultant, said Luallin. He will have training modules and service protocols to recommend to your practice, and he will know what methods have worked to improve scores at other practices.  

5. Gauge progress. Quarterly or twice yearly, take another survey of patients to determine how whether your efforts are effective, said Luallin. “Constantly focus on chasing the goal of trending up in satisfaction.”

What patient satisfaction improvement efforts have worked at your practice?