Making Patient Satisfaction A Part of Your Daily Practice

February 26, 2012

By measuring patient satisfaction closer to the actual patient visit …you can get more real-time feedback on how your team is performing.

There is orthodoxy in the medical field that says that we should measure patient satisfaction once a year, then make some improvements, and hope that we see improved scores the next year. My experience in the field of customer and patient experience management, across a number of industries, says there is a better way that delivers more predictable results and creates an internal culture more aligned with patient experience improvements.

The axiom is a familiar one, “What gets measured, gets managed.” I’m simply suggesting that the corollary to that is, “What gets measured more frequently gets managed more frequently.” Let’s explore this topic in more detail.

A view across industries. Whether we are talking about medical device manufacturers, personal computer suppliers, retailers, airlines, or financial services companies, the progressive market leaders across industries recognize that customer satisfaction needs to be incorporated into daily operational practices to become effective.

For a number of years, I led customer loyalty with a large healthcare company and instituted programs where we measured critical to quality interactions every time they occurred. We provided ways for customers to provide direct feedback about specific interactions they had with a particular sales or customer service representative. We knew from analysis we had done on our customers (not some industry database but our own data), that the interactions that our customers had in these two areas were predictors of how long a customer would continue to do business with us and how broadly they would use our services when they had needs. Leading companies across a variety of industries do the same thing.

Immediately following a customer service transaction with your bank you’re asked if you’d like to provide feedback. This allows the bank to link your feedback directly with the person who provided the service and what the bank knows about that service interaction. This also enables the bank to take real-time action on your feedback. Actions like passing along positive feedback to the representative that worked with you or having a supervisor make a call back to you to resolve an issue that was left unresolved.

Application to physician practices. The same concepts can be applied to your practice. By measuring patient satisfaction closer to the actual patient visit, or even immediately following the visit, you can get more real-time feedback on how your team is performing. The recent nature of the visit enables the patient to provide feedback about listening skills, empathy, and other emotionally-connected soft skill areas. They don’t have to wait months to evaluate your practice and have to rely on their memory of an interaction that may have happened long ago.

This also provides you the ability to take immediate action in areas. Recognize staff members or physicians who provided excellent service right away. This helps staff members to connect the actions they took that day or the attitude they were exhibiting directly with the results that were felt by the patient. It is a strong positive reinforcement mechanism to create a more effective practice.
Lastly, by aggregating multiple patient satisfaction responses together into a composite score, you’re able to gain a real-time perspective on an important metric for your practice.

Practical conclusions. Federal and state governments are mandating that your practice work with certain vendors who have received The Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers Survey certification for the formal, official reporting on patient satisfaction scores annually. But don’t let that deter you from finding other, lower cost alternatives to get more frequent measurements throughout the year. There are a number of survey vendors that have innovative approaches that you can use on a high frequency basis at a fraction of the expense of the large annual surveys. Shop around and find ways to make patient satisfaction a part of your daily practice.

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