Patient Satisfaction: You Can't Please Everyone

February 27, 2012

Patient satisfaction is very important to a practice …but you just can’t make everyone happy all the time.

Patient satisfaction is very important to a practice. It keeps patients coming back. They tell their friends and families to come. They give good feedback to their referring physicians, who in turn send more patients. It helps to keep the practice going financially, but it also boosts office morale when patients lets us know how happy they are with the care they receive and the efficiency of the office staff.

Having said that - you just can’t please everybody. Most patients are very happy that we run on time and that we don’t make them wait for more than a few minutes, and if we are more than five minutes late, we apologize for our tardiness. But in order to keep a tight running schedule, we must insist that patients arrive on time. If one patient is 10 minutes late for a 15-minute appointment, that slows the rest of the day down. Hence, we have a policy that those who are late may need to be rescheduled. They (those who saunter in late unapologetically) don’t like that policy.

These visit summaries? Many patients like them. Their plan is clearly spelled out for them. Their medication list is right there. And then, there are patients like “Mrs. Smith” who told me she was offended that in her visit summary she was referred to as “Ms. Smith.” She said when she was widowed she lost a husband but not her title. I explained that “Ms.” is the neutral term, indicating no particular marital status, and that my EHR is not capable of discerning married or single and creating a different title for each. Well, guess who didn’t get a visit summary that day. I’ve also had patients be offended by labeling their diabetes as “uncontrolled” or being given a diagnosis of obesity. Thank goodness only 50 percent of patients need get a summary.

And then there are the people whose schedules are so inflexible that they need a particular time and day and yet are unwilling to wait until such time and day is available. “Tuesday is my short day, so I can come in after 4:30 on Tuesdays.” Well, the next available late Tuesday is in three months with Dr. A, but we can get you in with Dr. B in three weeks on a Tuesday, or you can see Dr. A on a Friday in two weeks. No, none of that is good. It has to be Dr. A, on a Tuesday, after 4:30, as soon as possible. One patient even had the nerve to ask us to call another patient and move them so she could take their spot.

We will continue on our quest to keep our patients satisfied; the majority of them anyway. The others will just have to put up with what they consider shortcomings, or go somewhere else.

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