Practice Management Questions & Answers


Tips to Increase Patient Satisfaction

Patients evaluate the quality of their health care based on how satisfied they are with their care. There are many steps that can help you meet your patients' needs and in turn have more satisfied patients. Some steps are relatively simple, while others require investment of more time or resources. However, these steps can help improve patient adherence to treatment plans and help you demonstrate the value of your practice to managed care organizations.

  1. Track your steps toward patient satisfaction.
    Maintain a Quality Service File
    Make sure that it is current and easily accessible to you and your colleagues. In this file, keep an ongoing record of staff meetings where quality is discussed, commendations, complimentary letters from patients and referral sources, office memos concerning quality, and data from the hospital and other sources.

    Professional Development File
    Include in your file a copy of your Curriculum Vitae (reviewed and updated at least annually), copies of CME programs completed, CME plans for the future, notes of any committees you have or are currently serving on and your office or role, or any work completed or in progress toward the AMA Physician Recognition Award. Audit your own charts in your office by having one of your staff members routinely (monthly) screen an agreed upon number of charts against criteria set by you and your colleagues. Be sure this information is discussed at your monthly staff meetings and note your discussion.

  2. Assess patient needs and concerns.
    Rather than simply measuring satisfaction, assess your patients' needs and beliefs about the services you provide. Do not overlook patient needs for convenient locations, late or early office hours, weekend services, waiting time, follow-up, staff response, etc. Key components of a patient needs assessment and satisfaction questionnaire include the patient's impressions of the overall experience, interaction with staff, access to and feelings about facilities, and special or educational needs.

  3. Implement changes to satisfy your patients.
    Marketing can be as simple as making every patient feel comfortable and appreciated. Differentiate your practice from others by providing a personal touch to patient relationships. Some practices make house calls. Others place much value on follow-up telephone calls. Mail and e-mail reminders, appropriate patient management by telephone, wellness/patient education programs, speaking bureaus, patient newsletters and other steps can help address patient needs and meet the goals of your practice.

  4. A few steps to improving patient satisfaction: Communication.
    • Send a welcome letter to a patient after they have made the initial appointment. Thank the patient and enclose a practice brochure.

    • Answer the telephone quickly and courteously, identify yourself by name. Provide callers the opportunity to respond to a request to be placed on hold, and explain to them if their call is being transferred.

    • Home pages and patient satisfaction. Many allergy practices have developed home pages on the World Wide Web. These pages feature a range of information about allergists and their practices, including short bios, photos, information about hours and services, and sometimes disease-specific information. Although they must remain sensitive to confidentiality issues, many physicians now regularly communicate with patients via electronic mail. According to an October 1995 survey, there are more than 24 million Internet users throughout the U.S. and Canada, or 11percent of the population over age 6.

    • Interaction: Acknowledge patients immediately upon arrival. Display visible identification and introduce yourself by name and title when first meeting a patient. During the visit, acknowledge patients promptly and courteously with eye contact. Avoid standing over or sitting at a higher level than the patient, and try not to turn your back to the patient. Also avoid writing in the patient's chart while the patient is speaking with you.

    • Always address a patient by name. Be very sensitive to the patient's feelings in deciding whether to use formal or informal terms of address.

    • Ask about the patient's family. Some physicians jot down personal notes about each patient and keep them in the patient's chart. A few physicians even have photographs taken of each patient and attach them to charts to refresh the physician's memory.

    • Access and Facilities: Inform disabled or elderly patients that they can request a staff person to meet them at their cars and escort them into the office. Make a wheelchair available.

    • Explain all lengthy delays, and make sure that patients are given the opportunity to reschedule if they so desire. The physician(s) should be encouraged to be punctual and attentive to the appointment schedule. Remember, the patient's time is valuable, too!

    • Create a pleasant reception area. Some suggest providing a "living room" effect. This might include using table lamps rather than overhead lighting, soothing, easy-listening music, and something to do or read, such as puzzles, books, crossword puzzles, or current magazines.

    • Assess patient needs. Provide educational materials; they may help patients assume responsibility in self-management.

    • Spend adequate time with each patient. Surveys show that patient satisfaction directly correlates with how much time the physician spends with the patient.

    • Provide a suggestion box for your patients.

  5. Publicize your patients' satisfaction.
    Let your patients know how they and other patients feel about your practice. If you are delighting patients, document the delight! Also remember to report your results to the community. If you have changed something about your practice, let patients know why, particularly if they informed you of their needs.

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