Patient-centered care is the new standard, so it’s time for all healthcare providers and organizations to begin actively seeking out opportunities to improve their service and provide the personalized, high quality care that patients deserve.

One of the best places to start improving care delivery is by taking a close look at patient satisfaction, the extent to which patients are happy with their care (both within and outside of healthcare spaces). Whether by handing out a survey or forming patient focus groups, measuring patient satisfaction isn’t just good for your business, it can positively shift the way patients view healthcare and contribute to better health outcomes.

Why measure patient satisfaction?

Incentives & Reimbursement

One way to improve patient experience and create a more patient-centered healthcare system? Incentivize those organizations that score high in patient satisfaction. Many health plan organizations are doing just this. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for example, implemented the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey in 2006, and the higher a hospital’s HCAHPS score, the higher its reimbursements will be.

Better Business

In addition to the financial incentives for collecting data on patient experiences, and acting on that information, high patient satisfaction is just plain good for business. A study conducted in 2009 found that with every drop in the patient satisfaction “scale,” the likelihood of a provider facing a malpractice suit increased 21.7 percent. As well, efforts toward improving patient experience go hand-in-hand with improvements in standard workplace practices and processes, which positively impact employee experiences and decrease turnover rates.

Clinical Outcomes

Financial benefits aside, improving patient experiences is an important and valuable process in its own right as it can improve patient perceptions about their own health and lead to better health outcomes. A patient’s experience with their healthcare providers correlates with their likelihood to adhere to treatment plans, and this correlation holds particularly true for those with chronic conditions, which require strict adherence for positive outcomes.

How it gets done

Surveys

Surveys such as the HCAHPS and CAHPS are undoubtedly the most common way of measuring patient satisfaction. But surveys are more than just a simple requirement for reimbursement. They are an effective method of gathering targeted information. Whether they aim to gather feedback on primary care visits, information from patients with a specific condition, or insight from a patient’s family, surveys can be easily created and modified to align with different patient experience goals.

Surveys are not without their limitations, though. The simplistic nature of surveys may make it more difficult to take a deep dive and uncover underlying issues, and they risk excluding individuals with lower literacy levels. However, surveys provide an opportunity to collect different types of information quickly, inexpensively, and from large amounts of people due to the ease with which they can be created and delivered.

Interviews & Focus Groups

While surveys could be seen as the gold standard of measuring patient satisfaction, there are many other methods businesses can use to receive feedback from patients about their experiences. Individual interviews, though less applicable to wider populations, are an effective means of gathering in-depth information about a patient’s feelings regarding a particular topic, with the option to explore various unexpected topics immediately.

Though less frequently used, focus groups are another excellent strategy for exploring and gauging the complexities of patient experiences and satisfaction. Whether through a one-time gathering or ongoing patient panels, focus groups can more easily uncover deeper issues and common themes that are difficult to draw out from standard surveys.

Key areas to improve

When it comes to truly impacting patient satisfaction, healthcare organizations and providers must go beyond simply measuring satisfaction. They must analyze and apply that feedback, determining concrete steps, benchmarks, and other performance indicators that can fundamentally raise the quality and experience of care.

Digital Innovation

As patients see more and more digital innovations in their life outside of healthcare spaces, they now expect to see a certain level of digital innovation within those spaces as well. Because of this, healthcare organizations should be actively looking for opportunities to innovate and take full advantage of the digital age in which we live. In addition to updating and modernizing standard processes, the most competitive organizations are reimagining a patient’s digital experience and seeking out new ways of creating value through digital solutions.

Culture & Work Environment

Poor patient satisfaction is often a reflection of poor work environments. Using patient feedback, healthcare organizations can gain insight into where they may need to improve the working environment and culture, from employee engagement to workflow efficiencies. With a positive and smoothly operating work environment, patients have better experiences, which boosts patient (and employee) loyalty.

In addition to fostering a positive work environment, it is essential to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion. Collecting patient feedback regarding aspects of identity can help organizations reach underserved communities and create more inclusive experiences for patients, and conducting internal assessments can help organizations uncover disparities between patient and clinician perspectives. The more a patient feels connected to and included in healthcare spaces, the more likely they will adhere to and engage with healthcare and recovery plans.

Ready for Better Patient Experiences?

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