After countless years of operating as a fee-for-service system, the healthcare industry has spent the past several years transforming into a more value-based system in which patient satisfaction assumes a prominent role. Organizations have placed greater significance on people’s perceptions, most often measured through surveys, such as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). These questionnaires give administrators and clinicians an idea of areas where care met or exceeded expectations as well as areas where improvement is needed. What surveys don’t reveal is how healthcare institutions and medical professionals can increase patient satisfaction.
Here, we’ve compiled a summary of some the most-cited suggestions from articles about improving patient experience as well as ideas on how locum tenens physicians can implement the recommendations on assignment.
1. Focus on the overall experience
Researchers discovered that patients are more concerned about the entire experience they receive than the perceived quality of medical care. From the moment they enter the door to the moment they’re discharged, people are judging the totality of their experience. If an individual feels the overall experience is less than stellar, then that disappointment can overshadow positives in clinical care.
Patient satisfaction recommendation: Experts advise organizations to view healthcare as a series of experiences building upon each other instead of various functions operating in silos. Plus, patients want to see their healthcare team communicating with each other, which lessens confusion for them and families. Clear communication also is important for locum tenens professionals acclimating to a new setting and learning how to support the permanent staff so quality of care is uninterrupted.
2. Empower your patients
There’s a new type of relationship forming between providers and patients today. People want to assume a more active role in their care. For example, they may wish to discuss what they’ve learned through their own research or ask more questions than in years past.
Patient satisfaction recommendation: Take the time to converse with patients about what they’ve learned and answer their questions. Also, being very specific in care and medication instructions provides patients and caregivers a greater sense of control. The effort may prolong a visit, but oftentimes, it generates greater patient satisfaction.
3. Explain delays
Many healthcare administrators and managers believe one of the top complaints people have is long wait times. However, researchers discovered long waits don’t bother people as much as not knowing the reasons for the wait.
Patient satisfaction recommendation: Whenever possible, explain the cause for delays or give updates on how much longer the wait will be. Surveys indicate these simple considerations turn into positive impressions.
4. Put yourself in your patients’ shoes
It’s easy to get stuck in the professional’s point of view, after all, you have the education, experience, and expertise. But satisfactory service goes beyond the medical aspects. For example, have you ever consider how long it takes to get from the patient parking lot to the waiting room while on crutches? When you work in the same building every day, it’s easy to rely on memory to get around, but for patients, navigating hospital hallways can be confusing.
Patient satisfaction recommendation: In this regard, locum tenens professionals can offer a unique perspective. Because you’re new to a facility, finding your way around is not rote. Your impressions of maps or how accurate the signage is can give administrators valuable feedback on how to make patients’ experience more accommodating.
5. Remember to enjoy your job
Surveys show that when clinicians come across as being stressed out or rushed, people are less likely to feel positive about the exchange. Conversely, patients who feel like providers enjoy their job and want to connect with them on a more personal level are less likely to believe providers will make mistakes.
Patient satisfaction recommendation: Something as simple as taking a calming breath before interacting with patients and their family members can make a big difference. Stay focused on the moment and not thinking ahead to what else has to be done during the shift. Again, locum tenens professionals have a unique advantage in this situation. Because you don’t have as many administrative responsibilities as permanent staff, you can devote more of your energy toward patient care.
Improving patient experience takes time, and well, patience. But you’ll find that even small improvements will make a big difference to those you serve.