5-star care: How to boost patient satisfaction scores

Earning good ratings is becoming more difficult, but there are ways to make real gains in your scores.

Physician reimbursement is being increasingly impacted by patient satisfaction scores. Once, this was something only hospitals had to worry about, but now it’s affecting practices of all sizes.

Unfortunately, getting those good scores is becoming harder. Patients are comparing their healthcare experience against the experiences they have in retail and the service sector. And, let’s face it, healthcare hasn’t been known for providing modern, super engaging, seamless experiences. Still, one study showed that about half of patients expect the same customer service experience in healthcare that they get in retail. And patient satisfaction can have an impact on your practice's bottom line.

This trend shows it’s more important than ever to be able to track and monitor patient satisfaction and take steps to make improvements to meet the changing expectations of patients.

To effectively gauge what patients think and identify areas for improvement, here are four best practices to follow:

Keep it simple

You can’t do anything about a pre-set CAHPS survey, but you can control the length and complexity of a patient survey you send out. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes to complete and should focus on a single topic, like their recent visit or changes you’ve made like new technology or services. Don’t try to do it all in one survey.

Be timely

For a post-visit patient survey, send it out within 24 to 48 hours. The sooner the better. You want to strike while patients remember their experience.

Get hard data

Avoid creating open-ended survey questions. It’s appropriate to have a spot at the end for additional comments, but you want to be able to easily analyze the data. Use multiple choice and yes or no questions. For example, don’t use, “Tell us what you thought of the wait time.” Instead, ask, “Was the wait time reasonable, yes or no.”

Go digital

Create and send your surveys electronically. People prefer online survey 30 times more than paper ones. Using a digital platform also allows you to automate the sending of surveys, personalize them to the patient, and easily see the results.

Find problem areas to focus on

There are a few key areas where patients focus on when it comes to satisfaction. These include:

  1. Poor experience with office staff
  2. Feeling more like a number than a person
  3. Difficulty scheduling (both wait times and availability of methods for scheduling)
  4. Poor communication with the office

Ask good questions

Take the opportunity to ask if:

  • staff were friendly,
  • patients found it easy to schedule an appointment,
  • patients received communications from the practice through their preferred method (i.e., text or email).

If scores are low for friendliness, then you know this is an area for improvement. If lots of patients say they’d like to get communication via text and you aren’t offering that, then you know that is something to change.

Make the changes

Take this simple feedback and make a list of areas to work on. Then you can begin to tackle improvements. Some tips to make that process more successful include:

  • Group potential improvements into small changes and big changes. A small change might be something like temperature control and a big change might be service training with staff.
  • Tackle bigger changes one at a time. The little things like adding a coffee station to the waiting room can quickly be ticked off the list.
  • Get as much buy-in on the big changes as possible. Share the feedback from patients and ask for input on how to improve. Get the staff involved and engaged.
  • Be open to changes or upgrades in technology and processes to help address problems.

Follow up

Make sure that as you implement changes and settle into new ways of doing things that you follow up to see what patients think. Surveys should not be static. If you’ve made changes, then change your post-visit survey or send out a single survey specifically about those changes. Following up shows patients you are committed to improving their experience and continues to engage them in the process. These types of ongoing interactions and engagement are a key way to build loyalty at a time when patients are more likely than ever to go elsewhere when they are dissatisfied.