7 Simple Tips to Improve Patient Satisfaction Scores
- June 30, 2016
- ByEvan Howell
What are patient satisfaction scores and why do they matter?
Patient satisfaction scores are one of the most valuable tools for receiving information and feedback on a patient’s perception of his or her care. These survey results should directly fuel changes or approaches to patient care and how it is delivered. Making changes might seem like an easy task, but many times simple solutions to improve patient satisfaction scores are overlooked. Use these 7 fundamental tips to help improve patient satisfaction scores for individual clinicians and the emergency department (ED) overall.
What can I focus on to improve patient satisfaction scores?
- Introductions and Patient Communication
- Body Language
- Demeanor and Bedside Manner
- Being Realistic with Expectations of Time
- Respecting the Patient’s Wait Time
- Update, Update, Update
- Being Friendly
Tip #1: Introductions and Patient Communication
Each member of your team who is caring for the patient should introduce him or herself upon entering the patient room or tending to the patient in a fast-track area. This basic step makes the patient feel more comfortable with the team taking care of him or her. Make sure to write names of the team on the exam room whiteboard as a reminder, if available. If there isn’t a whiteboard in the room, be sure to use another communication tool to keep your patient informed (i.e. a passport).
Beyond clinician-patient introductions, focused patient communication is also key. Listen to the patient’s concerns, ask questions, do not rush your interactions and be present. Patients are in the emergency department for a reason; make them feel respected and heard to ease their concerns and fears.
Tip #2: Body Language
Most teams can benefit from studying non-verbal communication or body language in how it relates to patient perception. Non-verbal cues can portray the level of interest a person has in communicating. There are four parts of body language to keep in mind when communicating with patients including body posturing, facial expressions, touch and eye contact.
Body posturing is how you carry yourself. If a clinician walks into a room with hunched shoulders and shuffling feet, patients may be concerned the doctor or APC is tired, grumpy or in a bad mood. If that same physician or APC walks in with his or her chin up and shoulders back with noticeable energy, a patient could assume he or she is in a good mood and ready to provide care. Touch is important as physical contact can immediately communicate a level of concern or affection with the patient and, as such, should be used sparingly and appropriately. Remember, always ask for consent and give instruction about what you are going to do before touching a patient. This step is very important and should be adhered to strictly.
Facial expressions can reveal how someone is feeling. We all often show thoughts on our faces without meaning to, so putting on the “patient face” when entering an exam room is important. Relaxed facial muscles and a smile when meeting someone can make a world of difference. Avoid yawning, grimacing or other expressions that could be perceived negatively. This can be coupled with eye contact. However, finding the right balance between eye contact and staring is important. You want the patient to feel listened to – not scrutinized.
Tip #3: Demeanor and Bedside Manner
Your demeanor and bedside manner convey that you are listening to the patient, validating his or her concerns, keeping the patient and family members informed and treating him or her appropriately, respectfully and professionally. Your demeanor is how you act and how your behavior is perceived. A poor bedside manner may cause anxiety or fear, leading to a poor clinician-patient relationship.
Tip #4: Be Realistic with Expectations of Time
Often patients do not understand the emergency department, radiology or other hospital department operations which can impact their perception of how long wait times should be. Give patients accurate expectations of how long they may have to wait and provide an understanding of next steps for the patients and family members. Telling the patient the wait will not be long or he or she will be seen shortly may cause aggravation if the patient has to wait longer than expected.
Setting realistic expectations of time and giving a numeric range regarding waiting for test results and approximate discharge time is important to show your patients you respect their time. If accurate time estimations are going to be longer than initially stated, check in with the patient, apologize for the wait, and update him or her on the reason for the additional wait. Most complaints against clinicians are bundled up in a lack of communication, so make sure you’re keeping the patient updated.
Tip #5: Respect Their Wait Time
Going hand-in-hand with realistic expectations of time, clinicians and other department team members should be respectful with the patients waiting in the reception area and try their best to make the wait seem as short as possible.
Update patients and be sure to stock your waiting area with a TV, magazines, brochures and other materials patients can point their attention to. If patients have something to do while waiting and are being updated routinely, they are less likely to be upset with longer wait times.
For patients waiting on lab results or radiology results, utilize patient tablets to allow access to information and entertainment while in the patient room or hall bed. Tablets, TVs or other electronic devices help pass the time and may take the mind off whatever is ailing the patient. Use technology to share healthy messages by loading informational health videos and apps include games and news features.
Tip #6: Update, Update, Update
As mentioned, the power of updating your patients routinely can help improve patient satisfaction scores. Check on people waiting for test results, update on any delays or issues, and make communication a top priority. These will go a long way with your patients.
Patients need to feel as if they are a priority. Check on them and let them know their x-rays are being reviewed. This helps them feel involved and creates a better overall experience. Keeping them in loop allows the patients to see your face more, creates a better understanding of your compassion for the patient, makes the patient aware you are cognizant of his or her time spent in the emergency department and increases provider and patient relationships as a whole.
Tip #7: Be Friendly
As simple and easy as this one may seem, bedside manner and a friendly atmosphere can drastically improve scores. No one wants to be seen by a grumpy, tired or obviously distracted clinician. Aim to treat every patient as you would your own family by being friendly, open, honest and considerate at a time when they are potentially feeling vulnerable.
Looking for External Help?
If your clinical team is struggling with improving patient satisfaction scores, consider implementing a patient experience immersion program with your team to help reiterate the fundamentals of patient experience. We offer our hospital and health system partners the ApolloMD We Care Challenge, among other patient experience programs.
The We Care Challenge is a 10-week program where our team of clinical operations experts help guide physician and advanced practice clinician teams with step-by-step instruction on how to improve patient experience. Used across the country, our programs are customizable and can be tailored to each hospital’s specific needs. Want to learn more about a partnership with ApolloMD? Contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!