Reading Time: 5 minutes

To retain your patients, you must increase satisfaction and practice performance scores. Follow these tips to increase customer loyalty.

By Gert Volmer

Physician reimbursement continues to be impacted by patient satisfaction scores. At one time, only hospitals needed to concern themselves with these scores; now, however, the effect is felt by practices of all sizes. If you participate with Medicare payment reform or MACRA, you might find you suffer on a larger scale.

Those who face exemption find that value-based reimbursement combined with patient satisfaction affects revenue. The trouble is, getting high scores is becoming harder every day. Patients now judge healthcare experiences the same way they would retail and service experiences, and they judge their healthcare experience against those other experiences as well. When you factor in that the healthcare industry isn’t known for providing an engaging, modern, and seamless experience, it’s obvious where the difficulty comes in.

As technology continues to increase, the majority of patients want to have healthcare customer service experiences comparable to those in retail. From how a patient finds their provider to the way the patient communicates with the provider and the provider’s organization, patients demand more in the digital world. From online reviews to text messaging, today’s consumer wants a seamless experience.

When the experience doesn’t go as planned, frustration sets in. The result is that the patient will leave and take their healthcare business elsewhere. According to Solutionreach’s Patient-Provider survey, one in ten patients has left their primary care physician in the past year and up to one in three might move over the next two years. Almost 40 percent of those who have left pointed to a poor experience as the reason.


Follow the best practices

The newest trends reveal how important it is to track and monitor patient satisfaction. It’s also vital to take the next step and actually improve and change according to the expectations of your patients. To gauge what patients want effectively, you must first identify the areas for improvement. Here are four best practices you should follow:

Keep it simple

While there’s nothing that can be done about preset CAHPS surveys, you have control over the complexity and length of all other patient surveys sent out. They should be brief — you don’t want any of them to take more than five minutes to complete. On top of that, each one should focus on one topic. For example, you might want to ask about new technology changes or a recent visit.

Don’t attempt to find out everything from a single survey.

Make the survey timely

When you send out a post-visit survey, you want it to reach the patient within two days. The sooner you send it, the better. You want to receive the patient’s thoughts while the experience is still fresh in their mind.

Focus on getting the right data

Don’t create open-ended questions in your survey. You can leave an area at the end for some additional comments, but the survey should allow you to effectively analyze data. Either opt for “yes/no” questions or multiple choice for the best results.

To put this into practice: don’t ask “How do you feel about your wait time?” to “Did you feel the wait time was reasonable – yes or no?”

Transfer to digital

Design and distribute your surveys electronically. Consumers prefer to take online surveys, according to Pew Research. Using a digital platform makes it easy to create the survey and automate the entire process. Make sure you personalize the survey to your patients to reach them even more effectively.

Handling negative experiences

If you don’t currently conduct patient surveys, you need to make it a priority going forward. It’s time to implement surveys and start gathering the necessary data from your patients’ experiences.

This information will help you make needed improvements. While there are numerous solutions available to you, you want to pick software that allows you to generate electronic surveys geared toward your industry. Healthcare related survey systems should have preset questions that help you customize the questionnaire for your practice.

You also want to edit or add questions that specifically allow you to gauge how you address the consumers’ top concerns and issues. A Solutionreach Patient-Provider Relationship Study identifies some key areas that caused patients to leave their primary provider over the past year.

Some of the top reasons included:

⚫ Feeling like a number, not a person

⚫ Decreasing customer experience with the office staff

⚫ Trouble with scheduling, wait times, and scheduling availability

Improving communication with the office

Make sure you focus on the patient interaction with the office staff. You want to know if your patients feel that they are friendly, and whether it is easy to schedule appointments. It’s also vital that your patients think the communication is up to par. You want to communicate with them through their preferred method, whether it is text, phone, or email.

If the office scores low on friendliness, you must look for ways to develop this in your staff. You will also know there’s room for improvement if your patients want to communicate via text and you don’t currently offer that. Again, ask the right questions and these surveys can show you where and how you can excel.

Use the results as a way to learn

When you take the feedback and apply it, you will find many areas to improve in. As you make these changes, you will continuously heighten your patients’ experience.

Use some of these tips to make your process even more successful.

⚫ First, group the possible improvements into small to big changes. A small change might be something as simple as changing the temperature in the office, while the larger change might require additional staff training.

⚫ Then, don’t tackle more than one big challenge at a time. You can quickly check off the little improvement such as adding access to beverages in your waiting room.

⚫ Lastly, when you adjust to fix the more significant complaints, ask for patient feedback. Gauge satisfaction based on the response from your clients. You’ll show care, compassion, and communication by reaching out for further guidance.

⚫ Also: don’t be afraid of technology. Use modern tools to address problems and complaints.

Increase loyalty

Surveys should never remain static. You want to implement the changes and give them time to be seen and felt by your patients. Then, you must follow up to see what the patients think.

Once you change the processes in your office, send out a new follow-up survey to monitor the improvement. Don’t be afraid to specifically ask about the latest changes. By following up with your patients, you ensure that you continually change with the times. It also shows them how much you care about their experience and helps you remain relevant.

By maintaining ongoing interaction and staying engaged, you continue to increase loyalty and make it harder for your patients to leave you. When your patients are satisfied, they are less likely to leave your practice and take their business elsewhere.