As healthcare evolves, so do patients’ expectations. Payers are changing reimbursement strategies to focus on value-based care, therefore patients' experiences and subsequent reviews of those experiences can affect the practice’s level of reimbursement. Understanding patients’ opinions and expectations is critical to a successful practice. Unique to the industry, healthcare is built on a platform of trust and communication. Patients need to trust their physician and the physician’s staff. Much of that trust emanates from effective communication. Establishing and maintaining a trusting relationship with patients is a challenging and critical necessity for medical practices seeking to create a positive patient experience.
Aside from reimbursement implications, there are a number of practical reasons to focus on patient experience. Negative experiences create negative marketing and can set the stage for litigation if there is an adverse outcome. Patients who understand and engage in their care do better statistically than those who do not. Those patients who do not understand their condition and care instructions can create inefficiencies in the practice with repeated phone calls and unnecessary visits. Such inefficiencies can be costly for a practice in a value-based care reimbursement scenario.
Why are trust and communication important?
What steps can I take to build trust? Establish a level of comfort with all patients by:
Why are first impressions important?
How can a good first impression be created?
How can communication be improved?
How your staff treats your patients is a reflection of your culture
Patients are extremely forgiving if they are treated in a manner that lets them know you care. Creating an environment of trust allows staff to focus on your patients and lets them know you care. How a patient feels about a practice can be just as important as medical expertise. This connection between, patient, staff and physician can not only make a critical difference in the patient’s evaluation of his or her care and experience but his or her outcome as well.
Measuring Patient Experience
Many practices choose to measure patient satisfaction in addition to and/or separate from payer requirements. Satisfaction seeks to measure the happiness of a patient, which is important but is not the same as patient experience. The focus should be on measuring patient experience, which is a measurement of the patient’s perception and understanding of his or her care. The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Clinician and Group Survey (CG-CAHPS) provides a tool that includes standardized instruments for adults and children. It can be used in both primary care and specialty care settings. The questionnaire may be customized with the addition of supplemental items by the practice. For example, you may want to also ask the same questions about the helpfulness, courtesy and respect of the nursing staff (already included in the sample survey for clerks and receptionists). You could ask additional questions about the ease of the website, general office environment, directions, parking, etc. Forthe survey and supplemental questions, visit this link for additional information and guidance on the tool and its use. Remember, while you may not agree with the patient’s perception, it is factual to him or her and created in part based on the experience your staff and you provided.
Stephen Dickens, JD, FACMPE, is the Vice President of the Medical Practice Services Department at SVMIC. Mr. Dickens has spent over 20 years working in medical practice, hospital, and home care executive positions. He is a Past Chair of the Medical Group Management Association. During his tenure, MGMA had more than 33,000 members working in over 18,000 healthcare organizations where some 385,000 physicians practiced. Additionally, he is a Past President of the MGMA Financial Management Society and Tennessee MGMA. He is a Board Certified Medical Practice Executive and Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives.
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