You must run faster and further than ever, just to keep up with patient expectations – let alone exceed them
We are well into the age of patient satisfaction and the need to recognize that patients, even long standing loyal patients, will leave our practices and go to a competitor if they are not satisfied with our services. We must serve them better and cheaper.
I have four simple tips for improving patient satisfaction with you and your practice.
1. Think beyond meeting expectations for improving patient satisfaction
If all you do is meet expectations, you will soon see your practice volume decrease, as other practices do more than merely meet patients’ expectations. Meeting expectations consists of making the right diagnosis and providing the right treatment for the patient’s medical complaint.
Every physician receives that level of training and is capable of that level of caring for his or her patients. That’s a minimal level of performance and will seldom endear you or your practice to your patients and maintain their loyalty. It certainly won’t improve patient satisfaction.
2. Exceed expectations for the patient experience
This level will keep you going a little longer – until a competing doctor comes along and does better and meets and exceeds this next level of patient expectations. If you have a practice that offers sample medications to your patients for newly prescribed medications, that will make a minimal to moderate impression on your patients.
And that can easily be duplicated by your competitors. This level of patient satisfaction is not enough to hold the attention of your patients or make them happy for any length of time.
3. Delight your patients
Do things for patients faster and more cheerfully than they expected. An example of delighting your patients is providing them with access to the practice if they have an urgent care need or an emergency. For example, my practice has an open slot each morning and afternoon that allows patients in immediate need to come in as soon as possible and be seen without inconveniencing patients who have scheduled appointments.
Patients appreciate knowing that if they need to see their doctor, they can be accommodated in a timely fashion. This level of improving patient satisfaction is not easily duplicated by other practices in your community. If you call a patient at home to see if a new mediation is working and that the patient is not having side effects, you can be sure you will delight the patient.
4. Amaze your patients & reap word-of-mouth marketing
Do things for your patients that surprise them so much that they will tell others about your amazing practice. This is outstanding service above and beyond patients’ expectations.
A recent example from my practice was a patient who had a syncopal episode after an office procedure. I felt that he was not in a condition to drive home. I asked one of my staff to take him in his car and then she took a taxi back to the office. Another instance of level 4 patient satisfaction is making a house call on a patient who cannot come to the office but does not require going to the ER or urgent care center.
In both situations, I received notes from the patients, as well as their families, about the service received by the patients, which was above and beyond any expectation. This required minimal extra effort but resulted in a maximal impression on the patients and their families.
This is the kind of service that results in great word-of-mouth marketing and promotion of your practice. It is this level of caring and compassion that will put your patient satisfaction scores in the stratosphere and will also result in significant improvement in your online reputation stars.
So what’s the bottom line? The bar for improving patient satisfaction is being raised every day by our competitors. Sometimes our competitors are not other medical practices, but may be urgent care centers, pharmacies that offer flu vaccines, and blood pressure monitoring or even alternative healthcare providers such as acupuncturists, nutritionists and chiropractors.
We need to run faster and further than ever before, just to keep our place in line. Perhaps if you focus on level 3 and delight your patients, and also on level 4, which means to amaze or wow your patients, you will achieve stellar patient satisfaction scores.