The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (CAHPS) for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) may be an optional quality measure for many physicians and facilities, but it can be a great tool to discover what your patients think of both the physician experience and the level of treatment they received.
Even if the CAHPS survey is not included as one of the MIPS measures utilized by a practice, what else can be done to help improve patient satisfaction?
1) Take a Seat
A recent study found that more than half of patients prefer to have their doctor sitting at eye level while they are speaking, rather than standing up or towering over them.
When dealing with a patient, take a seat — but make sure to maintain good posture. Slouching or slumping tends to damage patient confidence and lower overall patient satisfaction.
2) Communicate Clearly and Often
Communication between patient and professional isn’t just necessary — it can save lives and prevent malpractice claims. A 2016 study found that communication failure was directly responsible for 1,744 patient deaths over the course of five years and was the root cause of some 30 percent of malpractice claims.
Physicians should take the time to communicate with their patients and to listen intently. Modern technology including telemedicine and SMS among others have made communicating with patients easier than ever. Leverage technology when in-person touches aren’t available.
3) Make Eye Contact
While reading a patient chart and diagnostic information on a computer screen is an integral part of healthcare, so too is eye contact with the patient. Professionals should speak to their patients rather than at them and should avoid talking to their patients while distracted with a chart or computer screen.
According to Carol Kinsey Goman, author of The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt How You Lead, “If a speaker actively seeks out eye contact when talking, he or she is judged to be more believable, confident and competent.”
This is especially important for a physician responsible for delivering bad news to a patient or a patient’s family. Don’t avoid eye contact, even if the patient is looking at the floor. Patients should have the option to make eye contact with their physician instead of talking to the side of their head while they read a chart.
4) Keep to a Schedule
Medical practices are frequently subject to an often-deserved stereotype — that patients will spend hours sitting in the waiting room, even if they have an appointment. You can find good tips for improving patient scheduling in the post 8 Best Practices for Patient Scheduling.
While situations do arise where emergencies or on-call situations take precedence over patient appointments, wherever possible physicians should try to stick to the established schedule. If there are events that keep physicians from seeing patients on time, keep them updated on expected wait times or reschedule their appointments as necessary.
5) Setting Expectations
There are few things that can derail a patient visit faster than an unwanted surprise.
Imagine, from a patient’s perspective, that you scheduled an appointment online, managed to get two hours off from work in the middle of the day and drove to the doctor’s office just to find out that they don’t accept your insurance. You could’ve sworn your insurance provider was listed online. You check again on your cell-phone from the waiting room and it is listed. The medical practice hadn’t updated its list of accepted insurance providers. Now you’re out two hours and still need to see the doctor.
This is one example of poor expectation setting. Whether online, in the office, or over the phone, it is important to clearly spell out items such as: appointment times, fees, patient vs. payer obligations, after-hour needs, filling prescriptions and any other common questions your patients have.
6) Make Their Wait Comfortable
Sitting in a waiting room is usually an inherently uncomfortable experience, one that is exacerbated by patient anxiety. It doesn’t have to be, though.
Invest in comfortable chairs, televisions, and magazines, to make the patient more comfortable while they wait.. The atmosphere in many medical practices is often overlooked but can go a long way in improving the patient experience.
Modernizing the check-in process with an electronic intake that can be completed without the need for front-desk interaction is another option for decreasing the inherent frustrations that are associated with doctor’s appointments.
A warm smile can make even the most uncomfortable patient feel more at home during an appointment — and it doesn’t cost anything to put a patient at ease simply by giving them a smile and a handshake when entering an exam room.
After a few weeks of greeting patients with a warm smile and being inquisitive about patient interests (i.e. family, pets, profession), physicians may start to see a difference in their overall satisfaction rating.
Smiling is so powerful that Dale Carnegie devoted an entire chapter to it in his critically acclaimed book How to Win Friend and Influence People.
In the publication, Dale reflects on the power of smiling in a powerful poem:
“It costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None are so rich they can get along without it and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
It creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in a business, and is the countersign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anyone ’til it is given away. And if in the hurly-burly bustle of today’s business world, some of the people you meet should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?
For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give.”
It doesn’t take much to improve patient satisfaction. Many of these tips can be applied without spending any additional money.
Simple changes in behavior such as offering a smile, keeping the patients updated on extended wait times, and properly setting expectations can do wonders for overall patient satisfaction, as well as the practice’s CAHPS scores.