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How to Improve Patient Satisfaction at Outpatient Clinics [2023 Guide]
The first step to happier patients is knowing where to improve. Use this guide for 2023 best practices to increase patient satisfaction.
Patient satisfaction is one of the most important metrics in healthcare. It's also the hardest to get right. Patient satisfaction impacts clinical outcomes, patient retention, and medical malpractice lawsuits. It can also be used as an indicator of how your staff is performing, and factors into the overall outpatient clinic’s success.
If you aren’t sure about the best approach to increasing patient satisfaction, use this guide as a starting point.
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What role does patient satisfaction play in healthcare?
Customer satisfaction has always been important, but now more than ever, people expect top-notch service. With patient satisfaction, the expectations are similar. They want to be treated with empathy and respect in every single interaction—both in and out of the office.
It is in your best interest to listen to what your patients are saying. In healthcare, knowing how your patients are feeling about your practice will inform how you and your staff conduct yourselves. For example, if you know your patients are upset with how difficult it is to schedule an appointment, you’ll be able to make specific changes that will help long-term satisfaction.
Other ways promoting patient satisfaction can help your healthcare organization include:
- Increase in patient retention rates
- Establishing a positive local reputation
- Avoiding malpractice lawsuits
Patient satisfaction is also a means of achieving other outcomes. For example, happy patients are more likely to refer their friends and family to you, which results in more business.
What is the difference between the patient experience and patient satisfaction?
Patient satisfaction and patient experience are often used interchangeably. However, they are not the same.
- Patient satisfaction has to do with the patient's expectations for care
- Patient experience deals with the patient's perception of care
To evaluate the patient experience, check how your patients perceive your clinic using some key metrics, such as how satisfied are patients with your speed in answering their calls. Was your practice quick to respond, or did the patient have to wait? The longer the wait time, the worse off the patient’s experience is.
Patient satisfaction, however, gauges if you’ve met your patient's expectations in each interaction. While it is hard to manage expectations, you can lay the groundwork by providing exceptional service before they set foot in your office. This will help set the tone for future visits and give them an idea of what they can expect from your outpatient clinic.
What’s the best way to measure the patient experience at your outpatient clinic?
You can use the following quality assurance metrics to measure the patient experience in your practice:
Average handle time (AHT)
The Average Handle Time (AHT) is the average time it takes for your outpatient clinic to resolve a patient inquiry over the phone. It's important to ensure that you have a high AHT satisfaction rate.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) score
The CSAT score for your clinic is a key success statistic that signals a patient's satisfaction with your services. You can rate patient satisfaction on this scale:
1 - Very unsatisfied
2 - Dissatisfied
3 - Neutral
4 - Satisfied
5 - Very satisfied
A high CSAT means outstanding service and a positive patient experience, whereas a low CSAT means a negative patient experience. Divide the total number of "satisfied” and “very satisfied” responses by the total respondents to get your CSAT.
Net promoter score (NPS)
This metric is used to help measure patient loyalty. This involves asking your patients to rate your outpatient clinic on a scale of 1-10.
Those who respond with a 9 or a 10 are considered promoters, whereas anyone who rates a 6 or 7 is considered passive. Those who respond with a score of 0-6 are detractors, which means they have some level of dissatisfaction. To find out your NPS score, use this formula:
Total % of Promoters – Total % of Detractors = Net Promoter Score
You can ask specific questions to your patients to get a better idea of which areas need improvement.
Why should you measure the patient experience?
Measuring the patient experience can improve treatment outcomes. Every staff person is responsible for helping the patients feel at ease. If someone isn’t meeting your standards, it could negatively impact the patient. By keeping a pulse check on the patient experience, you’ll be able to notice if there’s one group that is underperforming, and come up with a plan.
How to improve your outpatient clinic patient satisfaction
Knowing how to measure patient satisfaction is the first step. The next important thing is having a list of strategies you can employ to increase happiness—particularly if you find places where satisfaction is low. Here are two ideas to get you started.
1. Integrate empathy into your training
A little empathy goes a long way. For one, it helps build trust and respect. For another, it’s a great way to show that you care. By integrating empathy into your training, your staff will be able to have a positive impact on patients simply by interacting with them. And, it goes a long way in improving patient happiness.
What are some practical ways to practice empathy? One great way is to act with integrity. This means owning up to any mistakes, being up front, and showing respect. High levels of patient satisfaction do not come from perfection. Instead, patients like to know that they are interacting with real people who care for them.
Another way to work on empathy is to communicate clearly. A big part of communication is actively listening to your patients and asking questions. It’s another easy way to build a good relationship. Don’t rush them along or listen just to respond and move quickly. Show your patients that you care, from scheduling an appointment to the follow-up later on.
At the end of the day, tell your staff to treat the patients how they would want to be treated if they were in their shoes. That’s all you can ask for. Your patients will be happier with this type of service, and your clinic will benefit in the long run.
2. Conduct frequent quality assurance checks
It’s not only important to know how your patients are feeling about the care you give them but to know the quality of that care. The first step is measuring specifics to help conduct quality assurance tests.
Use AHT, CSAT, and NPS in tandem to conduct QA tests on satisfaction. Together, they will give you a big-picture view, and allow you to see specific areas where you need to improve in order to increase patient satisfaction.
You will also be able to see if you are lining up with your long-term clinic goals. If you want to increase business, knowing how likely your patients are to recommend your practice will help. Then, you can check areas such as AHT and see if there’s room for improvement.
Get help creating an action plan to improve patient satisfaction
Increasing patient satisfaction at your outpatient clinic is a big undertaking, and it’s not always easy to find the time or resources to make an impact. By partnering with businesses such as CCD Health, you’ll be able to access a wide variety of tools made to help you increase outcomes.
For example, at CCD Health, we conduct a deep dive Business Intelligence process to help identify gaps and areas where you can improve. We are familiar with how helpful satisfaction is firsthand; as a nearshore call center, we often use these same tactics to increase our own client satisfaction. Once we help you identify gaps, you can access our call center services to add a personalized touch to patient interactions.
We can help increase average handling time, work with you to create an optimized and more efficient patient scheduling system, and thoroughly follow up with patients. You can scale our services up and down to meet your unique needs without sacrificing your own staff. This will also allow you to free up your staff’s time, allowing them to provide further excellent patient experiences in the office.
To learn more about our unique approach to increasing patient satisfaction, reach out to our team of experts today to learn how we can partner together to increase scheduling efficiency, reduce drop calls, and improve your bottom line.