3 ways to improve patient experience, operations

Even though most patients say they're generally satisfied with the service they get at the doctor's office, some perennial complaints persist. The June issue of Consumer Reports not only ranked patients' top gripes about their experiences at physician offices, but broke them down by demographics.

When looking to improve service and operations for your patient population, consider the following results from Consumer Report's nationally representative survey of 1,000 patients:

  • Communication can always be better. "Unclear explanation of a problem" took the top spot in the survey, scoring an 8.1 on a frustration scale of 1 to 10. Misunderstandings can be particularly problematic with older patients, according to a recent post from the AARP blog. To improve the chances patients understand and follow your advice, consider providing physicians with more training in communication skills and/or use nurses or other nonphysicians to help augment the doctor's instructions and answer patient questions with less time pressure, some experts have suggested.
  • Long waits in the office, or to get an appointment in the first place, are still problematic, ranking 7.6 and 7.8 respectively. With increased competition posed by retail clinics in providing minor-illness and now chronic care, employ these strategies to cut wait time.
  • Learn to keep your computer or tablet screen from impeding face-to-face communication. Doctors' focus on recording information in an electronic medical record and not making eye contact ranked a 6.2 on Consumer Reports' Gripe-o-Meter, but female patients were more bothered by the intrusion than men.

The bottom line, according to study authors, is that "openness, respect, and trust are critical to a successful doctor-patient relationship."

To learn more:
- read the article from Consumer Reports
- see the post from the AARP blog

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