The value of a positive patient experience

A surgeon with whom I've worked for years (a mentor and good friend of mine) has a strong opinion on the matter of creating a positive patient experience. In his eyes, the role of a surgeon is to give patients the best medical treatment possible. Practice "amenities" are irrelevant - he is running a medical practice, not a spa. If a patient receives top-notch medical care and sees a significant improvement in his or her symptoms, that is the only "patient experience" that matters. I'm sure, to some degree, we all agree with this perspective.

However, research shows that a patient's satisfaction hinges on more than just clinical outcomes. A 2007 survey found that 41% of patients would consider switching hospitals for a better patient experience (“A Better Hospital Experience,” McKinsey Quarterly, November 2007). Patients aren't content unless their psychological needs are met along with their physical needs.

Moreover, to be blunt, surgeons aren't known for their high patient satisfaction marks. According to a 2010 Press Ganey survey of more than 3 million patients, neither orthopedic nor neurosurgical practices are among the top 10 medical practice specialties for patient satisfaction (see below). 

The Top 10 Rankings of Medical Practice Specialties for Patient Satisfaction
1. Medical Oncology  
2. Gynecological Oncology 
3. Interventional Cardiology 
4. Cardiovascular Disease 
5. Optometry 
6. Hematology 
7. Geriatric Internal Medicine 
8. Gynecology  
9. Nephrology 
10. Family Medicine

Patient satisfaction is important for a number of reasons. Happy patients drive referrals. Then, of course, there's the issue of malpractice claims. And lastly, we have to consider the possibility that patient satisfaction will, at some point, factor into reporting and pay-for-performance programs.

Tips and tricks for improving the patient experience are a dime a dozen - just Google it. You can go broke implementing all the changes the World Wide Web suggests. Improve facilities. Improve communication. Improve patient education. Hire a masseuse. Hire a counselor. Hire Mickey Mouse. See chronic patients more frequently. See chronic patients LESS frequently.

However, I argue that you can't set out to solve a problem without understanding the problem itself. The demographics of your patient population may differ greatly from that of the practice next door. Not every patient wants the same thing out of their surgical care and their relationship with their surgeon. I execute exhaustive market research, including patient surveys, for all my clients prior to spending a dime on new initiatives - and I recommend the same approach for any surgeon looking to improve the patient experience at his or her practice.

When it comes to the patient experience, work to truly understand your patients; ask their preferences and THEN work to accommodate them.

1 comment:

  1. I found your post comments while searching Google. Very relevant especially as this is not an issue which a lot of people are conversant with.
    This post is different from what I read on most blog. And it have so many valuable things to learn.

    Patient Satisfaction Survey