6/03/2020

The Secret to Creating the Most Satisfied Patients

Healthwise Patient Education Team

Why does patient satisfaction matter? As a health professional, you want the best for your patients, of course. But improving their level of satisfaction is also a major key to fiscal stability for health systems, hospitals, and provider groups. In other words, understanding how your patients think and knowing what they want pays off for everyone.

 

Before we dive in, let’s look at some numbers:

  • It costs 5 to 25 times more to cultivate a new patient than it does to keep a current one.1
  • Increasing your patient retention rate by just 5% can increase profits by up to 95%.1
  • 91% of patients said they would find another practice or hospital if they weren’t completely satisfied with the care they’d received.2
  • Hospitals risk losing an average of $500,000 to $850,000 annually due to low patient satisfaction scores.3

When faced with stats like these, retaining as many patients as possible becomes a no-brainer. Every time one person leaves your healthcare system, it costs you money—a lot of money—and the lack of care continuity puts the patient at risk for poor health outcomes.

Even if they don’t jump ship, unhappy patients are less likely to adhere to treatment plans, maintain relationships with their healthcare providers, or pay their bills on time. They’re also less likely to recommend you to a friend or family member.

Think about that: Many of those missed referrals could have become patients. So one unhappy patient = lost revenue from multiple people.

As you already know, keeping people happy is easier said than done, especially when the patients vastly outnumber the staff. But you can make it happen without hiring a violinist and personal caterer for every single hospital bed.

Health Education and the Quest for Patient Satisfaction

A study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic revealed what matters most to patients. Listed at the top: being treated with respect and receiving information from staff. Using patient education during your interactions with patients helps you do both.

Every interaction you have with a patient is an opportunity to raise the level of satisfaction they feel. When you build compassionate, respectful, collaborative relationships with your patients, you’re also working toward better financial stability for your business.

Here are three ways you can use patient education to create satisfying experiences.

 

1. Listen to your patients.

When you really listen to your patients, you learn what they already know about their condition and use patient education to fill in the gaps or correct misinformation. This leads to better understanding—a crucial component in determining the best decisions for your patients.4

Encourage patients to ask questions, and don’t talk or rush them while they answer. Even if their answers are short or vague, you can glean valuable information when you read between the lines—vague, unclear responses may indicate a vague, unclear understanding of the topic.

Most importantly, don’t interrupt! Research shows that physicians interrupt patients within 23 seconds as they try to explain their problems.4

Find out what challenges patients face when it comes to seeking care and managing their health. This is where letting them go slightly off-topic can help. Hearing about their job, family, home, interests, and other obligations can provide insight into what the patient cares about, what they’re juggling, and what obstacles they’re up against.

Once you have a good idea of where the patient’s at, talk them through their conditions or concerns in plain language, then provide patient education they can take home with them. Having this material reinforces what you discussed and reminds them of any points they may have forgotten.

Patient education can also cover conditions, treatment options, and self-care instructions in more detail than you have time for at the point of care. Encourage patients to call or schedule an appointment after they read or watch the information if they have questions about anything. Or better yet, schedule a follow-up email, text, or call to check on your patient.

 

2. Engage patients in their health.

Patients have better outcomes when they understand their conditions, the treatment options, and what that treatment will do for them. The best way to make this happen is to give them patient education that’s engaging—something they want to read, watch, or interact with. Printing out a bunch of boring black text written in medical jargon they may not understand is a surefire way to make sure your patient education gets tossed unread on the floor of their car.

Patient education that comes in a variety of formats—such as videos, well-designed handouts, or interactive tools—encourages patients to view and remember more of the information they need. But every patient is unique. Some people like reading printed material, while others prefer to get health information electronically. Remember when we talked about listening to the patient? Those conversations can help you decide the best way to deliver information to each person.

This is also an opportunity to foster long-term care relationships. Emphasize the importance of ongoing and follow-up care. One convenient aspect of digital patient education is that you can schedule additional content to be sent via email or through your online portal, to keep patients involved and engaged between appointments. There are even ways to automate that delivery, so you don’t have to manually schedule every piece of content for every patient. That frees up time to see other patients, perform other administrative duties…or grab a venti mocha latte.

 

3. Empower patients to help care for themselves.

Use education to help patients learn things like how to develop healthy habits and how to manage chronic conditions. Involving patients in their care improves outcomes and lowers costs.

Provide health education written in ways your patients can easily understand, free from jargon and complicated language. Every piece of content should also have consistent recommendations and be up to date. Using one patient-education vendor for all your material is the best and easiest way to accomplish all of this, and it makes it much easier for staff to locate the content when they need it.

Other tools, like risk calculators and symptom checkers, help patients know where they stand. People enjoy using interactive features, so these tools are particularly popular with patients who want to know more about their health and how to accomplish their goals. Provide practical tips for specific goals like lowering blood pressure. Suggest tools that will help people track their progress toward their goals.

Speaking of education…

Want to learn more about how you can use patient education in your own healthcare system to help patients and increase revenue? Read our free eBrief, Generating Revenue and Controlling Costs—The Hidden Talents of Patient Education, for more detailed information on how patient education can help you keep patients satisfied and meet your critical fiscal goals.


1 https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers
2 https://www.cardiosolution.com/the-financial-implications-of-patient-satisfaction-scores/
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047732/
4 https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2005/0400/p68.html

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