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The Patient Is Always Right … or Else

Hospital staff and administrators are placing renewed attention on patient satisfaction. How a patient feels about his or her experience after receiving medical treatment not only affects a treatment facility's image, it can also impact a hospital's bottom line.

Citing research data from the journal Medical Care, the website PhysiciansPractice noted that "there is a distinct correlation between patient satisfaction and the risk of being sued for malpractice. Knowing how patients rate you as a physician is a proven way to predict the risk of being sued — and gives you a chance to reduce that risk before a lawsuit is ever filed. In order to avoid being sued by an unhappy patient, you must find ways to know which patients are most likely to sue you and how to turn things around."

Business Implications of Patient Satisfaction

Around one-third of healthcare consumers are actively looking for new providers, according to a recent report by Valassis. Among Millennials and parents, that number recently jumped to 56 percent. Research from Valassis found that 52 percent of Millennials said they could be persuaded to switch providers if the alternative was more affordable while 51 percent of that same demographic said they would switch providers for better service.

The loss of revenue from a single patient due to patient dissatisfaction can reach more than $200,000 over the course of the consumer's lifetime, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

An article in iHireHealthCareAdministration noted that "many employers and insurance providers have begun offering high-deductible health plans. This in turn forces many people to pay out of pocket for much of their medical expenses, driving them to develop a comparison-shopping mentality."

Strategies and Tips for Improving Patient Satisfaction

It's not all doom and gloom. Healthcare providers willing to stay ahead of the customer satisfaction curve can retain and even lure new patients, thereby increasing business profitability. Citing data from the Valassis report, Jeff Lagasse gave the following advice for a HealthcareFinanceNews article:

"Online research and print advertisements can help fuel the healthcare decision-making process," he said. "Overall, 25 percent of consumers found a new provider through online research, with this number greater among millennials and parents, at 34 and 32 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, 61 percent of parents and 54 percent of millennials say a print ad triggered them to research a new health condition or provider — as opposed to 39 percent of all consumers."

A recent article in QMinder highlighted the important role social media plays in elevating a hospital or medical clinic's perceived favorability.

"The positive aspects of personal recommendations extend to social media and review sites such as Yelp," the article said. "The latter gives a lot of insight into the healthcare industry, as Yelp reviews strongly correlate with the overall HCAHPS hospital rating." The article continues: "By delivering on these aspects [doctor care, clear communication and the level of comfort], hospitals can build up their image among their patients and pull in new ones. As a marketing strategy, word of mouth proves to be more efficient — and less costly — than the usual tactics." The article goes on to recommend that healthcare providers engage patients in a personalized way. A gesture as simple as greeting customers is one example.

Avoiding long wait times is another key to increasing patient satisfaction. A 2015 report by the American Journal of Managed Care found that, on average, healthcare consumers wait 121 minutes during visits to the doctor. Of that time, 64 minutes are spent waiting for care or filling out forms. Tips for cutting down on wait time include eliminating appointments, investing in electronic health record systems and hiring quality support staff.

One trend within hospital care is here to stay, according to Michael J. Dowling, president & CEO, Northwell Health. Writing for Becker's Hospital Review, Dowling said that over the past several years, the medical industry has "seen major changes in the way innovative organizations in all industries treat their customers. For far too long in our industry, there was a pervasive attitude of, 'We're hospitals, or we're physicians, people will always come because we're here in the community.' But those days are over. Consumers don't want to be told when to come or what to do — they want to access care and services on their terms, not ours. We are in the consumer service business."

Patient-centered medical care is the new reality in healthcare. As hospitals evolve to meet shifting demands from consumers and insurance providers, the need for strong business leadership is greater than ever. The online Master of Business Administration from the University of Northern Colorado prepares hospital administrators with a broad range of perspectives and skills. The graduate degree even includes an overview of healthcare-related managerial issues that administrators may face and classes on technological trends within the medical field. The courses are taught by UNC faculty and can be completed in as few as 12 months.

Learn more about the UNC online MBA with an emphasis in Healthcare Administration.


Sources:

PhysiciansPractice: How Good Patient Satisfaction Can Reduce Malpractice Risk

NCBI: Patient Satisfaction

HealthcareFinanceNews: More Patients in the Market for a New Doctor 

Valassis: Healthcare Infographic

IHireHealthcareAdministration: 5 Trends in Healthcare Management: Why 2018 is the Year to Become aHealthcare Administrator

QMinder: The Importance of Patient Satisfaction

QMinder: How to Reduce Hospital Wait Times

Becker's Hospital Review: 4 Most Important Healthcare Trends in 2018

AJMC: Opportunity Costs of Ambulatory Medical Care in the United States

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