Many reasons exist to strive for high patient satisfaction, including those related to maintaining certification requirements, risk management, reimbursement and simply having a competitive practice, but the most important one is that by achieving high patient satisfaction, you will find that your patients will be more motivated and more engaged in their individual care, says Elliot Rosenstein, MD, FACR, FACP, director, Institute for Rheumatic & Autoimmune Diseases at Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J. “When this occurs, it’s more probable that a patient will adhere to their treatment regimen and consequently achieve the desired health outcomes.”
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Explore This IssueOctober 2016
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Along these lines, Jonathan Krant, MD, medical director, CreakyJoints, and section chief of rheumatology, Adirondack Health Systems, both in Saranac Lake, N.Y., says improving patient satisfaction should be paramount in the minds of treating clinicians, because clinical response to therapy depends upon patient compliance with recommendations.
“Numerous barriers to the exchange of information (i.e., language, culture, cost constraints, understanding disease mechanisms and reasonable timelines for clinical response) underlie every encounter. Patients must understand them in order to engage in the doctor–patient relationship,” he says. Patient satisfaction scores speak to a variety of concerns in this relationship, encompassing such areas as empathy, perceived competence, trust and a willingness to comply with recommendations.
Sheryl Mascarenhas, MD, assistant professor of rheumatology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, has found that patient satisfaction scores help evaluate the delivery of care. “Patient ratings regarding clinic flow, including wait times for registration, rooming, time with the physician and wait times for laboratory and radiology results, are helpful to know,” she says. “Rating office staff’s interactions and how well patients understand their physicians may uncover problematic areas that were unrecognized otherwise.”
Obviously, high satisfaction scores are a win–win for all parties involved. Here, some rheumatologists provide specific ways to make improvements and, ultimately, increase patient satisfaction.
Patient Interaction—Outside the Office
Patient engagement begins with the reception they receive when first calling a practice. “If staff appear disorganized or disinterested, a patient may perceive that as a lack of commitment to care, which could make them wary of potential problems related to promptness and preparation,” Dr. Rosenstein says. “This can ultimately lead to patient frustration, misunderstanding and lack of compliance.”
Jonathan M. Greer, MD, FACR, FACP, president, Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates of Palm Beach, and affiliate clinical professor of medicine, Nova Southeastern University, Boynton Beach, Fla., says it’s important that all office staff are attentive, caring and treat patients with respect—as if they are the practice’s only patient. Because his practice is inundated by phone calls, callers often don’t speak with a live person—which is not ideal. However, patient calls are returned the same day.