Researchers in Florida found that avoiding patient dissatisfaction isn’t as difficult or as complex as it can seem. In their study, “Improving Wait Times and Patient Satisfaction in Primary Care,” researchers determined that there are just a few things that truly annoy and irritate patients. Nearly 50% of all fair and poorly-rated patient experiences in the study were related to wait times and phone experiences.
Top Reasons for Patient Dissatisfaction
The top five experiences that ranked high for patient dissatisfaction included:
- Wait time in waiting room
- Wait time in exam room
- Promptness for returning calls
- Waiting for test to be performed
- Waiting time for test results
Four out of the top fives experience that led to patient dissatisfaction were related to waiting. Patients value their time and don’t like to waste it while waiting for doctors, results, or tests.
Another experience most likely to lead to patient dissatisfaction related to communication. Patients weren’t satisfied with the way that providers managed and returned their calls. Failure to communicate properly is also an element that showed up in the sixth experience most likely to lead to dissatisfaction.
The sixth experience more likely to lead to patient dissatisfaction was not knowing where to go inside of a facility or practice. Patients were frustrated when they visited a healthcare location that was difficult to navigate.
Making patients wait and failing to clearly communicate with them causes frustration for patients. So, what can you do to improve these experiences and ensure better patient satisfaction for your practice or healthcare facility?
How to Avoid Patient Dissatisfaction
To improve patient satisfaction, start by focusing on resolving the factors that are most likely to lead to patient dissatisfaction.
Decrease Wait Times
Long wait times are a leading cause of patient dissatisfaction, so do what you can to decrease the actual amount of time that patients must wait to see a doctor or receive their results.
- Don’t overbook. Trying to see more patients than you have time for is a quick way to increase wait times in your practice. Only schedule as many clients as you have room for in a day. And if possible, even leave a few extra appointments so you can accommodate emergency appointments.
- Schedule downtime. Just as you don’t want to overbook your providers, you also don’t want to completely fill up their day. Providers need breaks throughout the day. So schedule downtime instead of allowing unplanned breaks to bust your schedule.
- Speed up your intake processes. Getting patients through your waiting room faster will also speed up wait times. Set up an intake system that allows patients to quickly provide the information you need to get them in to see the provider.
Recommended Reading: For more tips on setting up smooth scheduling systems that speed up wait times, check out our resource: How to Streamline Patient Appointment Scheduling at Your Practice.
Decrease Perceived Wait Times
Decreasing the actual amount of time that patients wait will boost satisfaction rates, so will decreasing the perceived time that patients wait.
Perceived wait time is how long a wait feels. This feeling of time can be increased or decreased based on an experience. A boring situation will make a wait feel longer; while an entertaining situation will make a wait feel shorter.
Use a tool proven to decrease perceived wait time — digital signage.
Digital signage has been proven to decrease perceived patient wait time by up to 33%. That means it can make a 30-minute wait feel more like a 20-minute wait.
Add digital screens to your waiting areas, exam rooms, and any other area where a patient or their loved one will spend time, and display a series of programming that educates and entertains patients while helping them pass the time.
Recommended Reading: Not sure what type of content to share with your healthcare audiences? Check out our guide on How to Create Digital Signage Content for a Healthcare Practice.
Set Expectations for Wait Times
There is also a way to make patients less frustrated with their wait that doesn’t involve decreasing real or perceived wait time. It involves informing patients about how long the wait will be.
Patients are more comfortable with their wait if they know how long it will be. So set expectations by using digital signage in your waiting areas and exam rooms that shows patients the estimated length of their wait.
Improve Calling Experiences
As the study found, patient dissatisfaction is often high when patients cannot get the information they need quickly through a calling experience. Patients are unhappy when their calls aren’t returned promptly.
To alleviate this cause for patient concern, you should work to respond to patients as quickly as possible. There are also other ways you can streamline your communication so patients can find the information they need faster.
- Offer a patient portal. While patient portals haven’t been proven to decrease the number of incoming calls to a healthcare practice, they can still be useful in delivering and storing information. Set up a portal where patients can schedule, access their records, and review test results.
- Provide useful information in your hold message. Avoid the need for a representative to return a patient call by providing the information that many callers need in your hold message.
- Utilize auto-attendants and IVR. Set up phone solutions that allow calls to be routing to the correct departments and answered in a timely fashion.
Recommended Reading: Get more tips for upgrading calling experience at your practice with our free ebook Optimize Your Customer Calling Experience.
Provide Better Wayfinding Tools
The patient dissatisfaction study also found that visitors don’t like it when they couldn’t find their way around a healthcare facility or practice. This is a problem that is simple to resolve when you have the right technology.
Digital wayfinding tools can help patients quickly and easily find their way.
A digital wayfinding tool is a map displayed on an interactive screen. The user enters their destination, and the digital screen delivers custom directions that lead the user to their intended location. Digital wayfinding tools can also include a touch-screen directory which helps visitors find the office or provider they need, making it even easier for guests to find their way.
Want more ways to improve patient satisfaction?
These are a few ways to resolve some of the biggest causes of patient dissatisfaction. For an even deeper look at what causes patient frustration and what you can do to fix it, get our 2017 Guide to Outpatient Customer Experience.
This guide will help you grow your practice by learning to improve your office, please patients, and increase retention and satisfaction rates.