- Patient satisfaction and positive patient experience are naturally closely tied to patient engagement. When a patient walks out the office door at the end of her visit, she undoubtedly remembers the way the physician spoke with her and his level of attentiveness. Despite the quality of care provided to a patient, ensuring a high levels of patient satisfaction lay more with a healthy patient-provider relationship, and that begins with patient engagement.
Ensuring patient satisfaction is not only important for getting the patient back in the door for her next appointment; it is also important for encouraging that patient to take care of her health needs between visits, ideally preventing her from needing emergency care.
By making sure patients are fully educated on their health IT options and are collecting and contributing patient-generated health data, physicians can be sure patients will become satisfied partners in care.
Increase patient portal use
Increasing use of the patient portal allows patients to understand their health histories and access all of their health records, thus helping them better engage in their own care. The catch, however, is that providers need to make sure their patients are fully aware of the capabilities their patient portals have.
A common issue providers often encounter is that patients aren’t fully aware of their rights to their own medical information. This often occurs in areas of lower health literacy.
“We have two areas in Phoenix where we’ve got a high Medicare population, so we have had a little bit of a struggle there,” senior director of HIMS Operations of Banner Health Christine Steigerwald told HealthITAnalytics.com. “We have some patients thinking that they were violating HIPAA rules by even getting into their own records, or they thought that by doing accessing the portal, they were actually allowing CMS to get their information. So we have really worked on consumer awareness and education, and we stress how to maintain and how to manipulate their own information and why that’s so important.”
In order for patient portal use to be effective, patients also need to understand how to navigate these pages and have a clear insight into their value. That is also a common challenge in patient portal use.
“Consumers said that a provider’s website needs improvement,” said senior director of clinical applications at Inland Northwest Health Services Marcia Cheadle, RN. “That we could not find the portal easily on the website, and if we did find the portal, they’re not easy to use, and they did not have an ability to find the information—either it wasn’t there or wasn’t the relevant information that the patient was looking for.”
Cheadle explained that by walking patients through their portals and explicitly telling them what they can use their portal for, patients will get a lot more out of the experience and will feel more empowered as a partner in healthcare.
This kind of empowerment is critical because it makes patients feel as though they have a say in the kinds of treatments their own body is undergoing. By empowering patients, physicians are recognizing them as individuals with unique health needs.
Utilize patient-generated health data
Using the same thought-process, physicians can empower the patient as a partner in care by collecting their patient-generated health data. In addition to patient-generated health data’s logistical benefits like completing patient histories and tracking patient health remotely, patient-generated health data has the power to make patients more involved with, and therefore more satisfied with, their care.
As told in a HealthITBuzz.com post, patients are able to be integral cogs in the healthcare machine. For example, after receiving a liver transplant, patient and health IT advocate Donna Cryer was able to complete the circuit of health information aggregation by contributing her patient-generated health data.
“All my physicians need to be able to communicate with each other and with me about my care, and to share my complete medical record. Interacting with these physicians generates data from dozens of visits, images, lab tests, and procedure reports that need to be reviewed, evaluated, and acted on in a timely fashion,” Cryer explained.
Empowering patients through patient-generated health data uses the same logic as patient portals – patients who are members of their care team will inevitably feel valued by their physicians, increasing their overall satisfaction with their care.
Take a moment away from the computer or EHR
Although it is easy to laud the patient satisfaction capabilities health IT systems have, one of the most tried and true ways of increasing patient satisfaction is by simply listening to the patient.
In a time where EHR use is a hot-topic, it would do well for physicians to turn away from the computer screen for a few moments to personally engage with their patients. There is often more to a patient’s health story beyond what can be documented in an EHR, and by taking a moment to listen to him during his office visit, a physician can get a whole picture of care needs.
Several studies support this logic. At the end of 2015, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that said higher patient satisfaction scores were associated with lower computer usage.
After taking a look at a number of care encounters between 2011 and 2013, researchers found that only 48 percent of patients with high computer usage care encounters gave their physicians excellent ratings. In contrast, nearly 81 percent of patients who saw low computer usage during their visits gave their physicians excellent ratings.
“High computer use by clinicians in safety-net clinics was associated with lower patient satisfaction and observable communication differences,” the reported stated. “Although social rapport building can build trust and satisfaction, concurrent computer use may inhibit authentic engagement, and multitasking clinicians may miss openings for deeper connection with their patients.”
Although the future of medicine may appear as though physicians are being pulled more and more toward health IT solutions, it is important they not forget the inherent value in taking a moment to speak face-to-face with their patients and truly listening to what they have to say.