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Patients, Providers Disagree on Patient Satisfaction Factors

Providers need to understand the patient satisfaction factors that are most important to consumers to improve hospital and clinic quality.

Patients and providers do not value the same patient satisfaction factors, a survey finds.

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Although both patients and providers value patient satisfaction and a quality patient experience, they do not agree on the elements that determine high patient satisfaction rates, according to a survey conducted by Kelton Global on behalf of West Healthcare.

The survey of 1,010 healthcare consumers and 236 providers showed that both patients and providers give high priority to patient satisfaction, with 94 percent and 93 percent reporting it as a top priority, respectively.

Patients said that providers are generally meeting their needs. Seventy-three percent of patients said their providers care about them as individuals.

However, the report authors suggested that the nearly one-quarter of patients who do not feel cared for (and 19 percent who do not think their providers are trying to improve their health) is too many and advised a need to drive patient satisfaction further.

Additionally, the surveys showed that patients and providers do not see satisfaction the same way. Providers largely thought they were meeting patient needs, with 86 percent saying they thought their patients felt cared for as individuals.

“What some providers see as an acceptable effort toward patient-centered care does not satisfy some patients, possibly because patients are used to receiving highly personalized service that is tailored to their wants and needs in areas outside of healthcare,” the authors wrote.

The survey ranked the top determining factors for patient satisfaction prioritized by both patients and providers.

From highest priority to lowest, patients valued:

  • Short appointment wait times
  • Access to out-of-pocket cost estimates
  • Not feeling rushed during appointments
  • Providers who demonstrate expertise during treatment
  • Easy appointment scheduling

These priorities did not match the top five factors for providers, which were as follows:

  • Friendly and accommodating clinic staff
  • Easy appointment scheduling
  • Short appointment wait times
  • Improving patient-provider communication
  • Clean and modern facilities

Not only did none of these priority rankings align, but some were considerably skewed between patients and providers. Clean facilities were the fifth-highest priority for providers, but was ranked nearly last for patients.

On the flip side, 49 percent of patients said communicating out-of-pocket costs was essential for satisfaction, but only 33 percent of providers reported sharing that data with consumers. Communicating out-of-pocket costs was ranked last for provider respondents.

Although there was little overlap in patient and provider priorities to drive satisfaction, industry experts should still recognize that both stakeholders want to move toward a more consumer-centric, satisfactory healthcare model.

“Despite some mismatched priorities, only five percent of providers state that creating a positive patient experience is not a high priority,” the authors pointed out. “This suggests that providers want to make improvements and feel they are doing what is necessary to improve patient satisfaction, even if they don’t always understand what is most important to patients.”

The drive for more patient satisfaction likely stems from the rise of patients as consumers. Patients are increasingly becoming aware of their purchasing power in healthcare. Eighty-eight percent of patient respondents said they would switch providers if they were dissatisfied with care, and 74 percent said they would delay scheduling another appointment.

Ninety-four percent of providers said they noticed these consumer patterns, saying their patients shop around for quality healthcare.

Healthcare organizations can leverage more health IT to improve patient satisfaction scores. Tools should center on sharing more information with consumers, the report suggested.

For example, cost estimator tools can put price information right in the hands of patients. Posting information about provider credentials or services offered can also help patients make healthcare decisions.

It would benefit healthcare organizations to continue to prioritize patient satisfaction and to better understand what factors are most important to patients. Clinic or hospital leaders can use internal surveys to determine what is valuable to their specific patient populations.

As patients determine where to receive healthcare based off their own satisfaction priorities, it would financially benefit clinics and hospitals to serve patient needs. Additionally, some value-based reimbursements are determined in part by patient satisfaction scores.

“It is clear that healthcare organizations have a number of reasons to prioritize patient satisfaction, and many of those are financially motivated,” the report concluded. “Success requires understanding what drives patient satisfaction, identifying areas where providers are underperforming, and implementing processes for improvement.”

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