As the Need for Qualified Ophthalmologists Rises, Patient Satisfaction Plummets

As the Need for Qualified Ophthalmologists Rises, Patient Satisfaction Plummets

The US population is aging. Over 10,000 Americans will turn 65 today alone. As a result, the number of people dealing with eye diseases and requiring care from a highly qualified ophthalmologist increases every day. For example, 20 million Americans suffer from cataracts. Over the next 10 years, that figure is expected to jump to over 30 million. However as the need for quality healthcare increases, studies show that the current level of patient satisfaction with their care is plummeting.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index conducted by the University of Michigan shows patient satisfaction has hit a 9 year low. The index evaluated reports from 70,000 healthcare consumers at hospitals and ASCs on a scale of zero to 100. The overall healthcare score was 75.1 for 2015. The score for ASCs alone was 76, an all-time low. The question becomes how can doctors stop this trend?

Many doctors tend to believe customer service standards do not apply as their services are always in need. However, as the age of the American population increases so does the competition for their business. Time has shown that for a business to not only survive but thrive, it must have quality outcomes and exceptional customer services at its core.

The first step in improving patient satisfaction is assessing the current satisfaction level of your patients in order to identify problem areas. While the American Customer Satisfaction Index provides a glimpse at the country’s overall satisfaction rate, it hardly tells a doctor what is going on in their own practice. The Humm Systems is a tool that has been developed to provide real time feedback from actual patients.

After finding tremendous success in the restaurant industry, the Humm Systems was reengineered for the medical world.  The Humm Systems allows doctors to customize the survey to their own practice in order to better analyze patient results. After an appointment, an IPad is handed to the patient at checkout. Lasting less than a minute, patients are able to quickly answer questions while the experience is fresh in their minds. It allows practices to track performance of each individual staff member and provides immediate feedback from patients.  Once implemented, the system has been shown to decrease negative comments posted online by patients by a whopping 43%. In addition, the Humm Systems acts as an email gateway to inform current patients of new and premium services available.

Once you have a basis of the current patient satisfaction level, there are many ways to improve problem areas in your ophthalmology office. Two of the most common issues include the patient wait experience and phone flow. Most often, these two experiences are interconnected.

First, consider the phone flow of the average ophthalmology office. Most offices receive 75-100 phone calls per day per physician. If your staff is spending too much time dealing with constant phone calls, it can cause additional wait time for patients already sitting in your waiting room. One of the simplest ways to improve your phone traffic is to start logging repeat phone calls. By logging phone calls, you can begin to understand the types of questions most often handled on the phone. Many times patients call nervous about procedures and screenings. They are searching for instructions and reassurances on what to expect. Focus on the types of calls most often received and work on being proactive with information. Discuss the most often requested information with patients before they leave the office and send them home with papers and handouts they can refer to later. Consider adding a frequently asked questions page to you practice’s web page where patients can quickly and easily access information. Furthermore, if a patient is waiting on test results be clear about when they can expect that information and who from the office will call to discuss results.

Your website is an invaluable tool for your practice. Make the most of it. For example, it’s standard to ask patients to come in at least 15 minutes before their appointment time to fill out paperwork. By posting the required paperwork on your website and/or patient portal, patients can access and fill out this paperwork at their own convenience eliminating unnecessary time spent in the waiting room. In addition, allowing patients to request appointments online reduces incoming phone calls.

Sometimes patients are forced to spend time in your waiting room. Unfortunately, no matter how efficient your staff is appointments sometime run long and unexpected delays happen. To improve your patient and their family’s experience, it’s important to get a firsthand look at what they experience. All too often, physicians and staff enter from the back of the office and never consider what the first impression of your office is when someone walks in the front door. A dirty office with tattered magazines strewn about can ruin a patients experience before they even have the chance to interact with your staff. First impressions set the mood for the entire appointment. Make sure your practice is clean and well organized. The receptionist or front desk staff should be friendly and inviting. Do not have patients greeted with contempt and signs demanding payment and paperwork immediately. While this information is important, what allows your business to thrive is how your patients feel when they walk in your office.

Begin small, figure out where your practice needs improvement. Implement a proven system for determining patient satisfaction, such as the Humm Systems and work setting goals for updating your office. There is no need to be overwhelmed, starting with as little as 3 goals to improve customer satisfaction will make your practice more successful.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today!