Patient Pet Peeves and How to Avoid Them

Customer satisfaction is key to any ongoing business.  We see surveys at almost every place we shop or eat.  Secret shoppers are paid to find out how individual associates are doing, and we have all heard the disclaimer that “this call may be recorded for quality assurance.”  While this market-centric behavior is so prevalent today, there is a disconnect in many health practices.  And this is not only the case with the health practice, but also with the patients.  Patients who are normally not afraid to express their dissatisfaction with service anywhere else remain mum when it comes to the health practice.  However, with a few simple steps, healthcare facilities can help increase patient (ie customer) satisfaction.

Patient Pet Peeves

  • The W-A-I-T-I-N-G Room – one of the most common patient pet peeves is the long wait.  Appointment times are set, yet many patients wait more than 30 minutes after their scheduled time.  This becomes a major problem with scheduling events after appointments.  If you have an 11:30 AM appointment on a weekday, you plan this out as a patient to use your lunch hour.  However, you are not seen until 12:15 PM, so you have to work extra hours to make up lost work time.  If you are a retail or call center employee you simply cannot be late, so you have to leave and reschedule which could be 2 or 3 weeks later.  Unhappy customer.
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  • Reception – at many health practices, the reception area can be a bit daunting.  Often the receptionist makes you wait and then simply says “Sign in.”  So you sign in, sit down and as soon as you sit down you are called back to the window to give your information.  The same information was given the last visit, the time before that and the time before that.  The patient  begins to wonder if office staff are incompetent or if the doctor lost their file.
  • Intake – a patient pet peeve heard over and over is that a nurse or medical assistant comes in to your room and asks a series of questions.  Then the doctor comes in and doesn’t even look at the notes.  The doctor simply repeats the questions you just answered.  Why bother with the nurse? Is this to make a patient feel like they are at least interacting with someone? Are they really?
  • Doctor Interaction – another patient pet peeve involves the doctor.  Patients don’t like when a doctor spends the whole time looking at a laptop with his back turned to the patient.  Yes, documenting the visit is important.  Patients value having a history established in an office.  However, when time comes to talk to the patient and look at their body, leave the laptop aside and discuss the issues at hand.  Sometimes a little compassion and person-to-person communication make the entire visit worthwhile for the patient.
  • Condescension – this can be either from the doctor or the office staff.  One patient said “I don’t like being treated like I am 12.” Patients may not have doctoral degrees, but they perhaps have PhDs.  Treat them with respect.
  • Drug Company Reps – This interesting pet peeve was from a patient who felt that the drug reps come in to the office and are given priority while they interact with the whole staff and hand out samples.  Without a doubt, certain medicines can do wonders for certain patients.  However, they are never the reason for our practice; treating our patients is.

How Can Health Practices Avoid These Patient Pet Peeves?

Some solutions are easy and others may be difficult to implement at first; however, the improvement in patient satisfaction will be worth it and more people will recommend your practice.

  • The Waiting Room – It is possible to reduce the waiting.  The system will never be perfect, but it can be improved.  One tip is to ask the person when they make the appointment the nature of their visit.  This helps determine the amount of time that will need to be spent with the patient by doctor and staff.  Another way to improve is observation.  If particular doctors or staff take longer with patients, schedule their appointments a little further apart.  Appointment scheduling is more an art than a science, but certain observations can make it a science.
  • Reception – a good way to see how thing are done in the front is to have someone observe.  You can use a friend or someone unknown to the staff.  Also, you can ask patients directly, although they may be reluctant to be honest.  If you feel that they are not honest in the interest of protecting your staff, don’t worry—that simply means that on some level, they have bonded with your staff, which is good.
  • Intake – this is an easy fix.  Read the notes.  If the notes are in the exam room then ask the nurse or medical assistant about the issues.  Patients expect a doctor to review the notes before coming in or at least to look on the computer screen before asking questions.
  • Doctor interaction –It is important to say hello and ask a few ‘small talk’ questions while doing the exam.  This puts patients at ease.  Looking at the patient and acknowledging that you have heard what they are saying will go a long way in alleviating this pet peeve.
  • Condescension – This is a tougher issue.  In the times we live in, the internet is everywhere.  This has led to an era of self-diagnosis. The only way to get past this is by practice.  People will do things that make your eyes roll, but not rolling them is the real trick.  Remember, this client might be an expert in his arena and forgets that he is not always the expert.
  • Drug Company Reps – your health practice should schedule these visits like appointments and have one person who can listen and share the information.  If you need all doctors present, then set aside a period of time in the day so that it is not disruptive to your health practice.

Reducing patient pet peeves will definitely improve your health practice.  Imagine a patient saying “Really?  You should try my doctor.  That never happens at her practice.”  Those are the doctors with frequent new patient visits, and those are the lifeblood of a practice.

CRTMedical is a healthcare billing company servicing physicians around the country.

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