The Importance of Patient Satisfaction
The cost of providing health care is escalating at an alarming rate. With challenges ranging from rising malpractice costs to physician turnover, medical practices must maximize resources and make tough choices in order to remain profitable. It is precisely these challenges that make improving patient satisfaction so critical. Here are some important ways that improving patient satisfaction can make your practice more successful and profitable:
- Reduce malpractice costs
- Decrease patient defections
- Decrease negative word–of-mouth advertising
- Increase patient referrals
In addition, improving patient satisfaction leads to increased productivity. Physicians and staff often spend a lot of time reacting to complaints and dealing with non-compliant patients, which negatively impacts office efficiency. By contrast, satisfied patients are easier and more rewarding to care for, take up less physician and staff time and are more compliant. Improved patient satisfaction decreases the length of patients’ visits and wait times, reduces treatment costs and increases patient volume.
“The moment we started paying attention to patient satisfaction, by looking at the data and focusing on improvement, our claims experience dropped significantly.”
-CEO, Cardiovascular Institute of the South
The cost of medical malpractice litigation has increased at almost 12% annually since 1975, and it is estimated that 65% of all physicians will be sued at some point in their career. Poor communication is the number one reason patients file medical malpractice lawsuits – and it’s also a primary component of patient dissatisfaction. Satisfied patients are more likely to forgive perceived care mistakes and are less likely to sue.
According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, physicians ranked in the lowest 1/3 of the Press Ganey database were 110% more likely to have malpractice suits brought against them than those with top satisfaction survey ratings.* They also attracted more than double the number of unsolicited complaints. The same study found that there was a 6% increase in complaints associated with a 1-point decrease in physician satisfaction ratings. Improving patient satisfaction is key to reducing malpractice costs.
*(Source: Stelfox, H.T. et al., “The Relation of Patient Satisfaction with Complaints Against Physicians and Malpractice Lawsuits.” American Journal of Medicine. 2005. 118: 1126-33.)
It costs your practice money every time a patient leaves for a competitor. In fact, a conservative 5% dissatisfaction rate among patients can cost a physician $150,000 in revenue.* According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, physicians with patient satisfaction ratings in the lowest 20% are nearly four times more likely to experience patient turnover than physicians in the top 20% .**
A high level of patient satisfaction leads to greatly increased customer loyalty, which is the single most important driver of long-term financial performance in a medical practice. Satisfying your current patients costs less time and money than attracting new ones – not to mention that the best form of advertising to attract new patients is positive word-of-mouth from existing clients.
*(Source: Drain, M., & Kaldenberg, D.O., “Building patient loyalty and trust: The role of patient satisfaction.” Group Practice Journal. 1999. 48(9), 32-35.)
**(Source: Rubin, H.R. et al. “Patients’ ratings of outpatient visits in different practice settings: Results from the Medical Outcomes Study.” JAMA. 1993. 270(7), 835-840.)
According to studies done by the Technical Assistance Research Programs (TARP), for every irritated customer who complains, 26 do not. However, they still have grievances, and six of them have serious problems. How many times have you told the waiter everything was fine even though your food was disappointing? The reality is that you probably don’t know how many dissatisfied patients you have because most people don’t complain when speaking with you or your staff in person.
According to consumer surveys, a person who has had an unpleasant experience with a business will tell nine or 10 other people. Approximately 13% will tell more than 20 people.* Rather than take that chance with your practice, let Press Ganey help you improve your patient satisfaction scores.
*(Source: "Managing Consumer Complaints - Responsive Business Approaches To Consumer Needs." Office of Consumer Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce.)
If your patient complains on a real-time survey, you still have a chance to win them over. Of those who complain, most will come back if you can resolve their issue quickly. Better still, if a patient has a complaint resolved quickly and courteously, she wants to tell others about her good fortune and her good sense. Speedy complaint resolution can help you keep present customers and attract new ones by changing word-of-mouth advertising from negative to positive.
A customer who has had a good experience with a business will tell an average of five other people, some of whom will become new customers.* Your satisfied patients can become your best source of new business.
*(Source: "Managing Consumer Complaints - Responsive Business Approaches To Consumer Needs.” Office of Consumer Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce)