This Question Can Please Patients and Increase Revenue

Brian S. Kern, JD

Disclosures

December 30, 2015

In This Article

Important Benefits of Patient Surveys

2. Reduced Risk

It's frequently argued that patients who like their physicians don't sue them. Even if true, having a great relationship with your patient isn't a foolproof way to avoid a lawsuit. Not only do we live in a litigious society, but spouses and family members who experience the loss of a loved one may not have any knowledge of the strength of a patient's previous relationship with his or her provider. Over time, a series of positive responses to patient satisfaction surveys can demonstrate precisely how great a relationship was—both to family members and to jurors.

Negative responses, instead of being ignored, can provide information needed to improve relationships. Perhaps a patient was treated rudely upon arrival, waited too long without being told why, or was never called with important lab test results. These factors are entirely outside the direct physician/patient relationship, but they're all relevant to the welfare of the practice and can be uncovered through surveying.

Of course, a patient may simply not like his or her physician, for any number of reasons. Isn't it better to find this out early and address any issues up front, rather than wait for a plaintiff's attorney to address them in court?

3. Practice Management

By nature, physicians are competitive people who are accustomed to receiving high marks whenever assessed. Accordingly, the initial results of patient satisfaction surveys can be emotional (they rarely, if ever, reveal 100% satisfaction). In the long run, though, effective surveying can be a road map for providers to improve their relationships with patients, enhance the overall care experience, and produce better outcomes.

Armed with real-time patient satisfaction scores, practice leaders no longer have to play the role of judge or referee; they can simply report findings. The results of patient satisfaction surveys speak for themselves, and can be powerful tools to drive change.

4. Your Online Reputation

How a patient chooses a physician may come down to what he or she finds on the first page of an Internet search engine. Many sophisticated physician-rating programs publish scores without any clear explanation of their algorithms or limitations. For example, a physician with hundreds of responses and a four-star rating may provide far better care than one with just a single five-star response. But after only a cursory glance, a patient may make an appointment with the "five-star" physician.

What's worse is that physicians with low online patient satisfaction scores rarely receive any guidance on how to improve them. By controlling the process, physicians can learn and master the game, not just accept the score.

Individual patients wield tremendous online power. Just one unhappy patient who can navigate rating sites or even social media can do significant harm to a practice, particularly by including a damning testimonial.

Practices often feel helpless when they receive bad ratings or in responding publicly to angry patients. To fight back, practices can publish their own (third-party verified) patient satisfaction data and their straightforward criteria, while simultaneously bringing greater transparency to their operations.

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