I have been seeing medical providers monthly now since September, 2002. Some months, I have had more than 10 appointments depending on the symptoms, flares, and complications. Over the years, I have become an engaged patient and believe I receive great care from my team of providers. When I have to see a new physical therapist or specialist, there are a few things that I know to look for, ask for, and communicate so that I get the best care and am most satisfied with my provider. I don’t see it as demanding in a negative light, more I am the consumer or end user and the product is healthcare provided by a professional.
To increase my patient satisfaction, I want a provider I can trust, have confidence that they will accept me as a participating patient in my care, be open to new treatments and ideas coming down the pipeline that may help me. I need to have trust in each provider. If I tell you that I have tried something before and had a bad result, I expect you to believe me and not keep offering me that option. I am turning it down because I have already tried and failed with the option. It might be the only option you have for me. If that is the case refer me to another provider or be open to offering other forms of treatment.
It all comes down to #1 – Communication between the patient and the provider.
Respectful communication is what patients want when we say we want a good patient experience. In my case, I want providers who will communicate about my case with each other and me to come up with the best care strategies possible. If we are all on the same page, you get better patient compliance from us. Ultimately, we see you a few minutes each month. We have to take care of ourselves in-between. Being engaged makes all the difference. Even if it is the ability to text, email, call, or Skype verses an in-person appointment.
What do I mean by good communication? I want my provider to understand how my daily patient experiences impact my quality of life, safety at home or while traveling, and efficiency in getting acute care when I have a new challenge or issue arise. I want my providers to have a deeper understanding of my chronic conditions so that when I text or call they realize, this is something that needs attention and as a chronic care patient I don’t call unless I know I need help. Because of the communication I know what to handle on my own, what I need to take to an emergency room, and what can wait until I hear back from my provider. The patient-team centered approach is what most patients want. Patients like myself with chronic conditions need this approach. I recognize that with a new provider or emergency provider this is more difficult to do.
Now when I am headed to the emergency room, my caregiver/husband or myself if I am able will call my primary care provider to update him on the situation. My PCP then calls to the emergency room to give some key tips on taking care of me. I have also had situations when my pain management doctor has also called into the emergency room or hospital to assist with guiding my acute care based on my chronic conditions based on their in-depth knowledge of me and the conditions involved.
Some single care providers, like the emergency room doctors, can improve their patient satisfaction scores with a few key actions. Start with including the patient (or their caregiver) in the decision process. Give us options and choices when possible. Consider the patients perspective in each choice. Focus on communication skills that foster mindfulness, reflective listening, recognizing the patient’s emotions and then respond appropriately. Providers often invest in new technology, like a guided x-ray machine, or new nano-tech radiation shields, but investing and practicing skills of good communication that helps you connect with patients is also important. Streamlining communications with the patients through portals, text messaging, or Skype appointments can be extremely helpful in improving satisfaction.
Patients respect providers who create a safe place to practice, nurture communication with the entire team and enhance learning for the staff and patients. It takes time, effort, and practice to learn to communicate with your patients as part of their care team. Be patient. Building respect, communication, understanding, and trust takes more than a few appointments. Knowing that I am heard at a new provider appointment and that the provider is open to me being an active member of the care team in my case helps raise my satisfaction and willingness to return for future care. I am engaged with everyone on the team of that providers office from the billing staff, front desk staff, nurses, and doctors. When I can see that they are all active in making sure my care and follow-up is done right, it goes a long way. Their accountability to the patient and other staff needs to be apparent.
Communication is better care and safety. It all comes down to the way we all interact, which is dictated by communication, respect, and growing a team culture. Knowing that a person is proficient in their knowledge is not enough. I need to know that they care, if they don’t care, then I don’t care how much they know.
Learn more about building strong patient relationships in our free guide, "8 Ways PRM Software Improves the Patient Experience."