Patients typically need to visit the doctor because something is, was, or could be wrong with their health. When it comes to personal health, even if a condition is not life threatening, patients want accurate and immediate answers and cures. When something is wrong, patients can be particularly sensitive to a few key elements of their experience:
3. If something does not feel right or remains inconclusive after they are seen, how long does it take to get a resolution?
If a patient feels their current physician is not meeting their expectations in these areas they may quickly look for alternative solutions. In the third and final piece of this 3 part series we will focus on …
If something does not feel right or remains inconclusive after they are seen, how long does it take to get a resolution?
Unfortunately not all treatments will work the first time, there may be side effects from a treatment, or sometimes the first visit’s diagnostics did not provide enough information to get the patient on a treatment plan. These situations are particularly difficult for patients because these are all moments they expected to see the doctor and be healed or at least know what it is they are facing. How a practice handles these situations can be the difference between a highly satisfied patient and one who feels like they need a stronger support system.
These situations typically result in patient calls, and in some cases many calls from the same patient until the issue is resolved. For a busy physician this means a lot of messages piling up while they are seeing patients. There are only so many hours in the day, inevitably at some point during the year there will be messages that need to wait until the next day. In the cases a message has to wait it not only lowers patient satisfaction, it lowers physician satisfaction too.
There is a way to make sure that all patients post visit needs are met and that each patient feels better about their experience than they did in the past:
Call them before they call you.
On the surface it is a pretty simple task, before they call, you call. But who will call them? When will they call them? Does everyone get calls?
One approach to solving that riddle is:
1. Have each physician in the practice designate their top 5-10 conditions, treatments, or procedures they receive the most follow up calls about
2. Using a capacity model determine how much call volume can be expected on average day to day for a year to follow up with 1 call in each of those situations. Do not be shocked by a large number.
3. Try it out for a day, have a nurse dedicate a few hours to call patients for each of those situations for one day. During this time track how long each call takes. It is important to be very clear, this is not about reducing the amount of time spent on each call. The measurement is to more accurately predict the resources you would need to make that part of your practice.
4. If you are able, dedicate some resources part time to making these follow up calls. For some practices it will be difficult to field that kind of call volume on a regular basis due to resource constraints. Narrowing criteria to fewer or more specific patients will help reduce calls to a manageable level while still preempting a significant number of calls.
5. As the process begins fitting into your practice look to identify other opportunities to provide a check in. Patients will appreciate the care, and doctors will appreciate accumulating a more manageable amount of messages so they can get to all of them ensuring every patient who needed care received it.
By making a call up front it can help the patient who is nervous about calling in, and can provide the assurance the patient who keeps leaving messages until they reach somebody needs. However, do not take the task lightly, without proper planning it can result in a large burden being placed on too few people or result in new hires that are not needed.
For any additional questions or to learn more about how Tefen approaches enhancing the patient experience please comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tom Ambrogio, Sr. Consultant Tefen USAHealthcare, patient satisfaction