We all know the usual complaints – “I waited an hour in the waiting room, and still another half hour in his office” or “the receptionist didn’t answer any of my questions.” Sometimes the doctor’s bedside manner is so poor that the patient is forced to find a new one. As patients, we share a collective anxiety of a doctor’s appointment. The future of healthcare depends on the improvement of patient experience.
Most doctors pursue the field of medicine with the goal of improving peoples’ lives. From the pressures of everyday paperwork to releasing and admitting patients, a quality experience has grown more and more elusive in the fast-paced priorities of today’s doctors.
A recent CAHPS report argues for the business case of improving patient experience. Basically, happy doctors make happy patients, and vice versa. Good patient experience is associated with lower medical malpractice risk with efforts to improve patients’ experience also resulting in greater employee satisfaction. Also, this balance is a key factor in keeping patients from switching practices, as patients will keep or change providers based upon experience.
A hospitalist from Atlanta, Steven Liu, comments on the dangers of overlooking quality patient interaction. Excessive workloads lead to inadequate time with patients, and serious errors can come out of rushed work. Under these stresses, sometimes patients undergo unnecessary tests and procedures. Liu cites a Medpage survey, “40 percent of hospitalists said their typical inpatient load exceeded safe levels at least once a month; 36 percent reported having an unsafe workload at least weekly.”
Another factor determining how doctors engage with their patients is through technology. With many patients using the computer to make appointments, a human quality has been removed. Plus, patients can score their satisfaction with the service through a survey. Doctors will use this feedback to determine how to proceed with treatment. However, having what they might score in a satisfaction survey might distract them concerns about their reputation, instead of having an earnest conversation with the patient to determine what’s best for their health. However, technology can be used as a great tool, especially to streamline communication between the patient, doctor, pharmacies, and insurance companies.
Developments in technology are one component in addressing the challenges of patient experience. We all understand the feeling of being a frustrated patient, and we all can hope for improvements in health care that make going to the doctor a pleasant experience for everyone.