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Posts Tagged ‘patient satisfaction’

Health Outcomes Research in Medicine, a leading medical journal that focuses on patient care and treatment efficacy, just listed the 25 most downloaded articles from their website, http://www.healthoutcomesresearch.org, and DrScore’s research on patient satisfaction in outpatient populations is currently the top article. The article uses DrScore’s deep database of patient satisfaction data to examine patient satisfaction with outpatient care in the United States. Co-written by DrScore CEO Steve Feldman, MD, PhD, and DrScore research head, Rajesh Balkrishnan, PhD, the article was published by Health Outcomes Research in Medicine in 2011. Read the article online.

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At one of my recent talks, a doctor expressed his concern with the evolution of systems that will begin rating the quality of doctors. He described how if a very sick patient is transferred to his care and the patient dies—for reasons totally beyond the doctor’s control—it would cause his quality score to look very poor. I empathize with his concerns. Assessing the quality of doctors’ treatment results will be highly dependent on the ability to control for the baseline severity of patients’ illnesses—what is called “risk adjustment.” With the complexity of human physiology, psychology, and sociology, it will be very difficult to adjust for the impact of those characteristics on doctors’ results.

DrScore reports how happy patients are with their doctors. Are these patient satisfaction ratings equally difficult to interpret? While there may be some variation in the population at how likely a patient would give a 10 or a 0 on a rating scale, overall, patients are accurate reporters of how satisfied they are. And whether patients have a mild disease or a severe one, if they have family support or they don’t, if they take their medications well or not, or if they have a host of other co-morbid illnesses or are otherwise well, they should still have an experience with their doctor that leaves them satisfied with the care they are getting.

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Satisfying patients is not just about making the right diagnosis and prescribing the right treatment.  Patients need to know they are seeing a friendly, caring, professional physician.  But how do patients know?  It’s complicated.

Patients’ perceptions are affected by all sorts of variables.  Researchers reporting in the Archives of Dermatology looked at what kind of dress patients expect from their physicians.   It’s a moving target, changing with our culture.  Ties and white coats—traditional doctor attire—aren’t uniformly recognized as needed any more.  Some patients, especially kids, can do without them.

Still, physicians will do well to wear dress that communicates to patients the doctor’s professional, caring approach to patient care.

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American Medical News reports that patients would pay their medical bills more quickly using the Internet (Dolan PL, Patients say they would pay more quickly with online access).  This isn’t surprising to us at DrScore.  Facility with the Internet is rapidly becoming ubiquitous.  Patients recognize the potential of the Internet to facilitate all kinds of transactions.

At DrScore, we’ve recognized for years that the Internet can also be used to facilitate getting feedback from patients.  By sending patients a link to DrScore with the bill, physicians can seek feedback from every patient, letting each patient know their opinions are respected, getting the kind of detailed feedback doctors need in order to know how well they are doing and what they can do even better.

Just as online access can ease billing issues, the hassles, costs and limitations of paper-based or telephone-based patient satisfaction surveys can now be avoided.

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Doctor’s Day is March 30. Here’s our latest press release for DrScore.com in recognition of the important role that doctors play in patients’ lives.

 

Patient Satisfaction: DrScore’s Three Simple Solutions for Improving Customer Service

Online physician rating website shares latest research for Doctor’s Day on March 30

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In recognition of Doctor’s Day on March 30 and the important role that physicians play in patients’ lives, DrScore.com is sharing three simple solutions to improving patient satisfaction. The tips are the result of an analysis of data from 180,000 patient satisfaction surveys on the DrScore.com online doctor rating website.

“It’s a fact: A patient’s health care experience does matter. Patient satisfaction is important in its own right, but it also improves the outcomes of a patient’s care,” said patient satisfaction expert Steve Feldman, M.D., founder of DrScore. “And at DrScore, the online ratings of patient experiences strongly suggest that there are three very important factors that contribute to patient satisfaction.”

1. Keep wait times short. DrScore’s data analysis found that 44 percent of wait times were less than 15 minutes, 34 percent were 15 to 30 minutes, 13 percent were 30 to 60 minutes, and 9 percent were greater than one hour. “There is a strong, statistically significant correlation between wait times and overall patient satisfaction,” Dr. Feldman said. He suggested the following to improve patient satisfaction in this area:

  • If wait times are consistently running longer than 30 minutes, doctors should look into their operations and find out if patients are being scheduled too close together or if there is another operational reason this is happening. “Making the goal 15 minutes or less is even better, particularly for primary care providers,” Dr. Feldman said.
  • Make the waiting room pleasant with plenty of good reading materials, coffee, etc. “Time goes by very slowly in an unpleasant waiting room,” Dr. Feldman said. “The best doctors don’t even call it a waiting room — they call it a reception area and do their best not to keep patients waiting.”

2. Spend enough time with each patient. “Patients tend to feel like 10 minutes or longer is adequate time to spend with the doctor, and the DrScore data shows that two-thirds of visits last this amount of time,” Dr. Feldman said. “We found that 23 percent of visits run five to 10 minutes, and 11 percent run less than five minutes. The statistics are clear: The longer a doctor spends with a patient, the more satisfied the patient tends to be with the visit.”

3. Make sure your demeanor is perceived as being friendly and caring. Patients need to have a sense of feeling cared for. “A caring and friendly attitude is far and away the most important variable that contributes to patient satisfaction,” Dr. Feldman said.

The DrScore researchers performed an analysis to determine the independent contributions of different variables such as age, gender, first or return visit, routine or emergent care, wait time, time with doctor and the doctor’s friendly/caring attitude. Wait time and time with doctor were statistically significant, but their contribution to overall satisfaction was small, each accounting for only about 10 percent of the variance in patient satisfaction. In contrast, the doctor’s friendly/caring attitude was the strongest contributor to patient satisfaction, accounting for more than three-fourths of the variance in patient satisfaction/doctor rating scores.

“Tips 1 and 2 don’t matter nearly as much as Tip 3,” Dr. Feldman said. “Every time, before a doctor walks into the exam room, he or she should pause and think: ‘How am I going to make this patient feel cared for today?’ And ‘how can I make sure they realize I am a friendly, caring doctor?”

About DrScore.com

Founded by Steve Feldman, M.D., DrScore.com is an interactive online survey site where patients can rate their physicians, as well as find a physician based on their service level preference. DrScore’s mission is to improve medical care by giving patients a forum for rating their physicians, and by giving doctors an affordable, objective, non-intrusive means of documenting the quality of care that they provide. For more information, visit www.drscore.com.

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One of the benefits of online doctor rating — a benefit to patients and doctors — is a transparency of medical care quality that will help people identify the bad doctors, the uncaring ones, the ones who, according to some patients, you wouldn’t send your dog to. Patients aren’t the only ones who know about these doctors.  Doctors know about them too. They have seen patients who were seen by these colleagues, and all of those patients were unhappy with the care they received.

I know that online doctor rating isn’t going to find many such doctors.  In fact, quite the opposite, online rating of physicians is going to show there aren’t nearly so many “bad doctors” out there as people think there are. Let me explain.

I’m a practicing dermatologist.  I see patients who have seen another dermatologist in town, maybe a dozen or so of that doctor’s patients.  Every one of those patients was unhappy with the care they received, and none of those patients received treatment that cured their condition.

Now that’s clear evidence the other dermatologist didn’t know what they were doing, right?

No, not right.  You see, every time that other dermatologist clears up his or her patient’s rash and gives his or her patient a medical care experience the patient is happy with, that patient continues seeing the other dermatologist and doesn’t come see me.  I  see that doctor’s outliers, the occasional patient who, for whatever reason, didn’t get better or who was unhappy.  I’m sure that the other dermatologist sees a few of my former patients too, only the ones whom I didn’t cure, only the ones who were unhappy with me.  Our observations give us a misleading picture of other people.

Well what about those doctors whose patients post comments like, “I wouldn’t send my dog to that doctor?”  That kind of comment does happen, and, sadly, I’m sure that’s the true opinion of the patient who makes that comment.  But those comments are generally not anywhere close to representative of what the vast majority of that doctor’s patients think.  I get comments like that at times (thankfully less often than I used to, having learned from patient satisfaction feedback what I was doing wrong).  I’ve been rated over 500 times on DrScore.com.  The average of those scores is 9.1 out of 10 (not bad, according to my mom).  Still, occasional patients give me a 0 or a 1 for their experience.  I know they may think everyone gives me a 0 or 1, that I’m a “bad doctor,” but the great majority of my patients think I’m a 9 or 10.  So far, that’s true for all the doctors with just 10 or more ratings on DrScore.

There may be “bad doctors” out there, but I suspect they are incredibly rare.  There weren’t any in my medical school class, and I have yet to meet one in person.  If there are any, I hope we do smoke them out with online ratings.  If they exist, maybe the online scrutiny will wake them up to the need to improve the quality of care they offer.

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Researchers from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have found that beneficiaries of Medicare who live in areas with a “larger supply of doctors” are not any more likely to be satisfied with the physician care they receive or the time they spend with their doctors than Medicare recipients who live in regions with smaller pools of physicians. Additionally, the study “found no significant differences in access to specialists or availability of tests.

This isn’t surprising.  At DrScore, we’ve found that seeing a caring, friendly doctor is the critical factor in patient satisfaction.  Having more doctors won’t make patients happier, but having more empathetic doctors who show how much they care about their patients does.

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