Medicare is basing hospital reimbursements on performance measures. Patient satisfaction determines 30% of the incentive payments, and improved clinical outcomes decide 70 percent (source). So, it is no surprise that the term “patient experience” is rolling off people’s tongues very matter-of-fact like.
With the focus primarily on the hospital or inpatient setting, it’s easy to forget about the ambulatory or outpatient setting when it comes to patient experience. However, as the country continues to shift its efforts to preventing medical problems rather than simply fixing them, the spotlight is moving to the outpatient setting. Therefore, it is equally, if not more important for those in the medical practices to take the necessary steps to assure their patients’ experiences are top notch in this new care delivery model.
The benefits to improving patient experience are plentiful, regardless of the care setting. However, the Language of Caring has done a great job highlighting and explaining specific areas within the outpatient setting where increasing quality patient experience can bring about positive contributions and opportunities. Here are the exact details they provide:
- Improved outcomes and healthier patients – Improved quality patient experience in medical office settings brings about optimal health outcomes. Patients are less anxious in their visits and communications with the physician and care team. The physician and other staff are more successful eliciting needed information from patients and engaging them in decisions that affect their health. Because of greater trust, they are more likely to relax and cooperate during procedures, take their medicine, adhere to their care plans and follow-up with their care, improving care outcomes.
- Patient retention, loyalty, and growth – By providing consistently satisfying patient experiences, medical practices and other ambulatory care centers win patient loyalty and become a provider of choice. Patients spread the word, which brings in even more patients. As people engage in provider-shopping, services that provide a quality patient experience attract new patients via positive word-of-mouth from their current patients. Also, provider scorecard initiatives are proliferating to assist purchasers in their buying decisions. Providing a quality patient experience is a powerful growth strategy.
- Success with accreditation and regulatory agencies – Agencies that accredit health plans now scrutinize patient satisfaction data during the accreditation process. Health plans annually measure patient satisfaction as an external review and accreditation requirement of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), which instituted a member satisfaction survey as part of its Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) quality standards as well as the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey that measures the experiences of patients with their physicians and medical groups.
- Favored relationships with health plans – To become the plan of choice for consumers, health plans want to show high CAHPS scores to prospective customers. They know members defect when they are dissatisfied and they want to retain them in their plans, so most have instituted several incentives or sanctions–all designed to encourage practices and other ambulatory care settings to enhance the patient experience. The better a medical practice or ambulatory care center satisfies its patients, the greater negotiating power with payers.
- Lower costs of doing business – By providing the exceptional patient experience, medical practices and ambulatory care centers also reduce the costs of doing business. Patients more satisfied with their experience are also less likely to file malpractice lawsuits that drain provider time, energy and coffers. Also the work climate is more satisfying to staff which in turn reduces costly staff turnover.
- Reputation, pride and satisfaction – In an atmosphere of consumer savvy and scrutiny, the quality patient experience wins physicians and ambulatory care centers an admirable reputation and a grapevine that results in widespread respect in the community. Members of the care team build relationships with patients that last. People trust the care team, and because they are more satisfied, they complain less. All of this translates into the psychic rewards of greater job satisfaction for the care team and greater pride in their impact on their patients’ health status.
- Profitability – By providing an exceptional patient experience, medical practices and ambulatory care centers win favor from consumers, purchasers, accrediting agencies and health plans that affect their practice’s financial health and profitability.
As the U.S strives to change patient experience from a fad to a priority in how we deliver care, outpatient medical practices need to understand the positive impact improvement can make, not only to their business operations, but more importantly to the outcome of patient care.
What other benefits do you see by improving your patient’s experience?