When hospitals and other healthcare providers are successful financially, it's because they make patient satisfaction one of their top priorities. Evidence from surveys shows this fact consistently, and satisfaction will only become more important as the burden to pay for care increases for patients. According to research from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, more than half of self-pay patients are not satisfied with the level of cost information available to them when getting medical care. Data also shows that patients desire, "time and flexibility when planning their payment strategy." If providers are going to improve patient satisfaction, they will need to accommodate these desires.
1. Improving Estimations
One of the most important factors that determine patient satisfaction is how expectations for care match up with results. While this certainly applies to medical outcomes, even a very successful treatment can cause disappointment if the costs end up widely different than the estimate. This is true for both under and over estimation. When the actual out-of-pocket costs for care are much higher than estimated, patients feel frustrated that they have to come up with more money than they budgeted. Over estimating is also a problem as patients are often asked to provide some kind of deposit for care. When the actual costs end up being less, they lose confidence in the care provider's honesty.
2. Showcasing Expertise
When providing care for a patient, it's very important to be viewed as an expert. This is especially true in the age of information where anyone could look up vast amounts of knowledge regarding medicine and the costs involved. A satisfied patient is one who feels they are getting a lot of value for their money from a highly trained, educated, and up-to-date professional. Doctors, nurses, and other caretakers interacting with patients need to clearly communicate their expertise and provide quick responses to questions and concerns that arise. When knowledge is lacking, providers should provide additional training that gets their staff up to speed.
3. Streamlining Billing
Repeated, unnecessary communication between a healthcare provider's billing department and a patient due to confusion and disorganization can seriously deteriorate the patient-provider relationship. When communicating with patients, having a single point of contact can make payments a lot easier. It's also important to provide flexibility and convenience. Patients should have access to some type of online or mobile billing portal where they can discover information about their bills and access a variety of payment options. For some providers, outsourcing to a third-party collector is the easiest and most cost effective way to accomplish these goals.