Patient Experience is a Key Quality Metric
Patient experience refers to all the interactions patients have with healthcare professionals. It is similar to patient satisfaction, but with a significant difference, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Patient experience measures whether something important to the patient occurred and to what extent. An example is good communication, says Juliana Garofalo, an ob/gyn medical assistant.
Why Measuring the Patient Experience is Vital
Patients have a choice of healthcare providers. They can see reviews of other patients on social media and the Internet. Bad reviews discourage new patients from visiting a particular doctor. Because doctors are affiliated with specific hospitals, the bad reviews also reflect poorly on the hospital. Women are particularly savvy about researching physicians and choosing those who provide a quality experience, making 80 percent of the health care decisions for the whole family.
Patients with a bad patient experience also may choose to transfer to a different practice, resulting in a lack of revenue for the practice and affiliated hospitals. Failure to retain patients can negatively affect the bottom line.
Finally, physician payment programs and accreditation programs, such as Medicare and the American Board of Medical Specialties certification, include measurements of patient care.
Improving The Ob/Gyn Patient Experience
Women tend to value certain aspects of the patient experience, including convenience, cost, relationships, and safety, notes Juliana Garofalo. Practices can improve the patient experience by focusing on these areas.
Wait times can dramatically affect the patient experience, especially for women juggling many priorities. Seeing patients within 15 minutes of their arrival time is an important benchmark, Garofalo says. If patients experience delays, practices should apologize for them and explain why they were necessary.
Technology that sends text and email reminders helps with keeping patients on schedule. Patient portals that allow women to pay bills, schedule appointments, or ask questions easily are also a necessary convenience for any practice.
Patients typically pay a portion of the cost of their treatment, and they want good explanations of why they need examinations or procedures before agreeing to them. Many patients particularly question diagnostic tests, says Garofalo. Practices can improve the patient experience by fully explaining why the patient should have the recommended test and how much the tests cost. If the practice can provide these tests onsite, they can also improve the experience.
Despite the trend toward telemedicine, patients still value a one-on-one relationship with their ob/gyn. They want their provider to greet them professionally and warmly. They want to know the role of each person they encounter. They also value eye contact.
Compassion and empathy are critical for all those who interact with the patient. Even if a provider’s time is limited, sitting down and listening to the patient is vital. Even if the patient’s concerns seem overly anxious or off-base, the provider should address them.
Addressing their comfort is also critical. A relaxing physical space helps. Clear communication about what will happen during the visit and why is also essential in building trust with the patient. Encouraging the patient to ask questions throughout the examination or procedure will lessen anxiety and give the patient a sense that they are in control.
Clear, honest communication builds trust.
Obviously, an accident or mistake can dramatically affect the patient’s experience. Practices need to develop procedures to ensure patient safety, such as verifying procedures before surgery or ensuring the patient receives discharge instructions in writing. Practices can also form partnerships with patients to improve safety by providing educational materials and encouraging them to ask questions.
Juliana Garofalo is studying to be a physician’s assistant in the ob/gyn field.