Guest Column | September 8, 2017

Satisfaction Savvy: How Providers Can Enhance Patient Experiences And Achieve Financial Success

Enlisting Patients To Improve EHR Accuracy

By Allison Hart

“The customer is always right” is a popular adage in service industries. But what about in healthcare, who knows more about what healthcare consumers need – patients themselves or their providers? The concept of patient satisfaction is something a lot of healthcare providers struggle with. For one thing, providers are not always clear on what drives satisfaction. Also, the pressure to deliver positive healthcare experiences has grown now that reimbursements are tied to patient satisfaction and consumerization has made its way to healthcare. What is clear is that, although patients lack the specialized knowledge to diagnose or treat themselves, they do know how they feel after an encounter with their provider, as well as what their experience was like before and during that visit. For this reason, it is critical that providers and healthcare organizations prioritize activities that yield satisfaction.

The Growing Financial Impact Of Patient Satisfaction
The goal of satisfying patients is nothing new, but never before has satisfaction been so important to healthcare providers’ financial success. Value-based payment programs now measure how pleased patients are with their experiences, and take that information into account when determining reimbursements. Medicare, for example, now uses survey data from HCAHPS, or Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, to determine how to apportion payments. Failing to do well on these surveys results in negative Medicare payment adjustments. Additionally, research shows a link between HCAHPS scores and a hospital’s profitability. According to one study, hospitals with “excellent” HCAHPS patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with “low” ratings.

Not only are reimbursements a concern, but the importance of satisfaction is increasing because patients are basing their choice of providers on the quality of their past experiences. A recent West survey revealed that 94 percent of patients believe it is important to feel satisfied with their healthcare provider. Moreover, 88 percent of surveyed patients said that they would switch to a different provider if they felt dissatisfied with their current one. This means that providers who consistently deliver satisfactory care will be in high demand, while those with poor track records will risk losing patients. Faced with pressure to maintain and grow revenue, healthcare providers and organizations are compelled to deliver positive patient experiences.

The Secrets Of Satisfaction
In addition to making it clear that they want providers to deliver a certain level of care, patients surveyed by West also confirmed what it takes to meet their expectations. The most common patient desires include:

  • Shorter Wait Times
    When asked what would make them feel more satisfied the single most common response was to spend less time waiting during appointments. Of those surveyed, 50 percent said they wanted wait times to be shorter.
  • Cost Considerations
    Patients are often unaware of how much their care will cost and what portion of that cost their insurance will cover until after they are billed. For this reason, 49 percent of respondents said they wanted their providers to give them advance cost information.
  • Quality Time With Providers
    Even as providers strive to reduce wait times, they must be careful not to rush their patients. A full 47 percent of respondents said they would be more satisfied if they did not feel rushed during their appointments.
  • Scheduling Simplicity
    Patients want making appointments to be easy, which is why 41 percent indicated that providers should simplify the scheduling process.

Besides these factors, a significant number of patients expressed a desire for better communication from their medical team. Fortunately, providers can address all of these patient wishes by using technology-enabled engagement communications.

How Providers And Healthcare Facilities Can Promote Satisfaction

As a provider, you may wonder what more you can do to enhance patients’ experiences without straining your resources or spending too much time on each individual. Chances are you already have a valuable tool at your disposal: appointment reminder technology. By using your existing appointment reminder system, you can do things like:

  • Reduce Wait Times
    With appointment reminder technology you can automatically deliver messages to patients and let them know if you are running behind schedule. They will know to delay their arrival to your office, reducing frustration over the time they have to spend waiting.
  • Provide Advance Knowledge of Costs
    Sending pre-appointment messages that not only remind patients to bring their insurance information, but also verify in advance whether their plan requires a copay, is one way you can help reduce stress about costs. You can deliver insurance and copayment reminders easily using your appointment reminder system.
  • Make Scheduling Appointments Simple
    By using your appointment reminder technology to send automated emails, voicemails or text messages to patients you can notify them when they are due for an exam and need to schedule an appointment. Messages can be set up to allow patients to instantly connect to a staff member who can help them schedule an appointment. Additionally, most providers already send appointment reminders to patients a day or two before scheduled appointments. If you configure your reminders so that they include an option for patients to reschedule or cancel appointments they are unable to keep, you can offer last-minute openings to other patients.
  • Improve Communication
    There are many ways providers can use engagement communications to support patients between visits and improve satisfaction. You can send an automated voice message to let a patient know they are due for a preventive screening, a text message to alert a patient of an upcoming payment deadline, or an email that shares tips for managing a chronic health condition. These and other between-visit communication tactics can be executed using existing appointment reminder technology in new ways.

Value-based payment programs are using patient satisfaction as a measure of quality that factors into reimbursements. What is more, patient satisfaction outweighs patient loyalty, a reality supported by the fact that a whopping 91 percent of Americans are likely to investigate other options if they are not completely satisfied with their current healthcare provider. Even though healthcare providers and organizations want to satisfy patients, many are missing opportunities to do so. Few providers realize that they have the potential to make dramatic patient experience improvements by leveraging their existing appointment reminder technology. More providers need to take advantage of the capabilities of this technology and use it to deliver engagement communications that support patients and improve their experiences in areas that are important to them. By listening to patients’ desires and addressing their needs using technology-enabled engagement communications, organizations can benefit patients and their own financial health.

About The Author
Allison Hart is a regularly-published advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting. She leads thought leadership efforts for West’s TeleVox Solutions, promoting the idea that engaging with patients between healthcare appointments in meaningful ways will encourage and inspire them to follow and embrace treatment plans - and that activating these positive behaviors ultimately leads to better outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients. Hart currently serves as Vice President of Marketing for TeleVox Solutions at West  (, where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.