As I sat in my dermatologist’s office for the third time in a month, I couldn’t help but think about my dissatisfaction at being there. Was it the long wait time? The boring, sterile waiting room? Or was it the unfriendly staff who clearly couldn’t care less about me? There had to be some research that explained my frustration, especially as I realized I needed to search for a new doctor’s office. Some digging turned up a study from Zocdoc that analyzed patient satisfaction indicators. The study, What Makes People Like (and Dislike) Their Doctors, evaluated what separates a good doctor visit from a bad one. There are three ways doctors can ensure a great visit, which will ultimately improve patient retention and referrals.
- Doctors need to have a compassionate bedside manner
- Offices should keep wait times to a minimum
- Staff must provide clear explanations of insurance and cost
Let’s take a look at my recent experience and see what the dermatologist’s office could have done to keep me from switching to a new doctor.
Compassionate Bedside Manner
When in front of patients, doctors should demonstrate their knowledge and experience in a friendly, polite, and compassionate way. Moreover, it is crucial to ensure that technology and processes enable, not hinder, meaningful interaction with patients. Our experience at West Monroe shows that point of care contact with the doctor is the most formative moment in determining a patient’s overall experience. Despite long wait times, I personally would not have gone to that dermatologist’s office three times had the doctor not been incredibly friendly and informative. He made sure to focus his attention on me and not on his computer. Creating an intimate connection between a doctor and patient can significantly improve patient retention
Short Wait Times
Wait times, however, are also still a key factor in determining patient satisfaction. Even though my dermatologist had a great bedside manner, I decided it would not enough to keep me around for a fourth or fifth visit. I was simply too tired of waiting 20 minutes or more alone in a sterile room at each visit. The office staff were clearly not building appropriate schedules for the doctors. Based on my experience implementing Epic’s Cadence scheduling software, I found that using the correct scheduling method was instrumental in improving patient wait times. The scheduling method should vary based on the resources required for common appointments. For example, wave scheduling works better for departments with complex resources whereas open access scheduling works better for departments with simple resources. And if you use open access scheduling, limits should be imposed on doctors’ schedules to prevent overbooking and to ensure doctors have enough turn-around time between patients. These concepts seem simple, yet I found myself waiting every single time I went to my dermatologist.
Clear Explanation of Insurance and Costs
To make matters worse, the staff were rude and unprofessional when explaining my insurance costs. The Zocdoc article explains that insurance confusion is one of the leading patient dissatisfiers in a doctor’s office. Most likely the lack of training, inadequate process, and ineffective software all contributed to the unprofessional way the staff handled my insurance costs. I’m not expecting my doctor’s office to know the ins and outs of my insurance plan, but I do expect them to coordinate with my insurance to clearly highlight all cost options. A good doctor’s office will require that staff undergo initial and ongoing training in both patient engagement and software / insurance proficiency.
Aside from just helping me to heal, I want my doctor to have a good bedside manner, her office to have short wait times, and the office staff to clearly explain insurance matters. I’ll be sure to look for these things in reviews as I search for my new doctor.