A Model for Patient Satisfaction

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Patient satisfaction is important to the success of any medical practice. Unfortunately, patient satisfaction can be a fickle thing. “Opinions are like belly buttons; everybody has one,” and when a clinic sees 25-40 patients per physician per day, that is a lot of belly buttons, er, opinions. It can be really hard to please every patient on any given day, but if every staff member has a difference of opinion on how to accomplish that goal you are in for chaos and less than stellar patient feedback. For this reason, a savvy medical office manager will implement and enforce standards of practice for their staff.

Standards of practice for patient satisfaction addresses every aspect of patient interaction and impact, including such issues as telephone etiquette, patient greetings, and check out procedures as well as notifications and scheduling. When an office has clear standards and expectations the likelihood of error or misunderstanding is greatly decreased and patient satisfaction is largely increased.

The Office Manager's Role for Creating Office Standards

When creating an office standards index or policy and procedure manual, the office manager should consider every aspect of patient care from initial contact to final billing. Listing every point of contact and the role each employee plays in this journey will foster a sense of community among the staff members while giving them a sense of ownership for their individual impact on the care of each patient. When an employee understands how their job assists their peers and serves the patient they are more likely to experience overall job satisfaction and improve performance. Medical office employees who take pride in their work provide better customer service resulting in greater patient satisfaction.

In listing every point of patient contact, the office manager can then create a standard for each point. For example, a standard for answering the phones might exist to ensure that all calls are handled consistently and include such information as; how many times the phone can ring before it must be answered, the script for answering each call, and the maximum amount of time any call can be placed on hold. A standard for patient check-in might include a customary greeting, a co-pay reminder, and an estimated time of the patient’s wait. Standards for each task will encourage the office team to meet these expectations by giving them a model to follow, and these same standards will teach the patient what acceptable and satisfactory customer service will look like.

The complete standards index or policy manual will likely include job descriptions. The office manager will consider each of the staff members and their responsibilities. Each employee should have a job description for their position. This document will be an instrument for evaluations and benchmarks, training and education, as well as a resource for the employee in self-evaluation and correction. The job description will list all duties, tasks, and responsibilities attributed to this position, as well as any pertinent deadlines, schedules, or time frames relevant to these duties. Additionally, this document will include any special training or education requirements. The job description might include a pay scale, benefits, and working hours unless the preference is to keep this information strictly confidential with each employee.

Another part of the policy manual might be a “frequently asked questions” section. This section would address questions that are asked repeatedly that often have the same or similar answers such as “how long will it take to get the results from my lab work” or “what is your cancellation policy?” Having consistent information is helpful for staff and patients alike.

Employee Satisfaction Is Also Important

When each employee knows what their responsibilities are, how their position affects the patient and their peers, and how to meet the expectations required of them, they are more likely to be satisfied in their position. When your staff is satisfied with their job and knows what is required of them, the patients will more likely be satisfied that they have received quality customer service. Quality customer service often results in free word of mouth advertising, better online reviews of the clinic, physician, and staff, and a more successful practice.

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