The Problem With Patient Satisfaction

The Problem With Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is something of a buzzword these days. As Medicaid introduces value-based reimbursement schedules and patient-focused care becomes the standard, the only way to know if you’re meeting patient expectations is through patient surveys. 


However, while patient care is important, and satisfied patients are more likely to comply with instructions, the process of gathering and analyzing patient satisfaction data is flawed. 


Common problems we see with focusing on patient satisfaction

Skewed responses


We don’t know about you, but we’re more likely to respond to customer experience surveys when we’re unhappy about the service or product we receive. Most of the time, the only people who fill out patient surveys are unhappy, which automatically gives you a biased assessment of your service. 


For example, if you’re an OB/GYN and have a pregnant patient having an emergency issue, obviously your staff can’t tell the patients in your waiting room what’s going on. So they sit and wait. And by the time they get to see you, they’re already going to be upset, and you’re going to be stressed and rushed. So no one is going to be happy, and you run the risk of a negative response to a patient satisfaction survey.


Making a patient better isn’t always pleasant


Additionally, sometimes doctors and medical staff have to perform unpleasant or uncomfortable procedures to diagnose or treat health problems. In addition to stressing out the patient, sometimes their families are present and are equally, if not more upset or stressed. A lack of knowledge and not wanting to see your family member in distress can lead to an uninformed but still negative response.


Patients want a quick solution, and it’s not always that easy


We live in a time of getting what we want quickly. We carry the internet and a wealth of information in our pockets. We can make a few clicks and have our hearts’ desires delivered within 24 hours. 


However, diagnosing, treating, and recovering from illness and injury is time-consuming. Often, patients want a quick fix, but the reality isn’t rapid. You can’t just prescribe a pill and make their problem go away. Some cases require extensive testing to identify the specific issue while others need lengthy treatments or lifestyle modifications. 


Inaccurate data gathering and analysis


Without getting into the nitty-gritty of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, most patient satisfaction surveys are poorly designed. There a considerable variation in the way questions are structured. The surveys often focus on one aspect of patient care and satisfaction, which provides a limited view of the services rendered and the overall patient experience. 


As mentioned earlier, there’s also a limited sample size, and most patients decline to participate. Small sample sizes affect the accuracy and are often meaningless. For example, if 80% of patients give you a 10/10, but if only five patients completed the survey, do those results mean anything? 


Also, while a patient may be asked to rank various aspects of their experience on a scale of 1-5 or 1-10, in most cases, only responses that include 10/10 results are counted. 


What’s our advice? We suggest compassionate, attentive care, and taking the time to educate your patients about their health and the best way to improve it. After all, you can take a horse to water….

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