With so much written about the patient experience, understanding what your hospital or you as an individual can do to improve it can be a daunting prospect. But when it boils down to it, patients receiving care at your facility want just four things from you and your staff. Given the complexities of achieving high levels of patient satisfaction, you might find that hard to believe, yet when asked, patients repeatedly tell researchers that four issues color their healthcare experience and impact how they feel about the treatment they received. Here’s the magic four that patients are looking for:

1) Time to talk

“Time to talk” is a very personal perception that varies widely by patient. Insurance driven 15-minute office visits are not conducive to relaxed conversations. However, there are some simple yet effective things that will enhance the patient’s perception that you had time to talk to them.

  • Do not put your hand on the door knob when talking to the patient. This gives the message that you are rushed. Instead, remain focused on the patient until it is time to leave the room.
  • Make eye contact. Electronic medical records tend to shift the provider’s focus to the computer screen. Human beings need eye contact for reassurance and understanding.
  • Listen, listen, listen. When a person believes that a provider is actively listening, they feel engaged and believe that they have had ample time to talk.
  • Manage the conversation. Some patients will be succinct, others will ramble. By letting the patient talk, and using their dialogue for fact finding, the conversation can be productive.

2) To be treated as staff would treat their own family

When patients say that they want to be treated as staff would treat their own family members, it means they desire kindness and compassion – not that staff should eschew their level of professionalism or let down their emotional guard. A hand on a shoulder can go a long way toward reducing fear. A smile can give reassurance to a frightened patient, and a kind word can give courage.

3) Physicians to understand them

Patients want to understand and be understood and that all boils down to clear cut steps practiced throughout the course of each patient’s care, not just at time of discharge. To understand the patient:

  • Let the patient talk
  • Listen actively
  • Ask questions
  • Observe their body language
  • Survey their satisfaction with their care before they leave the facility (They feel they have been given the opportunity to express themselves and you will get real-time feedback that can improve satisfaction.)

4) To clearly understand their own treatment

To help the patient understand their care, explain things clearly:

  • Don’t use clinical terminology. Use common language and analogies as often as possible.
  • Describe what medications are for and their side effects. “This is how it may make you feel.”

Ask questions of the patient:

  • Do you understand what I explained to you or do you have questions about it? (Can they repeat it to show basic understanding?)
  • Do you have someone to help you get your medications and to help you at home?
  • What do you have questions about? (This is better than “Do you have any questions?” A yes or no answer rarely generates useful information.)
  • What else can I do for you?

If patients articulate that their satisfaction is built around these four core elements, then they have provided healthcare providers with a clear guide for staff training, an outline for effective communication, and insight into the pillars of effective patient-provider interactions.

When a patient has the opportunity to tell you how they feel about their care, they feel empowered, and acknowledged. This can increase patient satisfaction and as a result, your HCAHPS ROI. That closes the all important loop of clinical care, patient satisfaction and reimbursement. Find out more at HCXP, creator of a five point, 5 Star rating system for all in house satisfaction questionnaires and one comparison/benchmark reporting system.

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