Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and EHR for FREE!

The Increasing Role of Surveys in Reimbursement, Profitability, and Quality Care

Posted on February 14, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

Delivery of high-quality, patient-centered care has become the hallmark of the medical industry. The most commonly used indicators for measuring the quality of care are patient satisfaction and the patient experience. How patients feel about their experience is critical to overall practice success because it has been proven to impact health outcomes, patient retention, and medical malpractice claims.

The emerging standard for measuring patient satisfaction is the use of patient surveys. Patient satisfaction surveys are not only important when required for reimbursement, but also for practices focused on improving their patient-centered care (that should be everyone). A well written survey can be a very powerful and reliable tool. It can provide more information about what is going on in your practice. It demonstrates that your practice is working to improve. It shows patients that quality is your focus.

What are the key reasons that every practice should start implementing patient surveys?

Patient Surveys Increasingly Drive Reimbursement

Because both practice and hospital reimbursement are increasingly tied to health outcomes and patient satisfaction, patient surveys have become the go-to guide for improving the patient experience.

Currently, CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) uses the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey to measure how patients feel about their hospital experience. They then take those results and compare them to hospitals locally, regionally and nationally and assign them a score. Those scores have been a big part of the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing program for nearly six years.

This past year, we have seen the implementation of MACRA. Under MACRA, physician and hospitals patient satisfaction scores are calculated. By 2019, these scores will impact Medicare reimbursements.

It is highly likely that this trend towards survey-based reimbursement will continue to grow. Even if your practice is not currently required to use patient satisfaction surveys for reimbursement, it is probable that you will at some point in the future. By sending out surveys now, you can get a better handle on changes that need to be made to secure high scores for future reimbursement.

Patient Surveys Increase Profitability

High patient satisfaction levels impact a practice’s profitability for reasons beyond just reimbursement. Studies have found a significant correlation between high patient satisfaction and the overall profitability of a practice. Consider this:

  • A good patient experience significantly lowers your risk of a malpractice suit. In fact, for each drop in satisfaction score, a provider is nearly 22 percent more likely to be hit by a lawsuit.
  • One surprising effect of an improved patient experience is reduced staff turnover. Because a better patient experience often involves implementing more efficient and effective processes, staff are able to work in a more pleasant environment. One provider saw their turnover rate drop 5 percent after efforts to improve the patient experience.
  • A good patient experience leads to lower patient turnover. This one is more obvious. Today’s consumer-minded patients are looking for a great experience. One study found that practices with poor patient-physician relationships are three times more likely to move to a new practice than those with good patient-physician relationships.

It’s easy to see why the use of a patient survey to track and improve the patient experience is quickly becoming best practice. As Joe Greskoviak, president and COO of Press Ganey explained, “We are seeing a shift in the way organizations look at the engagement of their patient populations. The ability to use patient experience as a competitive and strategic differentiator to gain market share is a valuable tool,” Mr. Greskoviak said.

Patient Surveys Lead to Quality Improvement

As dozens of studies have found, there is quantifiable evidence that tracking the patient experience leads to quality improvement in multiple ways. These studies have found that:

  • A good patient experience improves both prevention and disease management. In one study, diabetic patients increased their ability to self-manage their disease and, subsequently, improved their quality of life simply due to a good experience with their provider.
  • Positive patient experiences lead to a higher likelihood of care adherence for the patient. This is especially true for those with chronic conditions who meet regularly with their provider.
  • Patients who have a good patient experience and a positive view of their provider have better health outcomes compared to patients that have poor patient experiences. Heart attack patients who were highly satisfied with their practice saw significant improvements over their less satisfied peers one year post-attack.

Understanding how your patients feel through patient satisfaction surveys is an invaluable tool. These surveys can be as important to the success as your healthcare credentials. If implemented and used properly, a patient survey can help you increase profitability, healthcare outcomes, and reimbursement.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

5 Ways to Keep Patients from Feeling like a Number

Posted on January 17, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

Think about the last time you felt upset at work. What was the root cause? Did you feel ignored? Overlooked? Unappreciated? If so, you are not alone. Studies have found that two out of three workers feel unappreciated at work and 65 percent would prefer a better boss over a pay raise. Everyone wants to feel that they matter. It’s simply part of our nature as social beings. This need to feel valued is not restricted to the work environment. In fact, studies find that it extends far beyond the office walls to retail, service, and—yes—healthcare experiences.

The Patient-Provider Relationship Study confirmed this—noting that practices can no longer rely on their excellent clinical care to keep patients coming back. Patient dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, prompting patients across the generations to switch physicians.

Between 43 and 44 percent of millennials and Gen Xers will switch providers in the next few years. It’s not just the younger generations, even baby boomers are restless—20 percent are likely to find a new physician in the next three years. While patient dissatisfaction is a complex issue with multiple solutions, one of the easiest and most effective treatments also has the lowest cost to practices—making patients feel valued.

Here are five simple tools a provider can use to help patients feel they are important:

  1. Acknowledge. Nothing makes patients feel like they are on the conveyor belt of medical care more than being ignored. There is a reason the grocery king, Walmart, pays to have people simply greet you as you enter and leave the store. Humans like to be acknowledged. Consider having different front desk staff assigned as the office “greeter” along with their regular duties. A quick, “Welcome John! I’ll be right with you” along with a genuine smile can go a surprisingly long way towards patient satisfaction.
  2. Remember. Try to remember small things about each patient. One way is through use of their name. Another great time to show a patient you remember them is on their birthday. Eighty five percent of Americans say that they feel special when others celebrate their birthday. It is easy to automate a personalized birthday email or text message that keeps you connected outside of the office.
  3. Respond. Medical offices are busy. There’s no way around it. But when a patient reaches out, it is important to respond as quickly as possible. The ability to two-way text with patients is handy here because it allows you to acknowledge (see #1) a message from an out-of-office patient while still being present with patients in the office.
  4. Listen. It can be easy to brush past comments or questions from patients. In fact, research shows that the average patient is interrupted within 18 seconds of their visit. Instead of assuming that you know what a patient is going to say, wait patiently until they finish speaking. Devote your energy to looking at them and focusing on them while they talk.
  5. Thank. Patients are the reason you are in business. Every position in a medical office is made possible because of patients. During the hectic everyday rush, it can be easy to forget this simple fact. Try shooting off a personal “thank you” email or text (or even a handwritten note). The good news is that research shows that showing gratitude not only improves the well-being of those you thank, but your own well-being as well.

It is often the small things that can make the biggest difference to patient satisfaction. In the era of consumer-centric patients, it is important to help patients feel like more than just another number. Following these five simple steps will bring practices closer to that goal.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

4 Reasons Patient Texting Is Taking Center Stage

Posted on December 14, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

Communication is one of the most time consuming tasks for medical practices. Hundreds of patients need to be contacted on a regular basis. Keeping up can be a challenge. Failing to do so can be damaging to the practice. Modern patients have adopted a consumer-based mentality and are quick to switch practices when it does not live up to their expectations. Communication methods that used to be regarded as personal and engaging are now felt to be invasive and outdated. The stats back it up:

  • Nineteen percent of people never check their voicemail.
  • Ninety percent of cell phone users ignore incoming phone calls.
  • Seventy eight percent of emails are never opened.

What do patients want instead? Texting.

The “Why” Behind the Success of Texting

Today’s patients are already savvy texters in their everyday lives and expect to be able to do the same with their medical practices. The Patient-Provider Relationship Study found that 79 percent of patients would like to receive text messages from their doctor and 73 percent want to send a text to their doctor’s office. In response, more and more offices are turning to texting. Why is texting so critical to practice success?

  1. It’s faster for everyone. The average text message takes just four seconds to send. Compare that to a phone call, in which people talk for at least two minutes. Those two minutes don’t include the time spent dialing, waiting for an answer, leaving a message, or following up. Experts estimate that a phone call to schedule an appointment—from start to finish—takes 8.1 minutes. Those minutes add up. For example, if your practice receives 50 incoming phone calls each day, even at just two minutes per call, that’s almost two hours spent on the phone. Add to that outbound calls and the hours build even more. Text messages, on the other hand, take only seconds to type and send.
  2. It improves health outcomes.research study by JAMA Internal Medicine reviewed data from 16 randomized clinical trials and found that texting can double the odds of chronic illness patients sticking to medication adherence. When using text messages as ways to remind patients of appointments and medication needs, they resoundingly respond.
  3. It keeps the schedule full. A text message system can be completely automated—meaning it can send notifications as often as desired. This ensures lower rates of patient no-shows. In addition, when a last-minute cancellation happens, texting is a great way to fill those spots. Patients who want to be seen soon can be put on a waiting list. When someone cancels their appointment, an automated text can be sent to each patient on the waiting list letting them know an appointment has become available. This text takes far less time than calling each person on the waiting list and hoping to reach an available patient in time to rebook the appointment. Your schedule stays full and your revenue increases.
  4. It increases in-office engagement. Freeing up so much time allows front office staff to spend more time where they are needed most—engaging in compassionate care with the patient right in front of them. Extensive research has found that patient-based, compassionate care leads to lower stress levels and burnout for healthcare providers and better health outcomes and satisfaction for patients. This type of care is only made possible, however, when staff members are not talking on the phone all day. Texting frees up this time.

Texting is the norm in almost every aspect of our society, and it is quickly becoming the expectation in the healthcare industry as well. It offers patients an easy way to communicate with your practice and still provide great service to the patients you are serving in your office. Your patients are happy with the way your practice communicates, you reduce the amount of time spent on phone calls, and—most importantly—your practice continues to grow.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

Patients May like Their Physician…But That Doesn’t Mean They’ll Stay

Posted on November 8, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

Medical providers are dealing with a more impatient, demanding patient base than ever before. Armed with research, awareness, and a plethora of online data, today’s consumer patients treat their search for a medical provider in much the same way they would any purchasing decision.

They weigh the pros and cons of each provider, evaluating how each practice would fit their lifestyle and then make a decision.

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the process. Even after a patient chooses a specific practice, they are not even close to becoming loyal patients.

Smooth processes trump provider loyalty

It often surprises medical practices to discover that retaining patients has less and less to do with the medical competence of the office. Today, it may not be enough for a patient to simply like their physician.

For busy patients, the road to loyalty goes directly through the processes and procedures of an office. Studies back this up. Consider this. Sixty-one percent of patients say they are willing to visit an urgent care clinic instead of their primary care clinic for non-urgent issues. This is true regardless of whether they like their primary care provider or not.

The #1 reason they prefer urgent care? Because of difficulty scheduling appointments and long wait times with a primary care physician. According to a study by Merrit Hawkins, wait times have increased by 30 percent since 2014. Patients have noticed.

These long wait times were also noted as one of the key reasons patients will switch practices according to respondents of the Patient Provider Relationship study:

  • Sixty-eight percent say that wait times in their medical office are not reasonable.
  • Sixty-six percent say that they have to wait too long to schedule an appointment.
  • Sixty-eight percent say they feel like messages are not returned in a timely manner.

Reducing wait times is crucial to patient retention

In order to increase patient retention levels, practices must find ways to offset the frustration of long wait times. Consider implementing these three methods of wait-time optimization.

  1. Self-scheduling. It is common for doctors to have calendars booked out months in advance. This can cause patient frustration and turnover. When practices allow patients to schedule themselves, however, this frustration is minimized. With self-scheduling, they can quickly see which doctors are available and when. Since 41 percent of patients would be willing to see another doctor in the practice to reduce their wait, this is a simple way to optimize your scheduling without sacrificing patient experience.
  2. Communication. There are times when long waits are unavoidable. This is where communication is key. Studies show that 80 percent of patients would be less frustrated if they were kept aware of the issue. When you know an appointment is going to be delayed, send out an email or text letting them know.
  3. Texting. If your patient has a question, texting can save them a lot of time. Research shows that it takes just 4 seconds to send the average text message. Compare that to the several minutes it takes to make a phone call. Factor in playing phone tag and you’ve saved both time and headaches. Unfortunately, the Patient-Provider Relationship Study found that while 73 percent of patients would like to be able to be able to send a text message to their doctor’s office, just 15 percent of practices have that ability. Practices in that 15 percent will stand out from their competitors.

In this era of consumer-driven behavior, practices need to prioritize ways to create smooth processes for patients. Medical offices should look at ways to optimize their processes to reduce frustration and wait times for patients.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

Bridging the Gap between What Patients Want and What Practices Offer

Posted on October 11, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

With the growing pressure of increasingly complex healthcare regulations, malpractice litigation, and expectations of quality care, modern-day medical practices face an unprecedented set of challenges when it comes to running a successful practice.

Throw in marketing, billing, scheduling, appointment reminders, and all of the other day-to-day aspects of running a practice, and many practices are maxed out.

But while practices are busy juggling this growing number of expectations, patient satisfaction has been falling.

Today’s patients have become accustomed to a buyer-centered approach in nearly every industry. Likewise, they expect the same from their healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many practices have been slow to adapt.

The Patient-Provider Relationship Study recently found that the average medical provider with a panel of 2,000 patients could lose around 700 patients in the next couple of years. A large number of these patients are leaving due to dissatisfaction with their experience at a practice.

Much of the growing dissatisfaction from patients is in relation to practices not offering the services and technology that they have come to expect. Experts warn that the medical field lags behind every other industry in the adoption of new technology. This inevitably leads to a gap between what patients expect from their medical practice and what practices actually offer.

Perform a thorough gap assessment

According to the study, 60 percent of patients are not completely satisfied with practice logistics such as appointment scheduling, reminders, and communication. In fact, logistics is the area in which patients have the greatest overall dissatisfaction with their practice.

It is important that practices both understand what patients want the most and then complete an assessment to determine areas that need improvement.

The Patient-Provider Relationship Study found that patients want many additional touchpoints, including:

  • Text appointment reminders
  • Appointment alerts by email
  • Appointment alerts by text
  • Being able to text message back and forth with the practice
  • Allowing patients to initiate text messages to the practice

Unfortunately, a large number of practices do not offer these services. The following chart highlights how many practices offer each of these services, compared to a goal of 100 percent implementation.

With the majority of patients expressing dissatisfaction with the logistics offered by their medical practice, it is clear that changes need to be made. This requires the implementation of new, or more robust, technology.

Implement technology without distress

Practices want to be more efficient and provide an improved patient experience, but the fear of making the wrong choices around new technology can hold them back. Each of the aforementioned services have the potential to either improve processes and efficiency or make them more difficult. The outcome depends on the practice’s ability to carefully assess each piece of technology before moving forward.

There are steps you can take to eliminate some of the risk when choosing a new technology. One of the most important things you can do is to ask right questions before and during the selection process. Consider the following:

  1. Who will be impacted by this change?
  2. How will the technology affect your current workflow?
  3. Is the technology compatible with your current systems?
  4. Will the technology meet current and future compliance requirements?
  5. What will the implementation process include?
  6. How have other offices felt about the technology?
  7. What type of on-going customer service and training does the company offer?

When it comes to achieving high levels of patient satisfaction, it is critical that practices bridge the gap between what patients want and what is currently being offered. After performing a gap assessment and carefully vetting available technology, practices will be able to move forward in a way that will reduce the load on employees, create meaningful improvements in the practice, and boost the bottom line.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

How Does Age Impact Patient Satisfaction?

Posted on September 13, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

If you walked into the average medical practice on any given day, you would see patients ranging in age from 1 to 101. Understanding and adapting to the needs of such a diverse group of patients is challenging. Many offices are struggling with this, and patient dissatisfaction is at an all-time high.

In the Patient-Provider Relationship Study, recently commissioned by Solutionreach, researchers found that one in three patients are likely to switch practices within the next couple of years.

The question is why. What is happening to patient loyalty? And more importantly—what can medical offices do to stem the tide?

In addition to studying patient switching preferences, the study also examined the dynamics of generational satisfaction and preferences, posing the following questions:

  • What impact does age have on patient satisfaction and retention?
  • What role does it play in patient loyalty?
  • Which services create satisfaction for the different generations?

A Closer Look at How Age Impacts Patient Satisfaction

To better understand how age impacts patient retention, it is important to take a closer look at the results from each of the key age groups.

  1. Millennials—Satisfaction levels among the youngest cohort were dismal. Millennials are the least satisfied with all aspects of the practice, including the doctor, office team, and practice logistics. In fact, a stunning 81 percent say that they are not completely satisfied with their medical office. Unsurprisingly, millennials are also extremely likely to switch practices in the upcoming years. Nearly half—46 percent—of millennials say they will probably move on to a new medical practice in the next couple of years.
  2. Gen X—The satisfaction levels of Gen Xers lies somewhere between millennials and boomers. The numbers are still concerning, however. Two out of three Gen Xers are not satisfied with their medical office. Around 35 percent say they will probably change practices in the near future.
  3. Baby Boomers—While millennials are three times more likely to switch providers than boomers, there are still a significant number of unhappy patients in this demographic. Nearly 60 percent of boomers are not completely satisfied with their medical office and one in five will switch practices in the near future.

Regardless Of Age—Technology Boosts Patient Satisfaction

It’s easy to assume that everyone who moves on to a new practice does so because they move or change insurance providers. The truth is a growing number are switching for other reasons.

Why are they so dissatisfied?

Picture the average patient in your mind. What characteristics about them have changed over the past few decades?

The biggest thing is that we have become unbelievably attached to technology—it’s rare to find any of us without either a phone, tablet, or computer. We use technology for virtually everything.

This is the area in which medical practices are struggling to keep up. Solutionreach’s study found that this is the exact category in which patients are least satisfied with their medical office. This is true regardless of age. Millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers all want more technology.

The biggest gap between what patients want and what medical practices offer is around texting. Texting has been the most used form of communication for over a decade now, but according to the survey less than 30 percent of practices offer any texting options. Today, every office should be able to:

  • Send a text—94 percent of millennials and 87 percent of Gen Xers want to receive texts from your office. But it’s not just the “youngsters.” Two out of three baby boomers also want you to text them.
  • Receive a text—While some offices have started sending out reminder texts, far fewer actually have the ability to have a patient initiate text messaging through the office number. Eighty-seven percent of millennials and seventy-nine percent of Gen Xers say that they want to be able to text their doctor. Once again, boomers are also on board—58 percent say they want to send a text to their medical practice.

Today’s patient lives are completely intertwined with technology. Medical practices will need to adapt to using technology in new ways to connect with patients or risk losing one in three patients in the coming two years.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.

Patients Frustrated with Poor Practice Logistics

Posted on August 9, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

A new study shows that patients have just about had it with poor practice logistics—things like communication, scheduling, and accessibility. There have certainly been signs this was coming for quite some time, but now the data shows patients really are getting fed up with not having some of the same basic tools they have in service and retail interactions.

The Patient-Provider Relationship Study, which was conducted by Solutionreach, surveyed over 2,000 patients about their recent experiences with different types of providers. Over 500 of those who responded had seen a primary care provider in the past year and were asked questions about that interaction. The questions focused on satisfaction with the provider, their staff, and the practice in general as well as likelihood of switching providers and preferences around communication and accessibility.

The results were pretty stunning. Only 35 percent of patients were completely satisfied with their primary care provider and thirty-four percent of patients said they were considering switching primary care providers in the next couple of years. In addition, 12 percent had switched in the past year. And, quite a few left for reasons other than things like changing insurance or moving. Just under 40 percent of those who had switched said they left because of customer service and experience issues. The problems they listed included:

  • Feeling more like a number than a person
  • Trouble getting appointments
  • Poor communication with/from the staff
  • The staff were not friendly
  • Not satisfied with the staff (other than the provider)

These are very fixable issues. We’re talking almost entirely about the personal perceptions of patients about their interactions with staff, with just a couple exceptions. And those exceptions have largely to do with communication and access, which are also pretty manageable things to change.

You can improve communication and appointment scheduling, and with the right technology, you can do it in a way that feels more personal as well. Not surprisingly many patients want to schedule appointments online and they want options for email and text for communications like reminders. In fact, 79 percent of patients said they wanted text messages from their primary care providers.

It’s important to note that these things don’t just improve the patient experience outside the practice, they save time for staff, which means a better experience when patients are in the practice. So why are providers so hesitant to invest in tools that can fix this problem?

To some degree, it appears to be about fears that these investments won’t pay off—in added reimbursement or return on investment (ROI) from savings. In a study conducted by HIMSS in 2015, providers cited time constraints and lack of reimbursement as barriers to improving patient engagement. The truth is many of the things that fall under “engagement” can also be seen as “customer service,” and patients want better customer service. In another study conducted by MicKinsey, patients said they had similar expectations of service from healthcare providers and non-healthcare companies.

While there will never be added reimbursement for smiling or greeting patients by name, there are some clear areas of ROI that can make up for that. Email and text reminders have been shown to reduce no-shows by 30 to 50 percent, saving the average primary care practice about $40,000 a year. Online appointment scheduling not only saves the practice on scheduling calls, which generally take four to eight minutes, but it can also help patients find earlier appointments, shortening wait times.

For providers who worry that texting with patients will suck up more time with no reimbursement, there is hope as well. Texts take only about four seconds on average while the average call is more like two or more. Also, texts can be responded to at the convenience of providers and staff. There is no need to play phone tag, which is a waste of time for everyone.

When it comes to reimbursement for engagement and service activities, it’s time to think bigger picture. Reimbursement can be time saved. It can be patients retained. It can be increased compliance or fewer phone calls. There are a lot of ways a better patient experience can translate into a better bottom line.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff. Learn more about the Patient-Provider relationship survey here.