The Patient Experience: Must It Be This Hard?

Q: As our group’s Medical Director, I am constantly having to talk with colleagues about patient satisfaction data and how to improve the patient experience. While we don’t agree on the measurement process, we all realize we can’t stand by and do nothing. This whole effort has proven to be more complicated than a coronary revascularization. Who knew?

A: I think it was Warren Buffett who said, “There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.” Personally, I’d consider the whole patient satisfaction challenge to fit into this “unnecessarily complex” category.

Thank goodness for a recent study by orthopedic surgeon, David Ring, MD, PhD., who helped us see that satisfaction was most predicted by something very simple. It wasn’t wait times, the time with the surgeon, how long it took to get an appointment, resident/fellow involvement, health literacy, or even the clinical course of care. Sixty-five percent of patient satisfaction was attributed to physician empathy, according to the study.

Dr. Ring added, “While good technical skills are essential for hand and orthopaedic surgery, this study shows that physician empathy is the best opportunity to improve the patient experience."

Here’s a brief Tip to share with colleagues that will help apply these findings with your patient: