Urgent Message: As “influencers in chief” charged with assuring the types of patient experiences that create patient loyalty and word-of-mouth, urgent care providers must understand the relationship between patient experience metrics, financial and clinical outcomes, care team coordination, and time spent with the patient.
As value-based reimbursement becomes more prevalent in healthcare, providers are increasingly tasked with not only ensuring a great clinical outcome, but a superior patient experience, as well. Industry research supports this assertion; in fact, it demonstrably proves that the latter often begets the former. Too often, though, that same research concludes that many physicians still struggle to grasp key patient satisfaction predictors, underestimate their unique role in influencing the patient experience, and/or simply buy into outdated myths about what patients really value.
In an effort to shed light on the issue, the Advisory Board Company, a healthcare-focused “research, technology, and consulting” best practices firm, crafted a patient experience “fact sheet” that aims to draw a clear correlation between the physician influence, clinical outcomes, and patient satisfaction, while dispelling common patient-physician myths. Urgent care, wherein patient experience is a critical factor in success, can use the following Advisory Board Company “5 Physician Myths About the Patient Experience” summary as a guide to improve the patient experiences they deliver.
Five Physician Myths About the Patient Experience
Myth #1: Patient experience metrics don’t directly impact physician finances
Fact: The notion that patient experience metrics, such as those captured by surveys and polls, don’t have a direct impact on physician finances is demonstrably false. In fact, Advisory Board data concluded the following:
- Medical liability increases with dissatisfied patients – Physicians who score low inpatient satisfaction metrics face malpractice suits more often.
- Patient-reported “quality” affects payments – Physicians included in the CMS Value Modifier Plan (mainly hospital physicians) will see their Medicare payments influenced by the quality of care as reported by patient surveys.
- Online patient feedback is critical – Popular social media platforms (eg, Facebook, Twitter) and review sites (eg, Yelp!, Angie’s List, ZocDoc) that post and disseminate patient reviews have a tremendous impact on market share.
Myth #2: There is a clear delineation between patient experience and clinical outcomes
Fact: Patient experience is in fact a critical driver of clinical outcomes. Healthcare research shows that only 10% of adults are proficient in health literacy, while nearly two-thirds of patients forget medical information immediately after it’s explained. However, studies indicate that when a physician is clearly engaged in their care, patients listen intently and place high value on the physician’s opinion. Strong physician engagement and the resulting improved patient experience has also been shown to produce:
- Lowered 30-day hospital readmission rates
- Improved guideline and care instructions adherence
- Decreased utilization of care services (resulting in lowered charges)
Myth #3: Factors such as amenities and nurses have the greatest influence on patient experience
Fact: Physicians have the greatest influence on the key drivers of patient experience ratings.
Patient experience improves not only through patient-physician communication, but physician-care team communication and coordination. Most of the top-ranking patient experience domains—including pain management, timeliness of assistance, and communication of the clinical support staff—are directly impacted by physician-care team coordination. Physicians often believe that amenities are what patients care about most, when in fact they’re happiest with a physician-care team unit that communicates and coordinates flawlessly.
Myth #4: Longer patient interactions don’t matter
Fact: Quality is not only more important than quantity, it improves outcomes.
Physicians, take heed: A mere seven extra seconds to conduct a proper introduction has been shown to yield dramatically improved outcomes. When a physician eschews courtesy and enters an exam room sans introduction, for example, the tone of the interaction is perfunctory – which results in a poor patient experience. An extra few seconds to knock, enter, and introduce yourself properly, however, frames the interaction as conversational and lifts the patient experience considerably.
Myth #5: Patient experience is not dependent on the physician
Fact: The physician can be likened to an Influencer-in-Chief, and is at the heart of the patient experience. Indeed, the patient experience starts and ends with the physician. The following four keys can serve as a guideline to help physicians wield their considerable influence properly:
- Lead by example – Establish the culture of the patient experience by setting a positive example, demonstrating behaviors you want your team to emulate, and clarify team goals regularly.
- Drive team communication – Demonstrate clear, concise, and timely communication. Mediate disputes, resolve problems, and provide direction in a timely fashion.
- Cultivate patient empathy – Connect with the patient through all available resources (eg, family, medical records, charts, etc.) while exhibiting compassion and understanding.
- Be a top-notch communicator – Engage with patients verbally and through body language, and assume the role of knowledgeable resource, caregiver, guide, and teacher.
When it comes to the patient experience, amenities are nice but not nearly the most important factor. That would be the full engagement of the physician, who, despite the outdated myths, holds vast influence across a variety of key patient experience domains. Care team coordination, improved empathy, clear communication, and emphasis on quality above quantity are all critical factors in the patient experience, and should be emphasized in urgent care settings toward reaping their considerable benefits.
Alan A. Ayers, MBA, MAcc is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Practice Velocity, LLC and is Practice Management Editor of The Journal of Urgent Care Medicine®.