4 Ways Orthopedic Surgeons Can Improve Patient Satisfaction

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |
Here are five ways orthopedic practices can promote increased patient satisfaction.

1. Be punctual. Punctuality can make all the difference in a patient's perception of his or her care. Being on time for scheduled patient visits shows the patient you care enough to arrive on time and give the patient enough time to ask questions and fully understand the information you are trying to convey to them about their condition, says Peter Millett, MD, M.Sc., an orthopedic sports medicine physician and shoulder specialist from the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. "Medicine is unpredictable by nature, but generally I try to see patients at the time they're scheduled and make every effort to give them the time they need to answer questions," Dr. Millett says. "Part of our job as sports medicine physicians is educating the patients about their conditions and about the various treatment options that are available."

2. Promote realistic expectations, then exceed them. The most important thing you can do is set expectations that are realistic. An extraordinary patient experience requires you to exceed expectations. Unrealistic expectations that are not or cannot be met may be the biggest barrier to patient satisfaction. Expectation setting is crucial to the patient's experience the day of surgery.  Including the family in pre-op discussions is also crucial, according Marshall Steele, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and founder and CEO of Marshall | Steele. "The family will become the caregiver once the patient leaves your facility," he says. "For this reason it is important to include them in the process early."

Unexpected requests and inconsistent messages from a variety of providers both before and on the day of surgery can raise a patient's anxiety level as well, according to Dr. Steele. "It can be unsettling to get three different answers to the same question. Patients will worry why this is happening," he says. For this reason, the education and messages coming from all the providers need to be consistent. Providers also need to address the different ways in which people learn to make sure that the correct information is being understood. "People in stressful situations tend to remember just 10 percent of what you tell them, so it is important that you provide them with education in a variety of ways so as to create the right expectations," Dr. Steele says.

3. Hire new personnel. Many times patients arrive at the practice with a story about their injury or pain and they want the surgeon to know all about their case before making a treatment decision. Surgeons often don't have time to listen to all these stories, and rush through one patient's visit to stay on schedule with the next. If a surgeon feels like there isn't enough time to spend with patients during initial visits, he or she should hire extra staff to spend time with patients, says Craig Levitz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and partner at Orlin & Cohen.

"Some people think it's a waste of space and resources to hire extra personnel, but you want to invest in your resources," says Dr. Levitz. "You are better off having an extra nurse to develop a relationship with the patient and hire extra staff to deal with the administrative aspect of the practice." He also suggests hiring a physician's assistant to make sure the patients are satisfied with their visits. The PAs can listen to patient stories and relay the important aspects to the surgeon before he or she visits the patient to save time. "You can bridge the quality gap with a good physician's assistant," says Dr. Levitz. The PA can also assist in the OR, and the practice can collect revenue for the assistance.

4. Share patient satisfaction reports to maintain motivation. Conduct patient satisfaction surveys and share the results. In order to keep the staff motivated and on target, provide weekly reports on how Azalea as a practice and the individual physicians were performing. Michael Russell, MD, partner and orthopedic and spine surgeon at Azalea Orthopaedics in Tyler, Texas, says that although Azalea has been mostly successful, certain issues, such as the practice's plans to move all physicians and staff to one location, has caused the scores to fluctuate. For the most part, the staff bought-in to the goal of a consistent 95th percentile rating. "The challenge was to maintain the excitement," Dr. Russell says. "It's easy to slip into old habits if you stop talking about it."

With weekly meetings, the staff was aware of what the goals were and stayed on task. Getting the physicians on board with striving to reach this higher percentile proved more difficult. "Most physicians feel like they do a good job of caring for their patients," Dr. Russell says. "The low survey scores seemed like a personal affront to some physicians, so careful work had to be done to keep them from feeling like it was a personal attack." One way to do this was to consistently present information in a positive way, even if the reports were less than exciting. "A key is knowing the personalities of your physicians and adapting accordingly," Dr. Russell says.

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2020. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies here.

Featured Webinars

Featured Whitepapers