Maintaining outstanding patient satisfaction levels: 6 spine surgeons weigh in


Here, six spine surgeons discuss best practices to raise and maintain patient satisfaction.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

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Question: How do you maintain patient satisfaction?


Andrew Cordover, MD, Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Birmingham, Ala.: Sometimes surgery is a last option, but other times it is a first option. So, I believe you really have to look at the whole patient, examine the patient, educate the patient and make a decision with the patient. When I take care of my patients, my goal is to communicate with them, talk with them and find out where we want to go together.


Brian R. Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Make yourself available to your patients, call back when they call and follow them up in clinic. One of my mentors, a pediatric neurosurgeon named Alan Cohen, MD, kept a running list of to-dos on a legal pad and was often on two phone calls simultaneously calling people back and following up. He was seemingly tireless. I do something similar, just using the Stickies App on my Macbook.


Richard Kube, MD, Founder, CEO, Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, Peoria, Ill.: Truly treat patients as customers in every way. Frankly I let them know they are customers. That mindset will help you to think critically about their experience during treatment. Also, it will empower the patient. Often the role of the patient includes the feeling that they have no control. A customer, however, has a choice and therefore a feeling of control. That feeling can translate into hope which can transform into a tremendous sense of satisfaction that you provided to the patient through simple language elements. Try to connect on a personal level.


Thomas A. McNally, MD, Director, Chicago Spine Center at Weiss Memorial Hospital: A team approach addresses a person's needs the most and leads to a satisfied patient. At the Chicago Spine Center at Weiss Memorial Hospital, we look at the whole person instead of just the acute or chronic condition that brought the patient to our office. From our administrative assistants that greet patients and make appointments to our radiology technicians who make sure a proper X-ray is done for a right diagnosis, all of these touch-points are opportunities to demonstrate to patients that we care about them. Our nurses, physician assistants and medical assistants play an important role too.

It's important for all of us to take the time to answer patient questions and help them understand the realistic expectations of surgical outcomes. We also encourage family members to be part of our team approach. Having a loved one involved with the treatment process makes all the difference. Together the patient and loved one can learn about the diagnosis and delivery of medical care through images, written material and repeated verbal information by team members. Our patients have noted an appreciation for our team approach.


Plas T. James, MD, Atlanta Spine Institute: I think it's important to address the simple concern of why the patient is visiting. If a patient comes in with a certain question, make sure that before your patient leaves you've answered their question. In other words, try to figure out what truly is their chief complaint.


You may find something different wrong with them, but you have to be sure you address why they came to you in the first place. Even though you may find the reason for a person's illness, if you don't address why they think they are there, they won't be happy with their visit.


Make sure you truly articulate to them what's going on with them and answer their questions. That's good medicine — communication.


Ara Deukmedjian, MD, CEO, Medical Director, Deuk Spine Institute, Melbourne, Fla.: Deuk Spine Institute and Surgery Center of Viera maintain patient satisfaction by measuring every aspect of a patient's journey through our clinic and surgery center, if necessary. By evaluating the interactions between patients and front desk, medical assistants, doctors, nurses and surgeons we get a complete view of the patient's overall satisfaction of our employees, processes, facilities and procedures. Ultimately the most important aspect of patient satisfaction is the analysis of post-operative pain levels. Deuk Spine and Surgery Center of Viera have one of the highest patient satisfaction rates in the United States and our ability to eliminate neck and back pain is peer-reviewed and scientifically published in the National Library of Medicine.


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