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Can’t Get No (Patient) Satisfaction

There is a vital shift happening right now in consumer healthcare.

People are bringing their technology-fueled expectations to their healthcare experiences, and patients are increasingly demanding innovation in the way care is delivered and managed.

Just like in retail, travel and transportation, financial services, automotive, and nearly every industry, the old fee-for-service and fix-what’s-broken approach is no longer enough. The increasingly wired class of savvy, empowered consumers want more options, fairer prices, greater convenience, and better interactions across the continuum of care.

And patients? They’re not satisfied.

  • What patients think: 81 percent of healthcare consumers are dissatisfied with their patient experience.
  • What providers think: 63 percent of providers believe they deliver high-quality patient experience to consumers.
  • What patients think: In terms of factors that influence patient satisfaction levels, healthcare consumers care more about customer service and bedside manner than level of medical skill.
  • What providers think: On the list of top issues confronting the healthcare C-suite, patient satisfaction does not make the top five.
  • What patients think: 68 percent of healthcare consumers turn to online reviews, social media, and health research sites to find a new doctor, make a decision about hospitals, and read information about quality of care.
  • What providers think: Only 5 percent of providers identify as digital-first organizations. 43 percent admit to lacking digital marketing capability because of unsuitable organizational structure.

So: how do healthcare providers close this gap between patient expectations and the reality?

Improving Patient Satisfaction: Keys to Success

In order to meet healthcare consumers’ expectations and drive patient satisfaction levels, providers must adopt a customer-centric approach aimed at expanding the ways in which care is delivered.

The three keys to success are: truly understand patients, optimize the patient experience, and invest in digital technology.

Truly Understand Patients

Healthcare providers should be able to achieve a more complete and accurate view of the customer, as well as manage high-impact trends and issues affecting the patient experience.

Before influencing consumer behavior, providers must first understand it: from initial contact, through the process of engagement, to post-transactional interactions and long-term relationships.

Capture feedback through patient satisfaction surveys. Patient satisfaction surveys are one of the best ways to gauge the patient experience and understand your healthcare group’s online reputation.

One option is the HCAHPS survey, which is the standard for gauging the experience of any healthcare provider.

In some cases, healthcare groups like Nicklaus Children’s Hospital use HCAHPS with advanced survey software to gain additional information on patient satisfaction and sentiment.

Read patient reviews. There is a wide array of scores- or ratings-based systems for measuring patient satisfaction, but don’t dismiss patient reviews posted on popular sites like Yelp.

In fact, the BMJ Quality and Safety Journal found that Yelp reviews and ratings closely match patient experience in hospitals, and provide a pretty accurate online prediction of patients’ offline experience.

If you’re looking to provide higher levels of patient satisfaction, you must read your reviews objectively and identify critical service issues and problems that need to be solved. Doing so will improve and strengthen the connections you have with existing and potential patients.

Optimize the Patient Experience

As the clout of healthcare consumers grows, so do their options.

To encourage preference and inspire loyalty, providers must foster trust-based relationships with customers and consistently deliver patient experiences that captivate and go beyond achieving better health outcomes.

Seek out interactions. Go out of your way to actively engage and interact with patients.

“If you want to stem patient dissatisfaction,” writes industry expert Micah Solomon, “(then) stop giving off cues of indifference and uncaring.

“Such as: Healthcare professionals avoiding eye contact with ‘civilians.’ Med students hurrying self-importantly down the halls, nearly running down the slow-moving patients who won’t get with the program. Patients ignored by nurses who haven’t yet clocked in and therefore don’t realize they are already (poorly) representing their institution. Doctors in the hallway loudly carrying on about the relative benefits of different Canyon Ranch vacations they’ve taken.”

Strive to delight by seeking out interactions with patients. Actively look for opportunities to make them feel comfortable, reassured, and cared for.

Get creative with the wait. Patients hate waiting. If you can’t change actual wait times, at least make patients feel as though they’re not doing the waiting for nothing.

Make the waiting space attractive, comfortable, and pleasant. Provide guidance on expected times. Minimize uncertainty. Keep the waiting room updated and explain what’s going on.

According to a study, patient satisfaction can more than double when the waiting room is viewed as “comfortable and pleasant” by patients with the same perceived length of wait.

Sit down. The posture of physicians may seem trivial next to matters of life and death, sickness and health. But this can actually have an impact on patient satisfaction.

When asked, patients say that they want their doctor to be seated when possible: one study observed a 52 percent patient preference for this versus only 8 percent for standing.

Show empathy. Even if you are known as an expert in your field and your patient waitlist is sizable, learning how to be an empathic listener is the most important and influential change you can make to improve patient satisfaction.

Going through a disciplined and structured patient interview will provide you with valuable health insights as well as information not present in the medical history, but how you react to those responses will also make a world of difference in how patients perceive you.

Do not respond to statements associated with disease, pain, or suffering with additional questions. First, communicate concern and empathy that will set the stage for a more open conversation and will result in a patient that feels valued and cared for.

Display care and concern even as you wrap up. As you finish consultations, make it a point to ask your patients if all their medical issues have been addressed to their satisfaction, and give them an opportunity for additional questions.

Also, confirm that they are clear about their prescription as well as the prognosis. Make sure all patients leave with a sense of control over their health, and leave them with the perception that you have done everything in your power to make them better.

Medical practices with the best online reputation have incorporated post-consultation calls to ensure patient satisfaction, and they tackle any issues before they become negative reviews on popular online review websites.

Invest in Digital

The use of top technology and data can help providers improve patient access, boost patient acquisition, manage feedback, and enhance brand reputation.

In an industry ripe for disruption, technology can also transform entire organizations (not just marketing departments) and exert bottom line impact through reduced costs, increased operational efficiencies, and improved processes.

Manage your online reputation. One of the first things you have to ensure is that your facility or practice is easily found online. Then, when found by searchers online, you must be able to inspire trust and confidence among patients through great reviews, positive customer experiences, and strong social proof and testimonials.

Plant your flags on social media, online review sites, and local business directories. Keep your business information up-to-date. Leverage the power of review widgets. Respond to patient reviews.

Identify patient satisfaction metrics. In order to truly measure patient satisfaction, providers must look beyond patient outcomes.

Other key metrics for tracking satisfaction data include: Net Promoter Score, patient wait times, inbound phone call answer rates, survey response rates, and patient reviews and ratings, among others. It’s wise to invest in tools that empower your organization to achieve a more complete picture of the patient experience.

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.


  1. Baseer Hannan

    The more education you have the less customer satisfaction? Maybe it has to do with bedside manner. The longer you spend at Yale the less likely Joe the Plumber is to understand anything you say.

  2. Vince

    Or maybe American colleges have become just as out of touch as American high schools.

  3. Patrick R

    Baseer, yes unfortunately people place a lot of weight on personality when reviewing a doctor. While most people who read a review about a doctor imagine their getting informed about that doctor’s abilities.

  4. Marija

    Everyone can post a review, both normal and spoiled people. A lot of bored or lonely old people in my hometown go to doctor just to talk to someone and after the doctor send them home without new (unnecessary) drugs, they bad-mouthing the doctor. On the other hand, a well respected doctor called my sister’s friend “lazy cow” (!!!), when she was in hospital with her child and nobody believes her because this was “a well respected” doctor.

    • Kyle

      You all know where is this leading? Doctors with plenty good review will become overwhelmed with work, so they will raise their price, which will lead some people to change doctors. The more reviews they get the higher their price is. Just like in sports. If your average score is high your payment will be higher as well. Now tell me that a Doctor is same as a basketball player!!!!!! Ridiculous!!!!!

      • smstudent

        I agree with @Kyle about that. If two doctors went to school together and both of them specialized in the same field, why should there be any difference? Maybe one of them simply put up his/her online profile sooner and got plenty more reviews. Does that means that he will take better care of the patient then the one who does not have time to post profile because he/she is actually working? That is just wrong. And by providing a positive review to one of them makes you become a fan and not a patient. Maybe the next step will be adding some half naked cheerleaders to the waiting room.

  5. thoushallpass

    Hahaha. Great point you got there @smstudent. The more they advertise actually mean that they don’t have patients. Once they became overwhelmed with patients how will they take care of them? They will not provide full diagnosis, they will not listen to the patients problems and so on. But they will not care about that anymore, they will have a big database of clients and great reviews that will get them more and more patients. This sites for reviewing doctors should be taken down once and for all.

  6. Sanjay

    It’s a great thing you can rate doctors now. I don’t want to go to some bad doctors. After all, it my health we are talking about, not some dinner or tourist destination which can go wrong and no harm done.

  7. Jay Bird

    No, I don’t think about rating doctors ability. I am not a doctor, I am a patient. It seems everyone nowadays knows how somebody have to do his work. Like everyone are specialist for everything. Everybody knows everything, people are ,,smart,, today, learning from net. Why did anybody need specialist for anything, just ,,click,, and you see…hahaha…Don’ make me laugh. Let them do their job, they went to school to learn something, to help people,help, help…Only thing that is important is to have empathy for sickness, sick people often need a warm look and nice and polite person in white cute. I could be bad and intentionally send good or bad review just to amuse myself.

    • Sammy J

      I agree with you, Jay Bird, no one shouldn’t write reviews about the doctors, they don’t need to be on some lists and make some other to evaluate their work. It so shameless.

  8. Not The Real Shoe

    I agree Sanjay. you can not choose doctor random, it’s no pub or bar… I prefer to choose doctor based on the good reviews…

  9. David R

    Each profession should be criticized, sites for reviewing doctors is gooooood… when I had some bad experience I want to share with others.