Secrets To Bolstering Patient Satisfaction

By David Edward Marcinko, MBA, CFP, CMP, and Gary L. Bode, CPA, MSA

How Patient Satisfaction Can Benefit The Practice

   Keeping patients satisfied is not only a vital component of patient care, it can bolster the referral rate and economics of your practice in several ways.    Increased patient retention. Patient satisfaction increases patient loyalty. This translates into other factors remaining the same, more billable services given and more retail goods sold per year. All practices lose patients through death, relocation, etc. Nothing can be done about it. However, other patients defect to other practitioners or do not seek additional required treatment at all. If no other patient satisfaction program exists, other than best effort on a case-by-case basis, the techniques listed below can dramatically decrease that defection rate. Retaining a patient is more cost effective than replacing one. Note that even a 1 percent improvement in patient retention, an extremely low result, can mean thousands of extra pre-tax dollars available for practitioner salary.    Increased new patient referral rate from current patients and staff. Not only do you retain the referral potential of current patients, but the rate and enthusiasm of existing patient referrals also improves.    Decreased overhead percentage rate. The relative amount of profit increases secondary to improved staff efficiency as more revenue is generated on fixed expenses like rent and decreased advertising costs.    A fee premium for being the area’s de facto preferred provider. Increased patient satisfaction skews the usual price/quantity tradeoff of patient consumerism in your favor. This is especially important for non-covered services without third party reimbursement.    Decreased time for accounts in the accounts receivable cycle and a decreased bad debt ratio.    Improved office morale, less stress and increased joy from practicing your profession.

How Internal Marketing Can Make A Difference

   Internal marketing becomes especially important when the public does not perceive differences in practitioner skill as significant. Internal marketing can also be beneficial and/or in an area saturated with other practitioners.    For example, the world’s best heart transplant surgeon does not have to worry about his or her location, office dynamics or personality adversely affecting patients. A suburban podiatrist does need to worry about such things if surrounded by other DPMs, orthopedists, physical therapists and an ambulatory surgery center, all competing for the same patient base.    One example of internal marketing through increased patient satisfaction occurred a few years ago. Some patients were concerned, perhaps subliminally or overtly, about contracting AIDS, hepatitis or the West Nile Virus in the DPM’s office. If staff is trained to point out the existing sterilization controls, how the office exceeds OSHA requirements and how meticulous you are, these patients relax. This “marketing” merely points out to the patient things you take for granted and removes a psychological barrier to full compliance. It is not bragging or manipulation. There is a remarkable positive cycle of benefits for everyone. There is no downside. Nobody is displeased to see you maintain a clean office. Today, one can accomplish the same thing with the HIPAA statutes given the heightened sensibility about patient confidentiality.

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