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Patient satisfaction is always a hot topic of conversation in healthcare administration. Anyone who is concerned with the health of the medical practice itself – its brand, reputation and its bottom line – thinks about patient satisfaction frequently. Why? Because patient satisfaction is often a predictor of future practice health. Whether we like it or not, it’s difficult to help unhappy patients that don’t return to our offices.
Patient satisfaction can be difficult to gauge though. Many patients lack the knowledge or sophistication to know whether the quality of care is better at one facility or another, so their satisfaction often correlates to experiential factors, like aspects of the customer experience the retail or hospitality industry tries to improve. Wait times and friendliness of staff top the list for healthcare providers.
It’s sometimes more useful to think in terms of patient dissatisfaction – a satisfied patient is one that is not unhappy with their experience. Most practices target wait times and staff demeanor for this reason. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality found that four of the top six causes for patient dissatisfaction related to wait times of one kind of another1.
“Friendliness” or “caring” are subjective terms that often relate to front desk staff and physician bedside manner and can be difficult to measure. Because patients are not created equal, efforts to increase “friendliness” can be difficult to manage and evaluate.
Wait times are not subjective. The doctor either saw you at the time of your appointment or they did not. You either waited more than 5 minutes in an exam room before being greeted by your doctor or you didn’t. Finite, quantitative measures such as these are easier to track.
With this in mind, Solace Advancement invests in practice efficiency aids that make the medical devices we carry easier to use and, therefore, faster to apply. When medical practices can perform procedures more quickly, both patients and doctors are happy. When staff are not stressed over being behind schedule, patients are likely to find them more relaxed and friendly.
For devices like our Stivax neurostimulation system, Solace has introduced tools such as an LED Illuminator that help physicians locate nerve endings in the ear more easily. Because of the nature of ear anatomy, standard medical flashlights are not well suited for this application – so we designed one with a flexible head that makes the procedure easier and faster to perform.
Likewise, we’ve focused on other opportunities for efficiency related to the Stivax device itself. The Stivax neurostimulator’s design is attractive for a number of reasons, but its small and discrete design and adjustable settings – great attributes for patient satisfaction with the procedure – have limitations when it comes to procedural efficiency. We have introduced the SolaceT output measurement aid to help physicians perform application of the Stivax system more quickly. When a physician plugs the Stivax device into the SolaceT, the level of output is displayed in just a few seconds on the LCD screen. Each time a physician uses the measurement device, the time savings may only equate to a minute or two, but over the course of an 8-hour shift, that can equate to 10-15 minutes of efficiency gains.
We can improve patient satisfaction by identifying opportunities for efficiencies in our respective practices. Whether it’s incorporating efficiency aids, such as those we’ve described above, into our daily routines or investing in scheduling technologies or onsite test capabilities that quicken the patient experience, our practices become healthier when they improve efficiency. As efficiency improves, everyone involved becomes more satisfied.
1 Michael, M., Schaffer, S. D., Egan, P. L., Little, B. B. and Pritchard, P. S. (2013), Improving Wait Times and Patient Satisfaction in Primary Care. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 35: 50–60. doi:10.1111/jhq.12004
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