Patient Experience Vs Patient Satisfaction – Is there a difference?

Do you ever wonder why some patients don’t come back to your office?  In the early years of my practice we had a low patient return rate and we didn’t know why.  My team and I were caring and compassionate, I couldn’t understand why some of the patients didn’t come back.  It wasn’t until we started asking for feedback from our patients that we had an epiphany! Based on our patient feedback, we realized that there was a difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction.

Patient satisfaction is mostly a subjective measure, whereas patient experience is an objective measure. Two patients can receive the exact same experience, but have different satisfaction levels because they had different expectations. Patient experience and patient satisfaction are often used interchangeably, however, they are not the same thing. So, what is the difference?

Patient Experience:

The sum of all interactions, shaped by and organization’s culture. that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.

Patient Satisfaction:

Patient satisfaction refers to the level of contentment patients have for one or more aspects of care. It is about a patient’s expectations for his or her care encounter.

We’re gonna spend the next few weeks discussing the difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction.  In this article, we’ll start our discussion by focusing on the Functional Expectations of the patient. These expectations are a little more objective therefore that makes them measurable and manageable.

Functional Expectations:

Based on years of experience and patient’s feedback, I’ve found that patients have 3 functional expectations.

1. A clean and organized professional setting.

Patients expect your office to appear clean and organized. If your office is messy, it will diminish the patient’s confidence in the quality of the care the’re receiving.  The picture below is an exaggeration of the difference between a clean and a messy desk, but it’s a great visual.  If you had to chose where you get your exam, would you pick the office with the desk in the before or the after picture? The choice is obvious! All of you would pick the office with the desk in the “After” picture.

Here are 3 ways to maintain a clean and organized office:

  1. Create an opening/closing maintenance checklist for your office
  2. Either assign a day to each team member or select a team member for this job task. Some practices hire a cleaning service to alleviate the load on their team.  My office is small, so every body does chores.
  3. Inspect, Inspect, Inspect.

Periodically walk into your office through the front door and pretend you’re a patient.  Sit down in your welcome center and look around and visualize the appearance of your office from the perspective of a patient. After a thorough scan, ask yourself this question – If you were a patient, would you get your exam in this office? If your answer is yes, then you’re in the right direction. If your answer is no, then you need to make some changes!

2. Services and products to be done accurately.

Patients do not know what we do in the exam room nor do they understand the complexity of the eye exam.  However, they do expect the assessment and plan to be precise and accurate.  They expect clear and comfortable vision at EVERY distance with their glasses and/or contacts regardless of their refractive error.  They don’t care that their prescription is +5.25 -3.75 X 042. with a +2.75 add. They just want you to give them contacts so they never have to use their glasses again.  If you can’t perform that miracle, guess what – you suck!  LOL!

All jokes aside, an accurate prescription is where the rubber meets the road.  Everything else can be wonderful, but if the patient can’t see with their new glasses, they will lose confidence in you and in your office.

Your service and products accuracy is determined by your spectacle remake ratio.

The average benchmark for Spectacle remakes in the industry is: 15%

High performing practices maintain their spectacle remakes ratio under 5%. Use your practice management software to determine your spectacle remake ratio for the past year or whatever time frame you chose.  If your ratio is 5% or less, congratulations.  If you’re above 5%, set a goal to reduce your ratio and track it monthly until you reach your goal. In my office, our remake ratio for spectacles is less than 2% and here’s the formula we use to determine our ratio:

Remake Ratio  = (# Remakes/# of Glasses Dispensed)*100

3. Services and products to be delivered on time.

Generally patients expect to be in and out of our offices in 1 hour or less. In fact, on Eyemed’s  website they tell their patients to expect the following at the eye doctor:

The average appointment takes between 30 minutes and one hour. If your eyesight requires multiple tests or if you have a more complex problem, the exam may run longer or require subsequent visits. Plan for an hour to be on the safe side.

What is the average patient time in your office?

To determine your average time per appointment, have every team member clock their time with every patient for 1 month.  After 1 month, you’ll have a good idea of your average patient time in office.  It it’s less than 1 hour – Congratulations!  If it’s more, then you’ve got some work to do.

The first time we tracked our numbers in my office, we were at 95 minutes on average.  That’s over 1 1/2 hour!  Can you believe that? What we discovered was that most of the extra time was spent at check-in and in the optical.  Here’s what we did to reduce our time from over 90 minutes to 60 and under:

  1. We asked all patients to complete their patient forms online before their visit.
  2. All insurance benefits were verified and authorized the night before, unless the plan required otherwise.
  3. We used the 15 minutes we saved at check-in for frame selection.  As a result, most of our patients have their frames already selected before the exam.

These 3 simple steps reduced our average appointment time by 30% and we hit our target of 60 minutes.  Tracking this data can be a little tedious, if you run into any issues or need any help to figure this out, email me. I’ll be glad to help!

I our next article, we’ll discuss the most important of all patient expectations – Emotional Expectations.  These expectations are not as black and white as functional expectations, but they are the most powerful; so stay tuned for more!

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