How can you reconcile the pressure to see more patients more quickly with the need to maintain patient satisfaction? Researchers examined this question by observing 2,315 visits and asking patients the degree to which they were satisfied with the amount of time their family physician spent with them.
Researchers found that satisfaction with time spent was correlated with several factors beyond the physician’s control, including longer visits and, when length was controlled for, factors such as greater patient age and better perceived health status.
But satisfaction with time spent was also correlated with two factors within the physician's power to influence:
1. Even a brief amount of “chatting,” defined as nonmedical talk about the patient's job, hobbies, children, etc., was associated with greater patient satisfaction with the time spent with the physician. In the study, the average amount of time family physicians spent chatting was less than 45 seconds.
2. Providing patients with feedback on the results of the physician's evaluation was also associated with greater satisfaction with time spent — but only during longer visits of 15 minutes or more. During brief visits of 5 minutes or less, providing patients with such feedback actually decreased patient satisfaction with the amount of time spent. The take-away lesson is that, when providing complicated feedback, physicians should take enough time with their explanation so that the patient truly understands. If this is not possible, consider delaying feedback until there is sufficient time for the patient to absorb the information and ask questions without feeling rushed.
Read the full FPM article: “Practical Ways to Improve Patient Satisfaction With Visit Length.”
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