Why Smart Businesses Focus on Patient Satisfaction
What Is Patient Satisfaction?
How Is Patient Satisfaction Different From Patient Experience?
As we began our research, we quickly realized that patient satisfaction and patient experience are not the same thing. If we wanted to look at studies that examined patient satisfaction, then we had to figure out the unique characteristics of each metric.
To uncover the difference, we turned to both our own experiences — ha! — as patients, as well as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.(1)
Patient Satisfaction evaluates whether a patient’s expectations surrounding a given healthcare procedure, appointment, or outcome are met. It’s a rather fuzzy metric that tries to quantify feelings and impressions by asking things like, “On a scale of 1 to ten, are you happy with your provider?”
Patient Experience, on the other hand, can determine whether specific actions or qualities did or did not occur during a patient’s care. For example, a researcher may want to see how often a provider uses electronic communications between appointments to evaluate a patient’s experience with modern technology.
While both are important — and a patient’s experience can impact their satisfaction with a practice — each is distinct from the other.
Interestingly, when we set out to see if hard numbers existed to support the patient satisfaction theory, we discovered that not all studies defined “patient satisfaction” the same way.
Indeed, it seems that many studies conflate “patient satisfaction” with “patient engagement” or “patient relationships” with providers. (This confusion is probably why AHRQ bothered to define the two in the first place!) That said, we’ve done our best to extrapolate a study’s intentions regarding patient satisfaction — instead of patient experience — in light of our definitions above.
11 Studies, Stats, and Case Studies that Prove Patient Satisfaction Impacts Your Bottom Line
Satisfaction Stat #1:
Lose $466,693.53 in lifetime revenue for every dissatisfied patient who leaves.
A pair of economists studied the economic ramifications of “client” — that is, “patient” — satisfaction on healthcare practices.
Their study determined that a single dissatisfied patient who leaves a medical practice can ultimately result in the loss of $466,693.53 in revenue over the lifetime of the practice.
According to their analysis, the total lost revenue was made up of missed patient visits, possible referrals, and practice-attributable hospitalizations. (2)
Satisfaction Stat #2:
Dissatisfied patients miss up to 52% of scheduled appointments.
Compliance is thorn in every healthcare provider’s side. Whether that’s compliance with an HEP or keeping appointments, patient compliance remains in many practices’ top priorities.
And — according to research — patient satisfaction plays a huge role in patient compliance.
In particular, one study sought to study different “interventions” to help patients keep their appointments for various medical services.
The research team found that patients tended to miss appointments anywhere from 19% to 52% of the time.
And, the more dissatisfied a patient was, the more likely they were to miss appointments at greater rates — that is, closer to the 52% end of the spectrum. (3)
Satisfaction Stat #3:
60% chance dissatisfied patients will voluntarily leave a practice.
It’s a truism that the less satisfied a patient is with a healthcare practice, the more likely it is that they’ll look for a new provider.
To quantify that, though, we found not one, but two studies that had compelling evidence to link patient satisfaction with unusually high churn rates.
The first study uncovered an extremely strong — and statistically relevant — relationship between patient satisfaction and unenrollment.
In fact, if a patient were dissatisfied or otherwise had a poor relationship with their provider, their chances of leaving a practice increased by 60%. (4)
The study’s authors concluded, “[These results] suggest that in the race to the bottom line medical practices and health plans cannot afford to ignore that the essence of medical care involves the interaction of one human being with another.”
What an indictment of the modern medical machine!
Satisfaction Stat #4:
Dissatisfied patients 3x more likely to voluntarily leave a practice than satisfied ones.
The second study we discovered compared the satisfaction rates between patients at the same clinic or practice.
These authors found that the patients who had a poor relationship — in other words, dissatisfied with — their providers, they were three times more likely to voluntarily leave the practice when compared with their highly satisfied counterparts. (5)
Satisfaction Stat #5:
A provider’s chance of a malpractice suit increases by 21.7% for every drop in patient-reported satisfaction.
Another risk we saw over and over again for practitioners who failed to prioritize patient satisfaction?
In particular, one study found they could predict a practice’s risk of malpractice lawsuits by former patients by looking at patient satisfaction scores.
They asked each patient to report their satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest level of satisfaction.
The researchers found that for every step “down” in average patient satisfaction, a practice’s chances of fighting a malpractice lawsuit went up by 21.7%! (6)
Satisfaction Stat #6:
Satisfied patients spend more on healthcare and more time with in-patient services.
When it comes to assessing the economic and quantitative benefits of satisfied patients — rather than counting all the ways dissatisfied patients can hurt a practice — the studies become slightly murkier.
However, we’ve found a few published studies and case studies that offer hard evidence toward a practice benefiting from increased patient satisfaction.
Take this study assessing patient outcomes and behaviors against their patient satisfaction rates.
Per the researchers’ calculations, the more satisfied a patient was with their medical care, the more they took advantage of inpatient medical services. The satisfied patients also tended to spend more on healthcare-related services and medical prescriptions. (6)
(Interesting side note that has nothing to do with our examination of patient satisfaction but was fascinating nonetheless: The study also found a 26% increase in mortality rates of satisfied patients. The researchers observed this connection could indicate a patient’s personal satisfaction of their care does not necessarily reflect the quality of the care given.)
Satisfaction Stat #7:
Practices increase profits over 2 years — despite Medicare cuts — when focused on patient satisfaction.
Everyone’s got that friend who was able to help their practice thrive because they tried “this one simple trick!”
Well, add patient satisfaction programs to the trick-list.
One large health group in Houston, Texas, made patient satisfaction and experience a core tenet of their practice across all locations.
In the two years since they instituted the program, the practice reports increased staff morale — and increased profits! — despite a new (at the time) cut to Medicare reimbursements. (8)
Satisfaction Stat #8:
Practices increase referrals and repeat visits when focused on patient satisfaction.
We found another healthcare practitioner specializing in arthritis and rheumatism who added their two cents to the patient satisfaction debate.
Their practice in Silver Spring, Maryland, has seen a “measurable impact” on the business due to increased patient satisfaction. (9)
They believe that better patient satisfaction directly relates to patient loyalty.
According to this practitioner, that loyalty means increased patient return and more referred new patients.
Satisfaction Stat #9:
Practices see 4.7% decrease in staff turnover, just by focusing on patient satisfaction.
Despite the many anecdotal case studies floating around, researchers have still managed to round up some hard numbers surrounding patient satisfaction.
For example, take this study that managed to quantify one hospital’s efforts to rejuvenate their patient satisfaction program.
Just by focusing on increasing their patient’s satisfaction, it seems to have had ripple effects on their staff, as well.
With that one simple switch to patient satisfaction, the hospital saw a decrease in employee turnover by 4.7%. (9)
While that may not seem like a huge decrease, the finding still speaks to how powerful a focus on patient satisfaction can be for healthcare providers — and their employees.
Satisfaction Stat #10:
One practice saved $394,014.10 annually after a renewed focus on patient satisfaction.
The San Jose Medical Group in California decided to overhaul its entire patient satisfaction and care quality process.
And — according to outside researchers — that overhaul paid back that investment and more.
Specifically, the practice saw:
“Dramatically” improved staff morale (See Stat #9 for more evidence!)
$95,172.49 in annual savings from not having to process and retrieve medical record requests, since the patients weren’t looking for new providers; and
$298.841.61 in annual savings for denied claims, thanks to the new process.
In all, that means that patient satisfaction efforts repaid the practice an adjusted $394,014.10 every year in business and administrative costs. (10)
Satisfaction Stat #11:
200+ physicians attributed their lack of malpractice suits to high patient satisfaction.
Finally, we return to malpractice.
This time, instead of increasing the chances that a healthcare professional gets sued, we look at how increased patient satisfaction helps avoid those lawsuits altogether.
That is, according to a study comprising more than 200 Texas physicians.
As the physicians themselves told the researcher, their focus on patient satisfaction lead to their “flawless” records on malpractice lawsuits. (12)
Hmm, so making patients satisfied with their healthcare means they’re less likely to sue you after treatment?
Who could’ve guessed?
We kid, of course, but in all seriousness — what these studies prove over and over again is that our instinct on patient satisfaction is right on the money.
That is, when healthcare professionals focus on patient satisfaction, their businesses succeed at every level — right down to the bottom line.