Neil H. Baum, MD, is a urologist in private practice in New Orleans. He is the author of "Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically."
Dr. Dowling is president of Dowling Medical Director Services, a private health care consulting firm specializing in quality improvement, clinical informatics, and health care policy affecting specialty care. He is the former medical director of a large,
All successful physicians listen to their patients. Do you?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you will want to read this article, which focuses on the importance of patient satisfaction. We interviewed John Goodman, a founder and vice chairman of TARP Worldwide, which was started at Harvard 37 years ago. This organization quantifies the level of problems in hospitals and large medical practices, evaluates the revenues at risk, and suggests simple fixes that help improve patient satisfaction. TARP also has helped organizations from Lexus to Neiman Marcus with similar needs.
Misconceptions about patients
Truth be told, a urology practice is no different from any other business when it comes to the care of customers. Patients tell two to four times as many family, friends, and neighbors about a negative experience than they tell about a positive one, Goodman says.
Dissatisfaction: the silent killer
Problems also make self-pay patients much more sensitive to price. The patient who has had to wait or who encounters a rude appointments clerk is twice as likely to think your bill is unreasonable as the patient who had a good experience is. The latter patient exhibits what Goodman calls the Neiman Marcus effect: "You're expensive, but you're worth it."
Further, you probably don't know about the problems that do exist because patients are reticent to complain for four reasons:
That means more patients are having a negative experience with our practices than we hear about, unfortunately by a large margin.
In addition, patients who have a negative experience are likely to leave the practice. In fact, dissatisfied patients are four times more likely to seek care elsewhere. This is why you don't have the luxury of allowing patients to be dissatisfied with the services offered at your practice.