Indifference: The Sure-Fire Patient Satisfaction Killer

caring handsPerhaps the most consistent complaint about assessing patient experience and patient satisfaction is that some things are difficult to quantify, measure or report in a meaningful way. Quite often, it’s not about the clinical quality of care. Satisfaction is about intangible feelings of respect, both real and imagined.

Among the five reasons that people don’t like their doctor, neurologist and author Richard Senelick, MD, writes: “My dog gets more respect.” What’s more, “when you take your pet to the vet for a procedure you are likely to get a call that evening or the next day to see how they are doing. Same thing after a dental procedure. Anybody had a call recently after their colonoscopy?”

Contrasting a (human) patient experience with a trip to a veterinarian’s office, “Needless to say the dog gets much better attention and care,” Dr. Senelick observes. “I know all the conventional excuses, but I don’t know why we don’t make the follow-up calls to see if you got your prescriptions, understand the instructions and have your follow-up appointments. It is good medicine and great for patient/customer satisfaction.”

Even more to the point is Micah Solomon’s insightful article in Forbes listing Nine Patient Experience And Satisfaction Secrets For Hospitals And Healthcare. “Cues to indifference are everywhere,” he reveals in secret #4, “it’s where much of patient dissatisfaction live.”

The examples he offers in support not only illustrate the issue, they also are clear evidence of how elusive it is for doctors, staff and administrators to measure satisfaction. For example, “Healthcare professionals avoiding eye contact with ‘civilians.’ Med students hurrying self-importantly down the halls, nearly running down the slow-moving patients who won’t get with the program.

“Patients ignored by nurses who haven’t yet clocked in and therefore don’t realize they are already (poorly) representing their institution. Doctors in the hallway loudly carrying on about the relative benefits of different Canyon Ranch vacations they’ve taken. Vending machines that are left out of service indefinitely. Vending machines that require exact change, but there’s no change machine.”

In addition to a phone call after your colonoscopy or vasectomy, what would you add to this list of examples? More importantly, what actions have you taken to off-set these and similar “cues to indifference?”

HCAHPS survey questions are never as insightful nor as timely as personal observation, doctor and staff awareness, or ongoing training in a truly patient-centric organization.

Nobody said it would be easy, and the consequences—financial and otherwise—are well known. What’s not as well known is the fact that indifference or a feeling of lack of respect are satisfaction killers. More than anything else, they cause patients to change providers…about 70 percent of the time.

For related reading on this topic, see: Revenue Drain: Your Staff Can Make or Break Patient Satisfaction, and HCAHPS: Missing the Measure of Experience vs. Satisfaction.

Kathy Gaughran


About Kathy Roy Gaughran

Senior Marketing Strategist Kathy Roy Gaughran [] has helped thousands of clients throughout North America achieve their growth goals. An award-winning strategic marketing planner, Kathy is an accomplished writer and speaker, frequently presenting to national, local and state professional associations.

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