Fact: Patients often seek a specific, desired outcome when obtaining chiropractic care. Some want relief from back or neck pain, for instance. Others engage in care to prevent future health issues or optimize their current health.
Yet, recent research reveals it isn’t only the outcome that contributes to patient satisfaction. It is their care experience. That experience, said patients in a recent research study, hinges on several critical factors.
The most important patient satisfaction factors
On May 29, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies published a mixed methods study involving 238 patients being treated for lumbar radiculopathy. While only 52% said they were very satisfied with their treatment effects, which was determined by their having given the treatment a rating of eight or higher, between 80% and 90% reported a high level of satisfaction with their overall patient experience.
The reasons provided for feeling highly satisfied, almost regardless of the outcome, are heavily linked to having received customized care or care relevant to the individual patient versus the provider taking a one-size-fits-all approach. These reasons included:
- Receiving a thorough consultation exam
- Effective communication of the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis
- Interdisciplinary collaboration with other health care professionals
The importance of customized care isn’t unique to chiropractic patients. Abbott’s Beyond Intervention 2023 Report was compiled based on a survey of 1,350 patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease. When asked which factors impacted the respondents’ patient experience, their top answers had nothing to do with the actual outcome.
Instead, 90% said it was important for them to have a clear understanding of their next steps, and 90% also said their patient experience was heavily influenced by having all their questions answered.
Improve patient satisfaction with a comprehensive evaluation
Studies such as these highlight the importance of providing customized care for patient satisfaction. What steps can practitioners take to offer chiropractic patients a more satisfying experience?
One is to set aside enough time to thoroughly evaluate patients. This can be difficult when trying to juggle a high patient load or grow your patient list without having to work around the clock. If this is an issue, hiring a chiropractic assistant (CA) can help.
A CA can ease a practitioner’s time constraints by collecting each patient’s health history and inputting the information into the electronic health record (EHR) system. Depending on their level of training, this assistant can also prepare patients for diagnostic procedures, potentially even performing some needed tests. This allows you, the DC, to do a comprehensive evaluation without placing extensive time burdens on yourself.
Achieve effective communication
Another step important for patient satisfaction is effectively communicating diagnosis and prognosis. First, to aid patients’ understanding, avoid using technical jargon. Keep the language simple by using easy-to-understand words that don’t require a medical degree to decode.
Also, give patients time to ask any questions they have. Some will ask these questions willingly. Others are less comfortable with sharing their concerns and may need a little prompting. One way to make the latter group feel more comfortable is by ending each session with, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Let the patient know it’s important to you that they understand their health journey and feel comfortable expressing their concerns. Tell them this personally and communicate this in all written patient interactions too, such as by including a line in each newsletter that encourages them to contact you if they have any questions or highlighting the value of open communication on your website and social media pages.
Collaborate with other health care providers
Since patients find high value in their DC being part of their health care team, you must have a collaborative mindset. Be willing to work with their other health care providers. Based on survey results, this can increase patient satisfaction with your office while reinforcing the customized approach you are already taking
Patient satisfaction ultimately hinges on you, the DC, taking the time to treat each patient in a way that makes them feel heard and valued. If you thoroughly evaluate each patient, invite their questions, listen to their concerns and readily work with the other members of their care team, you will reap the rewards of having satisfied patients who come back to you again and again ― and refer their friends and family to you as well.