It’s no surprise that the content of most Risk Management courses and seminars for medical practices focuses on improving communication with patients. This is because risk managers know that better communication from physicians and staff to their patients reduces the likelihood of a medical malpractice lawsuit. This fact has been proven again recently in a 2011 survey of physicians, medical office staff and patients (by Capson Physicians Insurance Company). The survey of 200 private medical practices and 1,000 healthcare consumers assessed the value of physicians and practice managers receiving patient feedback.
According to the survey 70% of patients said that good communication would help them to feel better about their experiences at the doctor’s office. Patients get irritated when they are rushed through a visit and often their perception is that no one really has time for them. Then if there has been any kind of problem, or if they don’t like the outcome of the visit, a conflict could arise if there is no way for the patient to talk about what happened. Most said they would like to have a venue for letting the doctor know if they are upset.
The practice managers and physicians in the survey agreed that many conflicts could be avoided altogether if patients had an opportunity to give immediate feedback about their experience and treatment. The survey verifies what doctors and their staffs have known for years. So if this is not news to anyone, why talk about it? Why do the risk managers, insurance companies and attorneys continue to harp on this same old subject of communication?
Although we all know that better communication is important, in many doctors’ offices it is not a reality. In a busy practice there is simply not enough time in a day to communicate with patients the way they would like. As more and more patients are added to the U.S. healthcare system, the patient load at physician offices and hospitals will continue to increase, making communication even more difficult. So what can you do in your office to help facilitate better communication?
There isn’t one, easy solution, but here are a few suggestions from malpractice insurance company risk managers that may help:
Train your staff – including the physicians – to provide a welcoming, pleasant atmosphere and to ask key questions of patients that will help reveal their perception of the care they are receiving.
Use a patient satisfaction survey – patients can complete it before leaving the office or by email when they get home – you will know right away if someone is unhappy.
Slow down – no matter how busy you are, take time to listen to your patients and make sure you’ve addressed their concerns. Ask questions to find out if you’ve covered everything and that they understand you.
Ask your malpractice insurance company – many companies provide risk management services that include office site visits and evaluations for free. Most will give a discount to practices participating in the programs.
Guest Blogger: Monte Shields-The Keane Insurance Group – St. Louis, MO
The Keane Insurance Group is one of the largest independent brokers of medical malpractice insurance in the country. With access to over 30 insurance companies, the Keane Group is uniquely qualified to provide the best coverage at the best rate for any specialty in any state. For more information contact Monte Shields at 800-966-7731 or firstname.lastname@example.org