The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Does your practice measure telehealth patient satisfaction?” The majority (57%) said “no,” while 43% responded “yes.”
Among those whose organizations track patient satisfaction, 61% say scores have improved in the past year, compared to 7% who report scores worsened, while 33% noted “no change.”
The poll was conducted Feb. 16, 2021, with 690 applicable responses.
These results underscore a need to understand patient perceptions of telehealth as medical groups and other provider organizations strategize for a post-pandemic strategy for telehealth. Other studies in the industry point to positive experiences with telehealth:
- A major study by J.D. Power of more than 4,300 patients in late 2020 found great patient satisfaction with telehealth during the early months of the pandemic, with overall customer satisfaction rated 860 on a 1,000-point scale — higher than all other healthcare, insurance and financial services studies done by the group.
- The J.D. Power study pointed to patients citing five key performance indicators (KPIs) for telehealth:
- Spending enough time to provide quality care
- Completely resolving medical concern(s) during visit
- Following up after visit
- Resolving question/problem on first contact (online)
- Resolving question/problem on first contact (via phone).
- A June 2020 report by Kyruus, Patient Perspectives on Virtual Care, found more than 75% of patients were very or completely satisfied with virtual care experiences.
What’s influencing patient satisfaction?
Andrew J. Barbash, MD, co-founder of The Apractis Clinic, recommends that medical practice leaders take a big-picture view when it comes to telehealth programs, focusing on problems to solve and the best workflow to support those solutions. Especially given varying degrees of comfort with certain apps and interfaces, Barbash said it’s important “to make the technology part of [telehealth] … seamless, brainless and simple.”
“Take off your crisis hat and just think of what you want to do,” Barbash said. In many cases, that might mean evaluating what platform you use and the vendor that provides it. “You want a partner that's looking at how you work and how you communicate with each other, and with your patients and eventually with other colleagues,” Barbash said.
Measuring patient satisfaction may reveal that scores might be influenced by issues outside of technological hiccups. Administrators can assess how well providers have made the transition to more virtual visits and the unique ways in which the interaction with the patient has evolved based on a physician’s “webside manner.”
“Some people are better at reading body language than others, and some people are better at languages, and some people use interpreters better,” Barbash said.
- Get expert advice from two leading advocates for training effective “medical virtualists” on the MGMA Executive Session podcast.
- Ensure your providers are using best practices for primary care telehealth during COVID-19.
- Listen to “Executive Session: Effective telehealth in pediatrics, OB/GYN to counter future spikes in COVID-19” for specialty-specific insights into telehealth best practices.
- Learn six best practices for physicians to fine-tune their “webside” manner from Mia Finkelston, MD, medical director, Amwell.
Patient acquisition and retention
Patients are used to clicking a button and getting something in return within an expected amount of time. Keith Dressler, MSD, DDS, founder and chief executive officer, Rhinogram, Chattanooga, Tenn., compares it to purchasing an item online or using a rideshare app. Patients expect this convenience to carry over to healthcare.
Dressler suggests doing the following to help with patient acquisition:
- Inform patients regarding ways they can contact you.
- Ensure that your office phone number is textable while being HIPAA compliant.
- Give patients a way to contact you outside office hours.
- Make sure your practice is social media friendly and ask patients to provide reviews on third-party sites to help potential patients find you.
Much like patient acquisition, patient retention is predicated on giving patients what they want: convenience. “Lots of patients say, ‘You’ve given me back my life by being able to do this,’ because they haven’t had to take time off from work, or take kids out of school, or wait in a waiting room 30 minutes to only be told you’re healing fine,” Dressler maintains. “You have eliminated all of that. And patients are incredibly appreciative of that, give you awesome reviews and tell their friends about your services.”
In working with the Virginia Center for Women, an OB/GYN practice in the Chesapeake, Va., area, telehealth was added to replace some visits with virtual consults, timed to coincide with the arrival of test results patients previously waited for in person. This improved efficiency and gave one physician’s nurse about two hours back in the day for other work, and it gave the doctor more time to spend with patients, which helped boost patient satisfaction and, in turn, improve reviews on Google.
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- Front office scripting for telehealth during COVID-19 — Sample scripts to help your front desk team manage the process of helping patients shift to telehealth appointments
- MGMA COVID-19 Federal Assistance and Advocacy Center — Find analyses from MGMA Government Affairs on telehealth and other regulatory waivers during the COVID-19 public health emergency
- MGMA Stat: COVID-19 polls — Get a comprehensive look at MGMA Stat’s data since the beginning of the pandemic
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