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How Did the COVID-19

How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Patient Satisfaction Levels?

Topic: How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Patient Satisfaction Levels?

Although organizations are using the right patient communication tools, patient satisfaction might go up if clinicians deployed those tools more judiciously.

Patient satisfaction fell 13 percentage points during the pandemic, according to a new Knowledge Executive survey conducted on behalf of Stericycle Communication Solutions. Some healthcare experts question whether this trend could be part of larger healthcare access and utilization patterns.

Before the pandemic, 73 percent of healthcare consumers said they were “very satisfied” with their healthcare, a number that shakes out to just 60 percent now. By and large, respondents said their providers were not quick to react to their queries.

Additionally, more patients reported feeling rushed during their medical appointments (54 percent) now compared to before the pandemic (35 percent).

But it’s most likely that patient access to care and healthcare utilization could be impacting patient satisfaction, the survey authors suggested. Patients simply are not interacting with their providers as much, leaving fewer opportunities for them to be satisfied.

And according to the poll, patients who are accessing care could be facing delays. Over 80 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to wait up to seven days for a non-emergency medical appointment.

The report did not touch on how long respondents are actually waiting to get into the clinic, but separate studies have found results all over the map. In 2018, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found that most primary care providers can offer an appointment within six days. Conversely, a 2017 Merritt Hawkins assessment found that in large metro areas, wait times are around 24 days; in medium-sized metro areas, it’s more like 30 days.

These conflicting findings could suggest that appointment wait times and availability are highly dependent on clinician specialty and location. Armed with the knowledge that patients give up after waiting seven days to get a non-urgent appointment, organizations can retool their appointment scheduling protocol.

Organizations may also reconsider patient communication. Although the data by and large showed that clinician groups are on the right track with how they communicate with patients, they should be doing it more often.

The survey showed that most patients want to hear from their providers via email (37 percent), phone call (30 percent), or text message (28 percent). That’s almost entirely how clinician offices are communicating with patients, although the survey showed offices can communicate more often.

For example, 63 percent of patients said they received instructions for visiting their provider during the pandemic. Although that is a majority, it left a sizeable portion of patients with questions.

Topic Discussed: How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Patient Satisfaction Levels?

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