Harris Poll: Patients Want Online Access, Proactive Communication and Shorter Wait Times

Somebody’s doing something right: According to a recent Harris Poll, patients’ satisfaction with their doctor visits is rising, although there’s still room for improvement.

First the good news: Among those who have visited a doctor’s office in the past year 88% reported that they were satisfied with their last visit, up five points from a previous poll in 2012. Among the factors they considered “very important,” they cited:

  • The doctor’s overall knowledge, training, and expertise: 83%
  • The doctor’s ability to access overall medical history: 65%
  • The time spent with the doctor: 58%
  • The ease of making an appointment: 49%
  • The ability to communicate with the doctor outside of an appointment, either by phone or email: 44%
  • The time spent waiting: 43%

The possibly good news: Satisfaction appears to rise with age, as “very satisfied” ratings increase from 47% among Millennials (age 18–35) to 69% among Matures (ages 70+). Combined with other data showing that older women tend to post more positive reviews, that could translate into steadily improving satisfaction scores, especially for those doctors who can assist patients in their efforts to age gracefully.

The could-be-better news: People consider online access to their health records and proactive communication from their doctors important but relatively few providers enable such activities. According to the poll:

  • Online access to their medical records: 59% consider it important but only 25% have it
  • Proactive communications from doctors via email or text: 59% consider it important but only 17% receive them
  • The ability to set appointments online: 52% consider it important but only 15% can do so

Put it all together and it’s clear that providing such services can be a path to higher satisfaction scores. As the folks at Harris note,

As health care models continue to morph, the marketplace is continually changing. Patients now have more choices than ever as to where and how they interact with their health care providers, so satisfaction is an increasingly important measure.

Doctor Takeaway

There’s more to satisfying patients than providing great results

Today’s patients don’t judge their medical experiences in isolation. For one thing, they view individual procedures and surgical care as part of a longer journey that encompasses every contact with a practice; for another, their expectations for those contacts are being set by the online convenience and customer service they get from the likes of Amazon, Zappos and other trend-setting companies. Doctors who take a similar approach to patient care effectively differentiate themselves from those who don’t, giving patients what they want and themselves a head start on higher satisfaction scores.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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