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Importance of Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare + Tips to Improve 

by | Mar 18, 2024

Ask any leader in a health care organization if they value patient satisfaction, and the answer will be an immediate yes. As the discussion continues, you are sure to hear terms such as “patient engagement,” “patient delight,” or “partnership” to describe the relationship between the provider group and the patient. But as leaders in the industry, why care about patient satisfaction in healthcare? This is a much more complex question to answer.  

Most individuals tend to think of themselves as being nice people who naturally want those around them to be happy. A patient, customer, or client who is happy is much easier to work with and less emotionally taxing than someone who is upset. And besides, having satisfied patients seems like an admirable goal (and it is). But in healthcare, the reasons surrounding patient satisfaction as a core part of your mission run much deeper. 

Defining Patient Satisfaction 

What is patient satisfaction in healthcare? The “textbook” definition typically centers around whether a patient’s expectations were met during the medical encounter. However, those with longevity in health care operations have a perspective that goes much deeper.  

To quote Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So, with that concept in mind, we ask if the patient felt respected, valued, and listened to. Did the patient perceive a genuine sense of empathy from the staff and providers? And finally did the patient feel they could trust the team that was delivering care? This is the underlying essence of patient satisfaction. 

Healthcare is a business, and operating margins for medical groups are shrinking (or status quo at best). Anything that can threaten the bottom line of a profit and loss statement deserves to be looked at closely, and dissatisfied patients are one of those threats.  

The Necessity of Patient Satisfaction 

When patients leave your practice, the potential long-term revenue stream departs with them. Individuals seeking healthcare over the last decade have become increasingly “consumer oriented” and quick to change providers who might better meet their needs. Just as people shop and compare when selecting a vehicle, major appliance, or vacation destination, they approach healthcare choices with the same “consumerism” mindset. Patients expect access, seamless care, telehealth, and a positive experience with providers and staff.  

Gone are the days of loyalty to a practice or provider based on the resolute rationale of, “This is who my family has always seen.” And based on human nature, patients are prone to share their dissatisfaction with family, friends, and social contacts, creating a multiplier effect in a most negative sense. 

It Costs More to Replace Lost Patients Than to Retain Them 

The fact is that it costs more to acquire a new patient than to retain an existing one. This highlights how patient satisfaction in healthcare can impact budget line items such as marketing costs. This is not to say you should only spend money on marketing during leakage, but only to point out cause and effect.  

Marketing leads to significant costs associated with maintaining a robust web platform, having a targeted social media presence, targeted advertising, and reputation management. Then expenses continue to accrue through new patient on-boarding. The intake and registration process, medical records transfer, etc., all require the time and effort of your staff.  

Finally, there is the risk of an interruption to the continuity of care as new patients leave their former practice to become part of your practice. Therapies, chronic care management programs, drug regimens, etc., can all be disrupted and lead to more expensive acute episodic care.  

The Key Players in Delivering Patient Satisfaction 

In the intricate landscape of healthcare, patient attrition poses a significant challenge for providers. Many factors contribute to patient migration, including dissatisfaction with service quality, long wait times, communication gaps, and lack of personalized care. These are the catalysts related to patient satisfaction in healthcare that propel patients to seek alternative options.  

By understanding the roots of patient attrition, providers can proactively strategize and implement measures to retain their patient base, and directly benefit from patient satisfaction. Looking at each facet of the care journey sheds light on what proactive action can be taken. 


Many roles serve as the voice of the practice and appointment scheduling is a major one. When managing practice appointment scheduling, here are a few questions to ask.  

  • Does the scheduler present themselves as knowledgeable, empathetic, polite, and reassuring?  
  • Does the scheduler focus solely on helping the patient, rather than the perception of being hurried and desperate to move on to the next call?  

Front Desk 

While scheduling is the voice of the practice, the front desk is the face of the practice. A provider can do all the right things: accurate diagnosis, best prescription, most effective procedures all leading to a successful health outcome. But when the front desk interaction is poor, the patient’s entire relationship with the provider and medical group can be viewed negatively.  

As with scheduling, the front desk staff needs to present themselves–verbally and non-verbally–as empathetic, knowledgeable, polite, and reassuring. Front desk responsibilities in healthcare are oftentimes stressful, where even the best staff members appear rushed or lacking empathy. Like many other positions in a medical practice, having the right person in this role is crucial in promoting patient satisfaction in healthcare. 

Clinical Staff 

The clinical staff (i.e., nursing staff at all levels, and ancillary techs) play an equally vital role in combatting patient dissatisfaction. All the same qualities you need from scheduling and front desk staff also apply to clinical staff–empathetic, knowledgeable, polite, and reassuring.  

But when the patient care journey has reached the “hands on” stage when interacting with clinical staff, thoughtful communication goes a long way to help minimize patient anxiety. This includes clear identification of who they are (i.e., Medical Assistance, LPN, Radiology Tech, etc.), what they will be doing, why, and what comes next in the patient care process. For example, “Once I’m finished taking your vitals, I’ll be escorting you to the radiology room for a chest x-ray.” Also, encourage your clinical staff to ask the patient if they have any questions or concerns. 


As you would expect, the “bedside manner” of the providers is instrumental when it comes to levels of patient satisfaction in healthcare. Busy providers tend to overlook that patients often do not want to be at an appointment in the first place. What’s “another day at the office” for the provider, may be a life altering event, stirring many intense emotions for the patient sitting across from them. 

The good news is that providers have tremendous opportunity to lessen their patient’s anxiety through thoughtful communication, intentional listening, and an empathetic attitude. A simple reference point that providers should use on a routine basis asks, “Am I treating this patient in a manner that I would want for myself or my loved ones?” 

Where To Begin 

It has been discussed how to combat patient dissatisfaction through effective staff and provider engagement. But merely hoping that these behaviors occur within the medical group is not enough. Practice leaders need to be intentional when building a robust and sustainable patient experience program. So where do you start with your healthcare patient satisfaction strategy? 

Current State Assessment 

Assess your current state regarding the patient experience. There are numerous vendors who provide survey and reporting tools that provide deep insight into the performance of your providers and staff. Scoring is typically provided by clinic and provider and benchmarked against the peers within the practice’s specialty. Patients are usually given the opportunity to provide comments, which is an opportunity to gain even greater understanding. 

Cultural Alignment 

Work towards developing a culture that embraces and insists upon a great patient experience. Consider creating a cross functional Patient Experience Team that can help cultivate ideas and initiatives geared towards improving patient satisfaction. This team should include representatives from the frontlines within the clinic—administrative and clinical—as well as ancillary services and providers. 

Communicating the “Why” 

Helping all staff and providers to understand the “why” behind the need for a great patient experience distinguishes that such initiatives are not just another program coming out of the C-Suite. The “why” matters because such initiatives are at risk of being sidestepped due to the tremendous workload staff and providers face. However, it must be emphasized that in addition to being the right thing to do, a commitment to patient satisfaction in healthcare is a vital component of revenue success and the viability in the business. 

Provider Advocates 

Find Provider Champions who understand the “why” behind the need for satisfied patients and who are willing to be vocal proponents of the program to their peers. Having advocacy coming from respected providers increases program credibility and acceptance. Champions should be encouraged to share best practices and participate with leadership to create the desired patient centric culture.  

Measure Performance 

Visibility is key! As the adage goes, “You cannot improve what you don’t measure.” How to measure patient satisfaction in healthcare involves gathering data from patient survey results, online reviews, and tracking the number of patients moving their records elsewhere. KPIs can be incorporated into your practice and system.  

Ensure that senior leadership, practice management, staff, and providers are all aware of their patient satisfaction ratings so they can take ownership of the results. Giving providers and clinic leaders the opportunity to share best practices and discuss what they believe is driving high (or low) patient satisfaction scores can lead to further improvement.  

Action Plans 

Information is only valuable if it is used. Develop and implement action plans that address low performance. Leverage the Patient Experience Team, Provider Champions, high performing clinics, and providers, to develop best practices.  

How to improve patient satisfaction in healthcare begins with creating strategies which include: training, sharing best practices, peer feedback, coaching, established timelines, identified stakeholders, and clearly stated goals. Continuously monitor results and adjust where needed. Keep in mind that culture does not transform overnight, so be sure that the goals set are incremental and attainable. 

Celebrate the Wins 

Be sure to celebrate improvements and wins by recognizing contributors at all levels in the organization. As an organizational leader, take the time to personally thank staff members who helped made great strides in quality of care to meet patient satisfaction targets. 


Having a culture that embraces patient satisfaction is not only the right thing to do but is also the key to long-term financial viability. Everyone can play a part in creating this environment; however, it takes a structured and systematic approach from leadership to ensure that all elements are put into place for improving patient satisfaction in healthcare.  

Develop Strategies for Patient Retention Through Practice Transformation 

The path to reaching patient satisfaction in healthcare goals is not always clear cut. Medical Advantage teams have both real-world experience and analytical expertise to cover the entire spectrum of practice operations that impact consumer sentiment and care outcomes. We can both diagnose and offer time-tested solutions to meet your performance goals. To explore how to combat the cost of patient dissatisfaction, reach out to learn how our practice consultants can help.  

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