How can we improve the patient experience?

We’re a disgruntled bunch these days. We think there must be a better way to experience health care.

Doctors say they’re pressed for time, don’t make enough money, have to hassle with insurance companies and typically feel generally burned out about medicine.

Patients feel they wait too long in the waiting room, don’t get much time in the examining room to ask questions or share concerns, want to be more involved in their healthcare but aren’t sure how, and never know how much a drug, procedure or treatment will cost until they get the bill.

Catalyst Healthcare Research wanted to learn more about what we thought about the “patient experience.” So they conducted an online survey of 400 people 52 and older (baby boomers)  in March, 2012. What they found could apply to most people of any age.

Those surveyed said they want:

  • A printed summary of their visit, including their diagnosis and recommended plan of action, before they leave
  • Eye contact with the doctor, and don’t like seeing physicians spend most of their “face time” typing away on the computer keyboard.
  • A reliable estimate of their charges for a recommended surgical procedure
  • An app that allows them to log in and see their test results, send messages to their physician (and presumably get those questions answered)
  • A text or voicemail message if the office is running late
  • Free WiFi in the waiting room
  • Straight talk about personal behaviors that they need to change (like stopping smoking or losing weight)

Personally, I’d add to that:

  • A concise summary of the pros and cons of anything the physician recommends
  • An estimate of the risk associated with doing or not doing what the physician suggests
  • Printed cost sheets for short, medium and extended office visits and any tests or procedures the office provides
  • Acknowledgement of any potential conflict of interest the physician may have in recommending a surgery center, hospital, lab, drug, screening or diagnostic test, or specialist
  • Respect for what I know and what I’d like to know
  • A request for feedback about the visit emailed to me after every appointment

I’m sure physicians have a list of things they’d like from patients. Perhaps if their lists and our lists could be exchanged and understood, we’d all be a lot happier.

What would you say you’d like to see in the “patient experience”?

Barbara Bronson Gray is a nurse who blogs at BodBoss and the Prepared Patient Forum.

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