WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- We've all been there: sitting in the doctor's waiting room for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour or more. But when a long wait is coupled with a hurried conversation with the doctor, that's when the frustration sets in.
"When doctors keep their patients waiting and don't spend enough time with them, the combination of factors can be toxic," says patient satisfaction expert Steve Feldman, M.D. Dr. Feldman is the founder of DrScore.com, the online patient satisfaction survey site, which today released its 2008 Annual Report Card on Patient Satisfaction.
The "toxic combination" of long waits and short doctor visits results in patient dissatisfaction ratings almost 20 times higher than the ratings of patients who had the best possible experience of short waits and longer visits with their doctors, according to the 2008 Report Card.
The DrScore Report Card is based on the results of approximately 60,000 patients who completed an online survey to rate their physician. Within the survey, patients answer questions about how long they waited for their appointment and how much time the physician spent with them. Patients who had short waits (15 minutes or less) and long visits with their physician (15 minutes or more) reported an average dissatisfaction rating of 0.4 on a scale of 0 to 10. In comparison, patients who had long wait times (one hour or more) and short visits with their doctor (five minutes or less) were about 20 times more dissatisfied (average dissatisfaction rating of 7.8).
While we all dislike waiting, not spending enough time with our doctor is the key ingredient in the "toxic combination." According to the DrScore Report Card, when wait time was the same (an hour or longer) dissatisfaction ratings were more than five times higher among patients who had short doctor visits (five minutes or less) compared with those who had long visits (15 minutes or more).
"This year's Report Card points very clearly to the fact that patients want to spend time with their doctors," Dr. Feldman says. "Even if a patient is unhappy with a long wait time, the doctor can dramatically improve the experience by spending a little more time with him." According to the Report Card, patients who reported waiting more than an hour, but also spent 15 minutes or more with the doctor, saw only a slight increase in dissatisfaction compared to patients with short waits. When patients perceive their doctors are spending enough time in examination and consultation, they simply don't feel as dissatisfied.
Increasing patient satisfaction is important because it directly links to quality of care issues such as following doctors' orders and taking the prescribed medications, factors which ultimately lead to better outcomes. "Research shows that patients who are happy with their physicians have better results," Dr. Feldman says. "If a patient doesn't feel the doctor spent enough time with him, cares about him or respects him, then he may not trust the doctor's judgment or use the prescribed medications."
To provide the best care possible, physicians need patient feedback via balanced, online patient surveys such as DrScore.com, says Dr. Feldman. "I'm a scientist type who thought great medical care was just about giving patients the right diagnosis and treatment," he says. "It wasn't until I started getting feedback from patients that I realized great medical care is about more than that. I created DrScore.com as a tool for physicians, and we know doctors who participate are actively using this level of feedback to improve their quality of care."
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