1. Develop a treatment plan based on individual goals. Patients will appreciate your effort to work with them on a plan toward recovery. Peter Millett, MD, M.Sc., an orthopedic sports medicine physician and shoulder specialist from the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., says although he makes the recommendations for what the best treatment plan would be to patients, he strives to work with the patient and involve them in the final treatment decision. This can only be achieved by determining what the patient's goals are from the outset.
"For example, I may see two patients who are in need of rotator cuff surgery," he says. "But one patient, because of his or her activity level, may need one specific set of treatments, and the other patient may need an entirely different treatment plan because this patient's activity or sport is different. It's about individualizing and personalizing the care."
2. Employ superior interpersonal communication skills. Patient satisfaction is about more than good outcomes and if surgeons don't have excellent interpersonal skills, the patient will often be dissatisfied regardless of the outcome. "Have good bedside manner and make sure you have good people on the phones," says Peter Althausen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Reno Orthopaedic Clinic and chairman of the board of directors of The Orthopaedic Implant Company. "We established a code of conduct to make sure patients are treated appropriately." Surgeons should introduce themselves when they enter the patient's room, smile at the patient and stand without their arms crossed when engaging in conversation. Use appropriate language to discuss the patient's treatment and make sure they understand every step of the process. "These things really make patients feel better," he says.
3. Focus on customer services by asking patients what you can do for them. In an ultra-competitive environment where hospitals are luring orthopedic surgeons away from independent practice and drawing in patients through primary care networks, independent practices have to work hard to differentiate themselves. "For us to provide a meaningful alternative over time, we have to create a patient experience that is far beyond what they can get at a hospital-based physician practice," says OrthoCarolina CEO Daniel B. Murrey, MD, MPP. "Patients can't always tell the difference, frankly, in how good the clinical quality is. They only have their experience. They can judge service quality much better than clinical quality."
At OrthoCarolina, staff and physicians are trained in customer service, he says. The practice relies on patient satisfaction surveys, the data from which is distributed weekly to physicians and staff. "We're also trying to develop things that aren't available in other places, things that anticipate the needs of patients and their families," Dr. Murrey adds. Whether it's providing up front financial information about a procedure or helping patients figure out how much time they might need to take off from work for recovery, these extra efforts have an impact on the patient experience, he says.
4. Add services to offer more comprehensive care. With so much attention focused on patient satisfaction and improving quality measures at hospitals and surgery centers, orthopedic practices need to make sure the entire patient experience, not just the outcomes, are positive. Patients need to form a connection with everyone at the practice and feel like their needs are being met. If patients have to leave the practice in order to receive services, such as physical therapy, they are less likely to have a positive experience than if the services are located in the practice or close by. "Every stop the patient makes during their recovery should be positive," says Rich Battista, MD, president and physician with OAA Orthopaedic Specialists in Allentown, Pa.
Orthopedic practices should include rehabilitative services in their practice by hiring trained specialists. "Rehab in our practice is a very integral part of the service we deliver," says Dr. Battista. "It gives us the competitive advantage in the market place to provide exceptional care in terms of the comprehensive non-operative as well as operative and postoperative care. All the rehabilitation specialists are our employees, which gives them ownership over success in the organization." Offering ancillary services can also increase practice revenue, says Dr. Battista.
5. Show empathy for patients, especially athletes. Michael Ciccotti, MD, of Rothman Institute Orthopaedics, chief of sports medicine and professor of orthopedic surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, says striving for excellent patient satisfaction should ultimately underlie everything a sports medicine practice does. "You have to treat these athletes with kindness and compassion and realize they're coming to you because they love to play a certain sport but can't do it anymore. Whether it's a recreational basketball player or Olympic athlete, they're coming to you for help, and approaching them with the kind of compassion you would approach your family with is what will lead your practice to success," Dr. Ciccotti says.
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5 Strategies for Patient-Centric Orthopedic PracticesWritten by Laura Miller | October 18, 2011
Here are five ways to make your orthopedic practice more patient-centric.
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