National data from SurveyVitals’ patient experience surveys shows that communication and adequate time with the provider are the two lowest-scoring areas of patient-provider interactions. Trends in patient comments shed light on patient frustrations with feeling rushed. This may be especially true for high-volume practices with constrained resources.
During SurveyVitals’ recent roundtable discussion series, Community Conversations, healthcare leaders shared their perspectives on the challenges they face as an organization. Over two-thirds of attendees (67%) indicated their biggest patient communication challenge is not having enough time to address all of the patient’s concerns.
It may not be so much about adding actual time spent with a patient as much as increasing their perceptions that they had adequate time with their provider. From the patient’s perspective, the provider who spends enough time with them cares more and provides a higher quality of care. Here are some best practices to incorporate into your visits to increase patient perceptions of time spent together.
Adequate Time Best Practices
Stay on schedule
Try your best to work with the team to stay on schedule. This isn’t always possible, but consistent and frequent communication with the team may help to prevent unnecessary delays.
If you are running behind, the patient may feel from the moment you walk in the room that the visit is rushed. Begin by apologizing to the patient for the wait. Avoid speaking quickly or acting flustered during your visit. Maintaining a calm demeanor and applying the practices below can go a long way in improving perceptions of adequate time, even when you are running late.
Take a seat
After greeting the patient, sit down with them. Sitting down indicates to the patient they are valued and you are prepared to spend time with them; alternatively, standing may make the patient feel as though you are rushed to get through the appointment. A study from the University of Kansas found that when doctors stood during visits for 1 minute and 28 seconds, patients estimated they’d spent 3 minutes and 44 seconds in the room. Doctors who sat for 1 minute and 4 seconds were perceived to have spent over 5 minutes with their patients. Now that’s a big difference!
Slow your pace and take time to interact
If appropriate, taking the time to ask about the patient’s day is a simple way to show attentiveness. Attentiveness can add to the amount of time the patient perceives spending with you.
Studies have found that nonverbal behaviors such as speaking at a faster pace can unintentionally send a message to the patient that you are rushed, when in fact you may not be. Be sure to slow down during conversation with the patient.
It is also important to show empathy during your visits. Many physicians worry it takes extra time to be empathetic to patient concerns, but some have found showing empathy can help to shorten the visit. Empathy signals to the patient that you are open to addressing their concerns rather than brushing them off due to time constraints.
Sit back and listen
One study of family physician practices found the average patient speaks for only 23 seconds before being interrupted by their doctor. When the patient doesn’t feel they get a chance to say what they’re there to say, it detracts from the value of time spent with their physician. Even if, according to the clock, the visit lasts an adequate amount of time, the patient may not feel they received sufficient time to voice their concerns.
It’s equally important to limit interruptions from cell phones and other staff while visiting with the patient. Interruptions like these may make the patient feel like the time you should be spending with them is being focused elsewhere. Giving the patient all of your attention can help even a shorter visit feel like a satisfactory amount of time.
Before concluding the visit, ask if the patient has anything else to discuss. Confirm all questions have been answered and the objectives of the visit have been met. If the patient has several more concerns, recommend an additional appointment very soon so you have a suitable amount of time to dedicate to discussing them.
View your patient feedback
Review your adequate time and communication scores and patient comments regularly in your client portal. Your own patients’ experiences can help you to drill down deeper into opportunities to improve.
The Improvement Center in your portal also contains a variety of short best practice videos and articles.
Learn more about how you can identify patient trends and drive improvement with actionable data in your organization. Schedule a demo today.