Repeatedly, research has shown that a person’s happiness can have a positive impact on their health. While those with high levels of chronic stress and anxiety are more likely to suffer the consequences of serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, those with a positive outlook are more likely to remain healthy. The significant connection between happiness and good health make it well worth the changes that are associated with improved patient care.
So, How do you improve patient happiness?
- Get patient feedback:
One of the most significant ways to improve the happiness of patients is by letting them know that their opinion makes a difference. Without patient feedback, you may never know if patients feel that they are getting the best possible care or how they are being treated by every member of the staff. Encouraging patients to give feedback online or through a short comment form that you make available to them will provide you with personal thoughts and feelings and draw attention to any problems within your practice of which you might not be aware.
- Get your staff to engage with patients:
Ironically, aging seems to make people naturally happier. Since increasing happiness has shown to increase longevity, taking steps to improve your patients’ satisfaction with their medical care could result in their being happier for an even longer lifetime. Fortunately for doctors, an engaged staff who treats each patient with respect and who provides them with the best possible care can expect their patients to have a more positive experience in their office and with the outcome of their treatment. Have reminders for your staff to greet patients. Studies show that people can detect if someone is smiling or frowning, even if the interaction takes place over the telephone.
- Ongoing information in the chart:
One of the biggest complaints patients have about physicians is that they don’t feel like the physicians listen. This often results from a lack of organization and an excess of work, which causes stress to the staff that is carried over to the patients. Practices can start by creating a system of accountability that puts a greater emphasis on taking the time to listen to patients and ensure patients understand all the instructions, forms to fill out, prescriptions, and that they have their questions answered. This responsibility goes beyond the physician, to every staff member the patient encounters in the practice, from the receptionist to the lab technician to the doctor. The end result will be a happier, healthier patient base and staff.
The evidence that happiness can positively affect health is a boon for healthcare providers, because there are many low or no-cost ways to help improve your patients’ happiness. What’s more, taking steps to improve your patients’ health through happiness could have further advantages for your practice. For example, if you are a participating Accountable Care Organization, happier patients could mean better outcomes, which will contribute to your success as an ACO. Regardless, a happier patient population will most likely be the result of your efforts to improve the happiness of the entire practice – and that can only be good.
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