Report finds medical products influence patient satisfaction

By Adam Rubenfire

Clean machines matter to patients.

Patient satisfaction isn't just about the way patients are treated by physicians and staff. The equipment and products used in healthcare facilities can have a significant impact on patient opinion, according to an industry report.

Patients' biggest gripe with providers was long wait times, but they also said providers need to speed up diagnoses and improve their care environments, according to a recent study from the Health Industry Distributors Association. The products a provider uses can affect satisfaction and that isn't necessarily considered in federal ratings, said Gina Smith, HIDA's director of business development.

The time a patient spends in an office, for example, is affected by the speed of lab and diagnostic imaging equipment and the efficiency of office management software, Smith noted. Thirty-seven percent of patients said they were dissatisfied because they couldn't receive laboratory or imaging results during their appointment, which is possible with rapid tests and diagnostic equipment.

Patients also said that infection control and cleanliness was incredibly important to them. Sixty-six percent of patients said they value a visible commitment to infection prevention, through an overall clean environment, and by having an abundant presence of hand sanitizer, masks and infection control signage, among other items.

Although a patient may not be able to tell if equipment is effective, they can tell if it's visibly dated or worn. Forty percent of patients said a provider exceeded their expectations by having up-to-date equipment and 41% said good amenities like comfortable furniture and refreshments added to their satisfaction.

Nearly half of patients report that a healthcare provider failed to meet their expectations last year, and 12% switched providers because their expectations weren't met. Turnover with younger patients is much worse: millennials, who are aged 18-35, were 156% more likely than other generations to change providers when dissatisfied.

“I would love it if the wait wasn't over an hour,” one female millennial said. “There have been several times where my wait has been 2+ hours. That makes me feel like they do not value my time.”

HIDA will release a separate report on millennials because their findings on the generation revealed important demographic information about satisfaction, turnover and provider reputation, Smith said. Millennials are 109% more likely than any other generation to have researched a provider in advance and use sites like Yelp, Consumer Reports, Healthgrades and the CMS Hospital Compare site, which was the most-widely used site among all respondents.

The survey also asked healthcare executives how they plan to improve patient satisfaction. Executives said they're looking to invest in a number of different products, including higher-quality bedding, patient entertainment, improved bedside diagnostics, new lab and imaging equipment and patient entertainment.

Over 1,000 patients and over 400 administrators participated in the survey, including hospital chief financial officers and supply chain executives; physician office managers; and administrators at laboratories and skilled-nursing facilities. HIDA is offering the results to its members—companies such as Cardinal Health, Medline and Owens & Minor—as a tool for showing customers the importance of investing in quality medical equipment and supplies.

“Even if you've never read a trade publication, never went to a conference, and ran your little office and never left, you're going to hear about it from your patients if you don't hear about it anywhere else,” Smith said.

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