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Patients Happy with Doctor Visits But E-connections Lag

Patients indicated a gap between the level of online access and the importance of such services.

- While patients’ satisfaction with their last office visit is on the rise, doctors could boost their standing with an added dose of health IT integration.

A Harris Poll released Jan. 20 shows high patient satisfaction with doctor visits; however, some online services deemed important were not available.

Results of a new Harris Poll, released Jan. 20, defined patients as those who had visited a doctor’s office in the past year, and found that 88 percent were satisfied with their experience — up 5 percentage points from a 2012 survey.

Doctors have also made gains in providing opportunities for patients to interact with their offices online, according to the survey of 2,368 U.S. adults (online poll conducted September 2015). However, respondents indicated a gap between the level of online access and the importance of such services.

Here’s what the numbers reveal:

  • Online communication services have increased across the board, most notably with 25 percent of surveyed patients having online access to their medical record (up from 17 percent in 2012).
  • Email access to doctors stands at 19 percent (up from 12 percent in 2012).
  • Online appointment setting was available to 17 percent of respondents (up from 11 percent in 2012).
  • Nonetheless, 59 percent of respondents reported not having access to their medical records, a capability they rated as important. Similarly, roughly half said they lacked email interaction with their doctor, also characterized as important.
  • More defined services showed larger splits. For instance, only 16 percent of doctors issued proactive communications to schedule preventive care appointments via email or text, while 59 percent of patients felt it was important that they receive such notices. Likewise, 17 percent of doctors offered online appointment scheduling (rated important by 52 percent of respondents), and 15 percent provided online billing/payment capabilities (50 percent importance rating).
  • The largest gap between access and perceived importance was for an online service-cost estimator, available to just 7 percent of patients (62 percent importance rating).

Overall, patient satisfaction appears to rise with age, according to survey results. Mature respondents (ages 70+) reported a 69 percent satisfaction rating for their last office visit, compared to 56 percent for Baby Boomers (ages 51-69) and 47 percent among Millennials (ages 18-35). Along those lines, 75 percent of Matures said the doctor’s ability to access their medical history was very important; that measure dropped to 66 percent for Gen Xers (ages 36-50) and 58 percent for Millennials.

Respondents also reported that time spent waiting to see the doctor during a visit was a very important factor in ensuring a positive experience. In this light, technology applied to streamlining patient flow (e.g., efficient retrieval of patient history, medications and allergies; automated generation of prescriptions, instructions and referrals) would appear to generate a “soft” return in terms of patient satisfaction.

Compared to other consumer experiences rated by respondents, doctor visits ranked relatively high. The survey population satisfaction rate of 88 percent exceeded encounters such as bank visits (87 percent), hotel stays (78 percent), car purchases (76 percent), insurance company interactions (63 percent) and mobile phone store visits (59 percent). Experiences rated higher or equal to doctor visits were restaurant visits (91 percent), online purchases (89 percent) and department store visits (88 percent).

Photo credit: Creative Commons License

 

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