Some of the best ways an orthopedic surgeon can improve patient satisfaction:

First, take a deep breath before you walk into the patient’s room, and count to five. I believe that by taking a moment to breathe and relax, it will allow the surgeon to prepare for the visit with the patient. Upon entering the room, I suggest introducing yourself even if the patient already knows whom they are seeing. Also, I believe the surgeon should meet everyone in the room and immediately find out who is the patient’s caregiver or point of contact.

Encourage questions: As a patient-family advocate, one of the most common topics I discuss with families is to be prepared to ask questions. The orthopedic surgeon should pause for questions after each topic, or after ask if the patient or family has questions thus far. There are many patients over fifty-five years of age that are afraid to ask questions. I’ve worked with this age group that has expressed a discomfort with asking questions of physicians. To maximize patient satisfactory and lessen anxiety of an orthopedic surgery, answering questions will leave a patient well-informed and confident.

Please explain the X-rays: When a patient has taken X-rays, it is most helpful when the surgeon explains where the cause for concern is located. Empowering and educating the patient is the best way to build trust and teamwork between the surgeon and the patient. The less intimidated the patient feels by the mysterious shadowy gray matter on the film, the more confident they will feel in your skills as a surgeon.

Provide resources: When a patient is having orthopedic surgery, there may be some resources they may need, such as a shuttle service if transportation is an issue. Patients may sometimes feel embarrassed to share that after surgery they don’t have enough support. There are also many patients who don’t have a caretaker post-surgery, and depending on their insurance may qualify for nursing respite. Following an orthopedic surgery, some patients will need physical therapy: be sure to provide resources for post-operative therapies if applicable for the best outcome. To remind the patient of available resources, and how to get more information will strengthen the relationship between the patient and surgeon.

Let the patient know what your expectations are: One of the most common questions I receive as a patient-family advisor is, “What does my doctor expect from me?” While it may seem simple, many patients don’t know what is expected of them. From the time a patient moves forward with surgery, to the surgery itself-the patient is wondering if they are fulfilling the surgeon’s expectations. From a patient-family perspective, knowing what we should do differently is just as important as knowing the To-do’s of an orthopedic surgery.

Please allow sufficient amount of time: for conversation and follow up questions. One of the biggest complaints I’ve received by surgery patients is that they feel rushed through their appointments. Although it may seem impossible some days, each patient wants to feel that they are the most important patient of the day. To give a little extra attention and time to each patient will accomplish this feeling and result in referrals and high scores online.

Be prepared for emergencies: Even when the patient is scheduled for surgery, and all is planned to go well, surgeons should still leave a point of contact in case of an emergency. Having a point of contact, and clear plan for the patient to follow in the event of an emergency will show the patient that the surgeon is prepared at all times. All patients want to know what to do should they get home and have a medical emergency; this will ensure the patients are well-informed.

Communication: Orthopedic surgeons should allow patients to provide feedback on a private email account for the Office Manager to review. Holding contests for positive feedback will encourage patients to share their experiences, as well as promote the surgeon’s great work. Communication is key to knowing what areas to improve upon, and keeping an open dialogue with patients, remaining approachable is best to improve patient satisfaction.

In closing, the medical community is a scary world for the average person. Unless a patient has extensive experience in the medical world, they tend to feel intimidated and anxious. The above suggestions are key areas I’ve personally worked on in the hospital setting, as well as in the surgical setting that have shown to be effective. Thank you for allowing me to share suggestions for improving patient satisfaction in orthopedic surgery.

2016 Scholarship Finalist

Genevieve H

Tucson, Arizona

The final question on the application was an essay question.

The essay question was:

How can orthopedic surgeons doing hip and knee replacement surgery improve patient satisfaction?

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