Patients have spoken, and they really like their care providers.

It’s good news for medical practices that patient satisfaction is on the rise, and has been for the past year. As practices pay attention to consumer-facing issues like waiting room times, ease of scheduling, and, yes, exam room manners, patients get more satisfied with care.

This survey dovetails nicely with a study published in the March 3, 2009, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, which finds that patients who are more connected to a physician were most likely to receive recommended care. The study, Patient-Doctor Connectedness and the Quality of Primary Care, links the patient’s personal relationship with a physician to outcomes.

Press Ganey Associates’ Medical Practice Pulse Report polled patients within 3 to 5 days of their visit to a medical practice, asking patients to respond to survey questions in five categories: access to care, during your visit, your care provider, personal issues, and overall assessment. Up to 100 points was possible for each survey question. Press Ganey processes over 11 million surveys annually.

Underneath the overall favorable patient satisfaction are a few provider interactions that people score most highly. These include those high-tech interventions like…friendliness and courtesy, clear language, and having confidence in one’s provider.

Explaining the condition, information about medicines, and instructions for follow up care are very important, but marginally not as important as the less-clinical factors of the patient-clinician encounter.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) concept represents a model that the Press Ganey and Annals findings support. A patient’s relationship with a personal physician yields better health outcomes. And, patients like relating to doctors in a collegial way with open and clear communication, as Press Ganey found in the Pulse study.

The five medical practice priorities that drive patients to recommend a medical practice to others are:

1. Sensitivity to your needs
2. Overall cheerfulness of the practice
3. Overall rating of care received during your visit
4. Comfort and pleasantness of the exam room
5. Waiting time in exam room before being seen by the care provider.

These five factors drive patient satisfaction. They can also drive a patient’s personal relationship with a physician. Taken together, these factors improve patients’ relationships with physicians and, ultimately, can improve health outcomes. The patient-physician bond must not be undervalued.