6 Vital Points on Gastroenterology Patient Engagement & Satisfaction From Dr. Gilbert Simoni

Dr. SimoniGilbert Simoni, MD, of Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is also the founder of the practice Advanced GI. Here he shares six tips for gastroenterologists striving to build patient engagement and improve patient satisfaction.

1. Take the time to listen. Good bedside manner is a staple of a physician's daily practice, but with increased pressure to complete more cases and generate more revenue taking the time can be overlooked. "Patient engagement is really listening and letting patients tell you their story," says Dr. Simoni. Often times patients will see several physicians before finding one that takes the time to do so. "With many patients, you can begin to form a diagnosis, just by listening," he says.

2. Acknowledge patient concerns. Most patients that visit a physician are nervous, whether because of the imminent diagnosis or possible treatment. "A lot of times, especially in GI, patient concerns stem from fear of the unknown," says Dr. Simoni. "Realize that everyone is human and fear is a normal reaction."

It is helpful to acknowledge a patient's fear and then provide the facts to help allay that fear. Patients will be nervous, regardless, but arming them with the facts provides balance to those fears. Colonoscopy patients worry that the physician will find something, but finding a polyp is not a bad thing. A pre-cancerous polyp can be removed and a patient's life may have been saved.

3. Equip patients with the tools to make an informed decision. The days of passive patients are swiftly receding, but as they enter the arena of healthcare decision making patients need to have access to the right tools to be responsible participants. Avoid medical jargon and speak in a way that allows patients a clear picture of their diagnosis and treatment options.

"When I make a diagnosis, I involve patients in their care," says Dr. Simoni. "I am a visual learner and a lot of people are like that. Show diagrams. Give them a point of reference." The pros and cons of each treatment and what it means for a patient's prognosis will pave the way for informed decision-making.

4. Direct patients to the right places for more information. With access to the Internet, patients have the ability to sift through nearly limitless information, not all of which is reliable. Patients will often form preconceived, and misplaced, notions about their conditions and treatment.

An important part of patient engagement is not only clearly and simply stating the truth, but also providing patients with direction for their own research. Dr. Simoni suggests that patients read literature he can give them or academic websites, rather than relying on a simple Google search.

5. Seek patient feedback. At Dr. Simoni's practice, "mystery" patients, people specifically trained to evaluate the quality of patient experience, periodically call the office and go through the entire process of making an appointment and interacting with the staff. Dr. Simoni and his office receive a report of the experience and meet to discuss any areas for improvement.

"We truly believe that the 'customer is always right' approach is the industry standard," he says. In addition to the feedback from mystery patients, Dr. Simoni's practice offers paper and online patient satisfaction surveys.

6. Appreciate the value of patients. Though patients may not be at their best when they visit a physician, the staff should always be courteous and prepared to greet them with a smile. Gastroenterologists should also understand, despite the mounting pressures in the healthcare field, a patient-centric attitude will prepare them for the future of value-based care. "It is absolutely necessary for all physicians. Patients are what make our practices work," says Dr. Simoni.

More Articles on Gastroenterology:
8 GI-Related Devices Receive FDA 510(k) Clearance in October
Why Colonoscopy is Necessary: 3 Gastroenterologists Speak Up
6 Ways to Improve GI Profits

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