Managing Patient Expectations: What You Need To Know For Clinical Success

Aug 17, 2023 | Blog

Every patient enters the appointment room carrying expectations about the treatment. Some expectations are realistic, while others are unfeasible. In any case, patients will be disappointed if they feel that providers fall short of what they expect.

Managing patient expectations is one of the key ingredients to ensuring that a practice can achieve overall clinical success. Here’s what you need to know:

What Are The Most Common Patient Expectations?

Some of the most common expectations that patients may have about their appointment are:

  • Their physician will listen to all their needs
  • Their physician can clearly explain their condition and provide instructions on what to do
  • Clinic staff will treat them with compassion and professionalism
  • They will receive the most effective treatment options available in the clinic

There are, however, infeasible and unrealistic expectations that are difficult to meet, such as:

  • Talking about several issues and expecting all of them to be solved in one consultation
  • Being able to acquire prescriptions without a physician’s consultation
  • Being able to call their physician any time of the day for problems
  • Thinking that the physician can fully understand their issue at the first consultation and treat them right away

Why Is It Important To Manage Patient Expectations?

Managing patient expectations is important to prevent patient disappointment, bottlenecks, and issues from occurring.

Here are 3 reasons why it’s important to manage what patients expect:

1. Maintains patient satisfaction and retention

Patients who feel that their treatment falls short of their expectations become dissatisfied with the practice. What’s worse is that multiple studies on patient experience have confirmed that patients who feel that their expectations were unmet will never complain but simply stop going to your clinic.

2. Balances provider workload

Some providers provide assurances that they’ll be able to meet their patients’ expectations, which often include receiving treatment for their condition as soon as possible. However, it may sometimes take more than one appointment to even reach a proper diagnosis. Compressing their timeframe to meet patient expectations can lead to the following:

  • A decline in quality care
  • Provider stress and burnout
  • Patients growing more disappointed

3. Prevents malpractice claims

30% of medical malpractice cases are due to poor provider-patient communication. Some reasons why communication fails include:

  • Lack of sympathy for patient concerns
  • Insufficient instructions after appointments
  • General provider miscommunication

If providers fail to address patient concerns or communicate clearly, patients are left to assume a lot about their condition. Most of the time, patients may think that there’s nothing worrisome about their situation. When something severe does happen, patients file malpractice claims against the provider, which can affect the image of the practice.

Effective Strategies For Managing Patient Expectations

When you manage patient expectations, you’ll be able to give them a clear picture of how their treatment will play out. Some patients may still be disappointed when told about the reality of the procedure, but it’s better this way than leading them on with assumptions and false promises.

Providers play a significant role in helping patients understand what they should expect from the procedure. One of the most effective ways to manage patient expectations is to train your providers to establish a healthy doctor-patient relationship by actively engaging in patient-centered communication, which involves the following:

  • Be more attentive and sympathetic to the patient. Exercise proper eye contact and ask follow-up questions whenever necessary
  • Write down every patient concern. Take note of every detail, even if it seems trivial, as they may be important later
  • Allot sufficient time for each patient appointment. Provide enough time for each patient to gather information and establish a good rapport with the patient
  • Ask patients to discuss what they expect from the treatment. Create a space of open discussion to clear confusion
  • Speak to the patient in simple terms. Use a conversational tone and avoid using medical jargon

You can also modify workflow protocols in other aspects of your clinic to further manage patient expectations.

A few examples include:

  • Delegating administrative responsibilities (such as insurance verification and payment collection) to front office staff so that providers can focus on their patients
  • Training staff to promote a welcoming environment where patients feel that they can trust the advice that providers will give them
  • Scheduling future appointments strategically to help manage the workload of each provider

Give Realistic Expectations For The Ideal Results

You can never stop patients from having expectations about their treatment, but you can meet them eye to eye and tell them about the reality of it. If you’re able to successfully manage the expectations of your patients, you’re on your way to achieving overall clinical success for your practice.

Learn how WelcomeWare can help you manage patient expectations with live-streaming virtual receptionists who are trained to greet patients with a smile and assure them about the procedure of their treatment.

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