Dry Eye

Physician interpersonal skills often more important to patients than medical skills

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Hospitals, physicians, and insurance companies all know the most valuable asset is the patient, said Ronald C. Gentile, MD a retina surgeon in New York City, during a presentation at the 2020 AAO Virtual Meeting. And in the world today, he continued, patients demand more and are more difficult to attract than ever.

What do patients look for in a doctor? According to a study that analyzed more than 3000 reviews from the lowest scoring doctors on online review sites, 53% were negative and of those negative reviews, 43% were related to poor bedside manner, 35% for poor bedside manner, and 35% for poor customer service. Just 21.5% were related to medical skills, Dr Gentile said.

“They were really complaining about the indifference of the physician not the skills of the physician,” he said.

Another national online patient survey of more than 2000 patients found that 71% preferred an emotional connection over a doctor’s academic record, and 78% preferred small intimate practices over larger ones.  

How do you attract loyal, happy patients? Dr Gentile recommends the “SATISFY” approach—an acronym designed to help physicians mast patient satisfaction.

S is for smile– “It’s one of the most powerful non-verbal ways of communicating,” said Dr Gentile.

A is for acknowledge– Acknowledge the patient by name, if possible.

T is for time– The perception of time, including wait time and face-to-face time, can be very important to some patients. Preparing for visits, scheduling properly, office organization, and staff training can help reduce unnecessary time spent.

I is for intercultural intelligence– “Beliefs values and attitudes of the patient and doctors themselves,” he said.

S is for sharing feelings– Awareness of feelings helps to build trust and helps to minimize irrational emotions.

F is for friendly hospitality– This includes having a clean waiting room with accessible Wi-Fi, snacks, and coffee, if possible. Bathrooms, Dr Gentile said, are a reflection of you and your practice.

Y is for yes– Be an advocate, not a gatekeeper.



Gentile RC, et al. Patient Satisfaction Made Simple: Seven Steps – Ronald C Gentile MD. Presented at: 2020 AAO Virtual Meeting.

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