Top 6 Causes of Patient Dissatisfaction | 3 Simple Solutions

27 Jun Top 6 Causes of Patient Dissatisfaction | 3 Simple Solutions

Researchers in Florida found the top 6 factors for patient dissatisfaction for an Adult Primary Care Unit. The purpose of the research was to determine if a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) model would improve patient satisfaction. Even though the study had mixed results, they uncovered fantastic information on the drivers of patient satisfaction.

Study Design

547 patients responded to a patient satisfaction questionnaire created for use in Federally Qualified Community Health Centers. This questionnaire is thorough. It covers 29 factors which can be summarized as follows:

  • Doctor interaction: Is the doctor friendly? Does he listen and spend time with patients? Does he communicate well?
  • Staff interaction: Are the staff competent, friendly, and helpful?
  • Telephone communication: are calls returned promptly, does staff explain the office location, and are test results communicated clearly?
  • Facility: Is the clinic easy to find, safe, comfortable, and clean?
  • Wait times: How long do patients wait in the waiting room? In the exam room? How long to they wait for tests?
  • Payment processing: Is there clear and transparent information about cost and an easy system to make payments?

The study was organized as a before-after study, with about half the patients responding before the stated improvements, and about half of the patients after. By measuring improvements along each of the 29 factors, the researchers were able to attribute the drivers for patient dissatisfaction.

Top Culprits: wait time and poor telephone communication

Over 50% of the cases where a patient was dissatisfied, the source of dissatisfaction can be traced to one of only six issues (in order):

  • 1. Wait time in the waiting room
  • 2. Wait time in the exam room
  • 3. Promptness in returning calls
  • 4. Wait time for a test to be performed
  • 5. Wait time for test results
  • 6. Clarity of instructions on where to go

All six major concerns driving patient dissatisfaction are rooted in wait time or poor telephone communication.

You can see the full chart here:


I’ve written before on 4 ways smart telephone triage can improve patient experience. Today we’ll look at some basic steps you can take in the office.

3 Simple Steps You Can Start Today

Given the many competing demands on a doctor’s time and on the clinic staff, it is not always possible to meet all patients’ expectations. Even when the clinic is running late, a recent survey of more than 5,000 patients in the US found simple things you can do to mitigate a patient’s dissatisfaction.

  • 1. Set expectations
  • 80% of patients would be less frustrated if they knew how long they were expected to wait. Although patients don’t like waiting at all, setting expectations early and clearly would help. Give a fair estimate but one that is realistic.
  • 2. Offer options
  • 40% of patients may prefer to see another physician in the practice or to reschedule an appointment to avoid a long wait. While other patients will not prefer them, offering patients options is one way of recognizing waiting is an inconvenience.
  • 3. Apologize
  • Apologizing for keeping a patient waiting tells the patient you respect their time and their patience. 70% of patients said a simple apology would alleviate frustration. It is an easy way to keep patients more satisfied and for them to feel they are respected.


How have you been able to reduce patient frustration? I’d love to hear your thoughts at

About Keona Health

At Keona Health, we believe that relationships matter. We know that a clinic’s triage system can test a patient-doctor relationship, especially if a patient cannot easily get the help he or she is seeking. Keona Health offers healthcare software and automation solutions to ease the burden of telephone triage on medical practices and help medical professionals better communicate with patients.


Contact us to request a demo