Dr. Peter Eckman jokes that he is the last doctor you would ever want to see.
That’s because Eckman is a University of Minnesota Physicians cardiologist specializing in heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and transplantation. Many of the patients he treats are in the final stages of heart failure and need a drastic medical solution to improve a poor prognosis.
Eckman believes in the importance of establishing a transparent, empathetic relationship with his patients. In 2013, Eckman was ranked in the top 10 percent of providers nationwide for patient satisfaction by Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS).
Patient satisfaction is paramount for University of Minnesota Physicians, and it shows in our numbers. In December 2013, 89 percent of our patients who responded to a patient satisfaction survey said they would recommend our clinics to others—compared to 57 percent in 2003, when UMPhysicians first took over management of the clinics. Although we’ve made steady, positive gains, we are committed to continued improvement.
Over 270 of our physicians achieved results in the 90th percentile or higher on a communication skills survey distributed to our patients in 2013. A random sampling of our patients receive a survey once per year, and last year more than 21,000 patients responded. Roughly 92 percent of UMPhysicians patients surveyed in 2013 believe their provider listened carefully to their needs during their visit, while 94 percent of respondents felt their provider was respectful.
Listening skills and a respectful attitude are particularly important for Eckman. Before he meets a new patient, Eckman thoroughly reviews that patient’s medical history and speaks with the referring physician—if there is one—to immerse himself in that patient’s care. For that reason, Eckman places a priority on clear communication with referring physicians.
“It’s important that you put [this visit] in the context of their broader life and health care,” Eckman said. “People really are disappointed and frustrated if they come in and you don’t have their records and you don’t know why they’re here. You’ve lost the opportunity to make a connection before you started.”
“Ensuring that impressions and documentation are communicated to referring physicians is also critical,” Eckman said. “If the referring provider doesn’t know what was discussed, the patient will feel like they were lost in the shuffle when they return. To make matters worse, the referring provider will then also be dissatisfied – an outcome that is twice as bad!”
When patients are facing a particularly difficult decision or challenging prognosis, Eckman does his best to offer alternatives and optimism.
“Although a lot of the people I see are very sick, I do have a lot of options that I can present to them … and I do think that’s a hopeful message,” Eckman said.
But a patient’s overall experience doesn’t start or end with a single physician, Eckman noted. It also depends on the administrative assistants, nurses, care coordinators and other care providers that help address the patient’s needs.
“There’s no question that this is a team sport. Patients wouldn’t be satisfied with me if they’re not satisfied with the team and the system, and that starts when they call to make an appointment.”