Understanding the Financial and Referral Impact of Patient Satisfaction Scores

Featuring: Susan Milligan | Director of Patient Experience

Patient satisfaction has transcended its status as a mere metric in the healthcare industry. Today, it stands as a critical determinant of an organization’s financial health and its prospects of the likelihood of patients and physicians referring others to their care. As healthcare continues to evolve, patient satisfaction scores have taken center stage, influencing reimbursement rates, patient retention and referrals.

The financial impact of patient satisfaction scores

Reimbursement rates

Patient satisfaction has become intricately tied to reimbursement rates, particularly with the introduction of value-based care models. The Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, initiated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), allocates a portion of Medicare payments based on hospital performance, including patient satisfaction scores.

Patient retention

Patient satisfaction directly influences patient loyalty and retention. A satisfied patient is more likely to return to the same healthcare facility for future care needs. Conversely, a dissatisfied patient may seek alternatives, leading to a loss of revenue for the organization.

The referral impact of patient satisfaction scores

Word-of-mouth referrals

Satisfied patients often become advocates for their healthcare providers, referring friends and family to the same facility. Word-of-mouth referrals can significantly impact an organization’s patient volume and revenue.

  • A study by the Journal of Healthcare Management found that 68% of patients would recommend their healthcare provider to others.
  • Positive online reviews and social media testimonials serve as powerful referral tools in the digital age.
  • TIP: Encourage satisfied patients to share their experiences through reviews and recommendations.

Physician referrals

In many cases, primary care physicians and specialists refer patients to other healthcare providers for specialized services or consultations. These referring physicians often take patient satisfaction scores into account when making referrals.

  • A HealthLeaders survey revealed that 60% of referring physicians consider patient satisfaction when referring patients to specialists.
  • Positive patient satisfaction scores can lead to increased referrals and collaboration with other healthcare providers.
  • TIP: Foster relationships with referring physicians and keep them informed about your organization’s commitment to patient satisfaction.

Tips for improving patient satisfaction scores

Patient satisfaction scores have become pivotal in determining the financial health and referral success of healthcare organizations. With the shift towards value-based care and increased consumerism in healthcare, prioritizing patient satisfaction is no longer optional. It is a strategic imperative.

To do so most effectively:

  1. Enhance communication
    • Implement effective communication strategies among staff and patients.
    • Train healthcare providers to actively listen to patient concerns and address them promptly.
    • Use technology, such as patient portals and telehealth, to improve communication channels.

  2. Provide education
    • Ensure patients fully understand their diagnoses, treatment plans, and medications.
    • Offer educational resources, both in-person and online, to empower patients to manage their health effectively.

  3. Streamline access to care
    • Reduce wait times for appointments and in the waiting room.
    • Implement efficient scheduling systems and telemedicine options to improve access to care.

  4. Personalize care plans
    • Tailor treatment plans to individual patient needs and preferences.
    • Show empathy and cultural sensitivity in interactions with patients.

  5. Collect and act on feedback
    • Regularly solicit feedback from patients through surveys and direct conversations.
    • Act on feedback promptly to address concerns and make necessary improvements.

  6. Empower staff
    • Provide ongoing training and support for healthcare staff to enhance their interpersonal skills.
    • Recognize and reward staff for exceptional patient-centered care.

  7. Utilize technology
    • Leverage technology for appointment scheduling, virtual consultations and easy access to medical records.
    • Implement patient experience platforms to monitor and improve satisfaction in real time.

By focusing on improving patient experiences, enhancing communication and utilizing technology effectively, healthcare organizations can not only boost their patient satisfaction scores but also secure their financial stability and referral growth.

In an era where patients have more choices than ever, exceptional patient-centered care is the key to thriving in the competitive healthcare landscape.


Susan Milligan, CHAM, CRCR, is the patient experience director for Ensemble Health Partners. Informed by her experiences in healthcare and as the mother of a child with Down syndrome, she is passionate about helping healthcare organizations improve their patient experience through empathy, empowerment and engagement.

These materials are for general informational purposes only. These materials do not, and are not intended to, constitute legal or compliance advice, and you should not act or refrain from acting based on any information provided in these materials.
Neither Ensemble Health Partners, nor any of its employees, are your lawyers.Please consult with your own legal counsel or compliance professional regarding specific legal or compliance questions you have.