Researchers from Loughborough University have revealed how patients are struggling to get the service they need from GPs’ receptionists.
The pioneering research into their interaction with the public over the telephone has revealed how poor their service can be unless patients are pushy.
The study, led by Elizabeth Stokoe, Professor of Social Interaction in the Department of Social Sciences examined – for the first time – how receptionists interact with patients over the telephone. Professor Stokoe uses conversation analysis to understand what constitutes ineffective communication.
Independent patient satisfaction scores for the three surgeries involved in the study, which were collected from the GP Patient Survey, were compared with the relative frequency of ‘patient burden’. A strong association was found between increased ‘patient burden’ and decreased satisfaction survey scores.
Professor Stokoe says the findings of the study should be used to improve communication between GP surgeries and their patients.
“The strengths of this study are in its analysis of actual, real-time encounters between the patient and the GP receptionist – effectively the ‘shop window’ of the practice,”
This research, using conversation analysis, represents an important step forward in evidence gathering of what needs to change in order to improve the patient experience in GP surgeries. The findings can help inform future training, rather than having to rely on post-hoc reports of, or surveys about, communicative encounters.
The study has also flagged, what I would term a phenomenon of interest, whereby rather than the receptionist offering an alternative course of action during the call, the burden is placed on the patient to keep the call going and push for the service they require. This kind of scenario was common across the dataset. In one instance, the receptionist initiates a closing of the call without any alternative proposal being made. In comparison, more effective receptionists made immediate alternative offers when the patient’s first request could not be met.” she said.
The study entitled ‘Calling the GP surgery: patient burden, patient satisfaction, and implications for training’ has been published in the British Journal of General Practice.