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When one hears ‘patient experience’, they automatically think of the experience of the patient with their doctor. While this criteria,without any doubt, reigns supreme over any,it is surely not the only one which would ensure a holistic patient experience.
With all the chaos that ensued with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus has now shifted from just a good doctor-patient experience to providing patients with a feeling of safety and security. Creating an atmosphere where patients have a pleasant experience is a very important aspect and is the responsibility of healthcare providers.
From the time a patient engages with your business in any capacity to the time they leave your medical practice, having the guarantee of a good experience will help not only solidify patient retention but also demonstrate to the patients that you care.
Patient experience is therefore something all practice owners/healthcare providers should pay utmost attention to. According to a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “substantial evidence points to a positive association between various aspects of patient experience, such as good communication between providers and patients, and several important health care processes and outcomes.”
Patient experience encompasses their interaction with the healthcare system.This includes,their interactions with healthcare facilities online, with doctors,nurses,health plans etc.
In this article, we will be discussing what patient experience is, some common issues that hamper patient experience and how to improve patient experience, and the impact of patient experience on your healthcare practice.
Patient experience vs Patient satisfaction
Though often used interchangeably, patient experience and patient satisfaction signify different meanings. While patient experience is the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care, patient satisfaction is a measure of whether a patient’s expectations regarding his/her experience were met.
Guessing each patient’s expectation and catering to these different expectations might be a difficult task. Ensuring a good patient experience however, is something you can oversee and guarantee. Follow these simple rules to provide your patients with a good experience.
Patient experience Vs Patient engagement
- Simplify appointment bookings
- Make rescheduling of appointments easier
- Submit and collect patient data through various integrated EHR platforms
- Maintain online reputation and reviews
- Connect with the patient 24/7
- Automate appointment reminder systems and response patterns
Ways to improve patient engagement and patient experience
Minimize Response Times
Ensure Hygiene is Excellent
Ways to Improve Patient Experience: a journey
Imagine you are a patient looking to go to a healthcare provider. Let’s follow your journey and see how your experience goes and find ways to make your experience better if necessary.
Booking an appointment ; – A potential patient wants to gather information about the practice they’re about to visit. they go to google and do a quick search. Information that you receive during this process will play an important part in the decision making process. Managing online reputation thus becomes an important part of helping patients make a decision. Next, they open a hospital website to confirm the timings and to see whether they can book an appointment online.
Fun Fact : Poor user experience drives almost 50% of users to go with competitors instead
They see that they can indeed book an appointment online and proceed to book a slot for themselves. So far they’re happy because a scheduled appointment means they wouldn’t have to wait a long time to meet up with their doctor. It’s been a while, but they haven’t received a confirmation for their appointment. This frustrates them a bit , so they call the hospital helpline to try and get a confirmation. It’s taking a long time and they seem to get transferred from one department to another, finally they get through to an agent who informs them that their appointment has indeed been confirmed. So while their query has been resolved it took them a long time to get a satisfactory answer. How could this experience have been better?
- Provisions for online booking are a great feature that needs to be leveraged properly. Receiving an immediate response on one’s booking is highly desirable. Failure to do so resulted in contacting the helpine where a potential customer will have to to wait an even longer time. All these misfortunes can be avoided by using an AI based answering service which would smartly communicate with the patient. It can give immediate responses on the booking status and solve all patient queries related to scheduling, cancellation, payment etc,.Learn more about how this technology can be leveraged here.
Reaching the Medical Practice – The patient reaches the hospital and go to the waiting area. The employees at the reception seem to be occupied and do not pay heed to the patient .They wanted to inform the employees of their appointment but to no avail. After sometime they walk to the reception and inform the employees about their appointment. Employees say they’ll have to wait because the doctor had an emergency. Obviously it upsets them, because they would have expected to be informed about the same. They decide they have no other choice but to wait. What could have made this better?
- Studies have shown that outcome measures focused on improving communication and interaction were more successful than outcome measures focused on changing processes for better patient experience. So training your staff to be courteous and attentive to the patients should be a priority. The patients need to be assured that you are attentive towards them.
- With recent times, it is also important that communication about safety standards and rules are also conveyed to the patient. Ensuring that everyone wears a mask and the easy availability of sanitization stations are uncompromisable in a healthcare facility. Ensuring these would instill a feeling of safety in the patients.
- News about the unavailability of the doctor or the change in schedule could have also been easily conveyed to the patient in prior by the use of an answering service . Emitrr’s text based 2 way answering service has features to inform patients of such changes.
Meeting the Doctor – The patient is about to meet the doctor but they have to yet again fill a form. Afterwards they meet up with the doctor who asks them some details they just filled up in the form. The doctor keeps the conversation to the point and inquires about their health. He/She doesn’t pay much heed to niceties. What can be improved?
- Switching to an online system where patients are able to auto fill their answers would be a good way to try and improve patient experience. If you’re copying or scanning their insurance information into the computer, is it necessary to ask them to hand-write that information on multiple forms?
- As discussed earlier, improving communication with the patient is the biggest indicator of good patient experience. Physician-patient relationships can have profound positive and negative implications on clinical care. Stronger physician-patient relationships are correlated with improved patient outcomes. Studies have shown the approach taken by physicians to communicate information is equally important as the actual information that is being communicated. So it is important that doctors take an empathetic and caring approach towards their patients.
Leaving the hospital – The patient is now done with their consultation and start to head home. What can be done to improve their after consultation experience?
- The patient is sure to take note of a follow up that has occured after his/her visit. When you call your patient simply to ask how someone is doing after an appointment, it adds to a good patient experience.
- Asking patients to leave feedback after they are done with their consultation , would insure him/her that providing them with good patient experience is something you take seriously and that their input is valuable to you. This can again be accomplished by using an automated system like Emitrr that asks patients to rate their experience or leave feedback.
Maintaining a comfortable waiting area where the patients can feel relaxed is also one of the ways which adds to patient experience. Providing some magazines, some eatables and creating a soothing environment can help ease patients.
Now that you’ve had a run through of how a patient experience can look like and how one can improve the experience step by step, let’s look at the impact of this improved patient experience.
What is the impact of increased patient experience?
1. Improved patient engagement.
2.Improves your practice’s reputation.
3. Increased Revenue
Improved Patient Engagement
As discussed above, the days leading up to an appointment with the doctor also play an important role in how patients perceive their experience with your healthcare practice.
The old adage “ Out of sight, out of mind “ should be used as a percusary warning to every practice. One might wonder why is that? Patients often forget that they should make regular appointments with the doctor to keep their health in check. So the onus lies towards the healthcare practice to inculcate this habit of regular checkups in the patients.
Sending reminders days or a week before a scheduled appointment might not do the trick. They do help in ensuring that patients don’t miss an appointment, but what about the first step? i.e scheduling the appointment.
In these cases, it’s important that you keep your patients regularly engaged via other communication methods. By keeping a regular communication line with your patients it shows them that :
a) You have the knowledge and authority to share important information (health related)
b) You care about the patients well being
c) You take delivering important information to your patients seriously
What communication would then help you convey these messages to your patients?
You can schedule well timed Email Marketing or SMS marketing campaigns. These campaigns can include a range of messages you can send through. Newsletters related to health news you think patients should be updated about, important announcements for eg : Insurance policy updates, practice operational changes, etc.
To send such campaigns to your patient list you can use a software like Emitrr. Through the ‘campaigns’ option you will be able to compose a message, choose a list of contacts, and schedule when to send the campaign. Automating the entire process is also an option, by accessing ‘automations’.
Keeping regular communication with patients helps build trust and loyalty with them. These in turn will also significantly improve the patient engagement rates.
Improve your practice’s reputation
As discussed, collecting patient feedback by sending feedback forms to the patients after an appointment is very important. This helps to instill in the patient that you take their feedback seriously and are bent on providing the best experience to them. This, without doubt, needs to be coupled with actionable change according to the feedback received.
When patients become aware of these changes and the effort you put into collecting their feedback, it will help build your practice’s reputation. Your patients will start to speak positively of your practice and directly impact its reputation. One way in which you can ensure that your practice gets to be at the receiving end of this positive feedback is by sending the patients ‘Review links’. The greater the number of reviews you receive online, the more your practice’s reputation will improve.
The places where potential patients will search for a healthcare practice includes, google, facebook etc. To have a good presence on Google, you must have a Google My Business up and running. Learn how you can set up your gmb listing here. Having a significant number of reviews on a trusted platform such as Google, will drive a lot of potential patients to your practice. Similarly, Facebook is another platform where people go to get trusted recommendations from friends and family. It’s a good idea to collect reviews on your practice’s facebook page as well.
When patients are satisfied by their experience with your healthcare practice they will continue to make visits whenever necessary.
Fun Fact – In one of the patient surveys, over 70% respondents said that their loyalty to a healthcare practice is tied to their most recent practice visit.
So if you succeed in providing a good patient experience, you are also solidifying patient loyalty.
Word of mouth referrals are considered the strongest drivers of new business, and when your existing patients are satisfied with their experience in your practice they will suggest it to their friends and family resulting in increased revenue mediums.
As you can see, the impact of good patient experience is quite significant. Every practice should make sure that they take comprehensive steps in ensuring good patient experience. Not only will it have an immediate effect but it will also help you in the long run.