With patient-centered care becoming a driving force behind the healthcare industry, understanding and improving the patient experience is becoming crucial to make your organization more efficient, deliver higher quality care, and retain patients.
The patient experience comprises every interaction a patient has within the healthcare system. How easy is it to access information on your practice? Can appointments be quickly booked online? How efficient are your staff? Every touchpoint of the patient’s journey, from preliminary research to leaving the doors of a clinic influences the perception of your organization and will shape its future success. In order to deliver a better patient experience, providers should take a more holistic and individualized approach.
The Pitfalls of Poor Patient Experience
Many factors can lead to a poor patient experience, for example:
- A website or app that’s hard to use
- Long wait times
- Bad patient service
- Poor communication
Although seemingly obvious, these can be catastrophic for any organization. Patients become more trusting of their providers when they feel they’re being listened to and receiving proper attention[¹]. When that doesn’t happen, it becomes difficult to retain patients who will look elsewhere. While the industry further digitizes and younger generations move towards virtual care, even a poor digital experience is detrimental with 61% of 18-24 year olds saying they would consider switching providers[²]because of it. Poor experiences can lead to bad reviews or word of mouth and therefore make it difficult to acquire new patients, affecting financial outcomes.
Additionally, a better patient experience is associated with improved clinical outcomes[³]. Hospitals with higher experience ratings tend to have lower rates of readmissions and a lower likelihood of minor complications. It’s great to be able to better retain or acquire patients, but the goal is ultimately to keep people as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Six Methods to Elevate the Patient Experience
- Build your online presence
Seeing as how the likely first touchpoint with your organization will be when potential patients are conducting research, having an up-to-date online presence is imperative. Creating a custom healthcare website that is easily navigable, professional, and makes it clear how to contact your practice will send a good first impression, 57% of consumers go online when searching for a new provider, with close to half visiting a health system website in the process[⁴]. It’s also a great idea to include testimonies and reviews from current patients as good reviews can help bolster your practice’s ranking when being searched for online – the more you have, the more ‘prominent’ you will become when searches are made, pushing you closer to the top of your local ranking[⁵]. To facilitate a positive online presence, asking patients to fill out patient satisfaction surveys at the end of a visit should be standard. This not only lets your practice know what to change but empowers consumers to make more informed decisions.
- Provide digital options
Another important aspect of elevating the patient experience is digitizing your organization. Each year, the demand for online booking is growing. 42% of patients prefer making appointments online[⁶] so make it easy to schedule visits through your website, an app, email, text, or a patient portal app. Once an appointment is made, your digital presence should continue by sending out confirmations and reminders as the date draws closer. Automated patient appointment reminders are good to help avoid no-shows, saving time and money.
- Allow intake forms to be completed beforehand
To streamline the process further, give patients the option to complete patient intake forms online. This means when they reach your organization they don’t have to add unnecessary wait times by filling out paperwork and can do so at their own convenience.
- Streamline the waiting process
With wait times in mind, make sure to reduce the time patients spend in a waiting room. A great option is adopting the virtual waiting room. This is an all-encompassing service that allows patients to digitally complete paperwork, use self-check-in systems for virtual and in-person visits, receive instructions before a visit, message their providers, and be informed where their exam room is located and when their doctor is ready.
- Show off the quality of your care
During a visit, make sure to be attentive towards patients. Give the highest quality of care possible and make sure your practice is professional and clean.
- Follow up with patients
The post-visit is incredibly important, too, and often overlooked. Don’t forget your patient’s needs after and in between meetings. It’s easy for someone to become overwhelmed trying to schedule specialists or follow new healthcare routines, whether it’s lifestyle changes or adhering to medication. Send updates, advice and openly communicate with your patients to ensure they’re getting the treatment they need and building trust towards your organization.
In the end, patient-facing care is important for your organization’s longevity, but also the outcome of those who come to your practice. Understand how the patient experience affects their satisfaction, and invest in elevating it wherever possible.
- PHCPI. (2018). Patient-Provider Respect and Trust. [online] PHCPI. Available at: https://improvingphc.org/improvement-strategies/availability-effective-phc/patient-provider-respect-and-trust.
- Cedar (2019). Study Finds U.S. Healthcare Consumers Will Switch Providers Over Poor Digital Experiences. [online] www.prnewswire.com. Available at: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-finds-us-healthcare-consumers-will-switch-providers-over-poor-digital-experiences-300934851.html
- Harvard Business Review. (2018). IMPROVING THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE A Four-Part Approach to Delivering the Care Patients Want and Need. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/resources/pdfs/comm/siemens/HBR_White_Paper_SiemensHealthineers_ImprovingPatientX.pdf
- Kyruus. (2020). 2020 Patient Access Journey Report. [online] Kyruus. Available at: https://www.kyruus.com/2020-patient-access-journey-report-lp
- Google Business Profile Help. (n.d.). How to improve your local ranking on Google – Google Business Profile Help. [online] Available at: https://support.google.com/business/answer/7091
- Doctor.com. (2018). Customer Experience Trends in Healthcare 2018.[online] Doctor.com. Available at: https://cms.doctor.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/patienttrends_report_v1.4.pdf