Here’s How You Can Provide an Amazing Patient Experience That Will Sky Rocket Your Retention Rate
It might seem straightforward, but that’s not always the reality of the situation. Patient experience involves a combination of everything concerning healthcare and its auxiliary services. It starts with a patient making an appointment all the way to when the bill is paid and follow-up is initiated. The rewards of improving your patient experience are well worth the effort. A better experience leads to your business getting more referrals, a higher patient retention rate, better outcomes, and ultimately greater opportunity for growth.
It’s not just the doctor and patient encounter that affects the patient experience
It is important for everyone who has any contact with the patient to be mindful of every encounter. One minor disruption and the patient could leave with a bitter taste in his mouth, even if he has a great outcome.
A recent article on improving patient experience from The Modern Medicine Network says,
“It can’t be stressed enough that excellent patient relationship management is the key to improving the patient experience. However, most physician practices aren’t doing enough to nurture their connections both inside and outside the exam room.”
Request patient feedback
The first step toward bettering your patient experiences is to have an effective way to request feedback from your patients. Quantifying opinions on specific aspects of your business will give you a starting point so you don’t have to scramble to fix every issue at once. If you can clearly see what your patients like and dislike about their visit you’ll know where you’re thriving and where more investigation is needed.
By sending patients a short set of 3-5 questions after their visit you’ll get a high response rate and solid direction on where to focus your attention and your money. An electronic survey is best. It will save your team a lot of time and human errors.
Pro tip: There are a lot of systems out there that you can use to send patient surveys and generate online feedback. Make sure to compare your healthcare reputation management options before you choose.
It starts when the patient makes an appointment
Was it easy and convenient? Did the receptionist take into account the severity of his situation? If he was in pain did she show the right amount of empathy? Was there anything that could have been done to make the patient more comfortable? If the problem involved something sensitive to the patient were all discussions held in private? Was he or she embarrassed by the conversation? If it truly was an emergency did the staff treat it as such?
Be kind, patient, and understanding when communicating with your patients over the phone
From the first contact, you’re forming a relationship with your patient. It can be hard to read people over the phone and there are more opportunities to misconstrue the emotions when you can’t see the other person’s facial expressions.
Be sure to ask clarifying questions and don’t jump to conclusions about his or her situation. A rushed demeanor can lead to patients feeling less important to your business than they actually are. If you have to call a patient back, let them know how long it will be before you contact them, confirm their phone number, and stick to your promises.
If you don’t assess your phone tree every few months, it may need a revamp. Patients use it every day and so make sure to consider these simple tips to improve your phone system.
If people expect one thing and you deliver another, your patients may view your office as unprepared or less than thoughtful. Setting expectations with your patients conveys respect for their time and that you care about their comfort as well as their quality of care.
Sometimes this means admitting that you and your staff are human and that’s perfectly fine.
- Are you running a little behind? Call your patients that will be affected to let them know.
- Is your office usually packed on Saturdays? That mom with a toddler might think twice about scheduling on the weekend or at least will be prepared.
- Will it take a few days to get test results back? Be upfront about it.
- Are you going to need a urine sample? Let your patient know as soon as they arrive.
Letting people know what to expect from your team and people won’t be disappointed. A little extra communication goes a long way.
Setting expectations also includes preparing your patients for their visit. If you perform procedures that might be nerve-wracking or confusing for patients, sending out some quality patient education materials will show that you have their best interests and comfort in mind.
Empathy and compassion
This is probably the biggest thing you can do to improve your patient experience. Even if your waiting room is unattractive, your wait time is long, and scheduling isn’t the smoothest, an empathetic and compassionate staff can make all the difference to your patients.
The attitude of the staff is one of the most frequently mentioned factors in both positive and negative online reviews. If you have people posting on Google about how rude a staff member was to them, your reputation is going to take a big hit. If this is the boat you are in, the best thing you can do is to write a good response to the negative review and then work on a little extra sensitivity for the future.
The waiting room sets the stage
Whether your patients are spending 30 seconds or 30 minutes in your waiting area, it makes a difference in how comfortable their visit is. Sure, stains on the carpet and plastic chairs can easily lead to people searching for a more up to date facility. But there’s more to consider than just a clean and comfortable waiting area.
Treats and beverages
Most doctors offices provide beverages and small treats for patients in the waiting area. A Keurig, a water cooler, and some candies can be provided at a small cost and are commonplace in any waiting room. I made myself an espresso while I waited for my car at the mechanic just the other day and I have to say, a little caffeine made the wait a lot less painful.
Colors and decor
You don’t need to be an interior designer, but if you have an eye for design it helps! The artwork on the walls and tasteful touches go a long way. Your color scheme has an effect on people’s mood. Avoid bright reds and oranges in your waiting area as they are excitable and can make patients more anxious or stresses. Instead, go with yellows, blues, and greens which are calming and comforting.
Magazines are nice, but these days big screen TVs are the expectation. Many practices have educational yet interesting videos playing for patients in their waiting rooms. Avoid playing the news, it can be frustrating, depressing, or just uninteresting for many people.
There are a lot of tips for waiting room layouts. For a comfortable experience consider where seating is facing the middle of the room versus other areas. Create a clear path to the doorways and give patients space between one another. If you’re an office that often treats patients with communicable illnesses it’s important to provide a separate waiting area for them.
Pro tip: Plants add a sense of calmness and wellbeing to any space. They are an inexpensive addition to spruce up a waiting room’s vibe.
Help patients contact their insurance company
Dealing with health insurance is not only confusing, but it’s also stressful for most people. Offering some extra help on this is a huge relief and it lets people know you’ve got their back. If you send them home to make the call themselves and then call you back, it often takes patients multiple calls back and forth to you and the insurance company. Information can be misconstrued or misunderstood and there’s a good chance you’ll spend more time on the phone with the patient trying to help them later than you would have if you had walked them through it in the office.
Get more patient reviews
Your online reviews form a patient’s first impression of your business and that first impression affects your patients’ opinions of you. It’s psychology. A doctor with no reviews may be met with just as much skepticism as a doctor with bad reviews. People end up seeing your online ratings, even when they aren’t looking for them. Think about it, when you go to look up directions, the number of stars the business has is shown on Google maps. If you are aware of what people see online you can take steps to get more patient reviews and shine the spotlight on your best features.
Want to improve your patient experience and get great online reviews?
Making improvements that matter most to your patients is the best way to improve your patient experience
With the right approach, you can quickly build a strategy to improve your patient satisfaction leading to more referrals, a reputation for quality care, and a higher patient retention rate. By improving your waiting room, your communication, your scheduling, and your online reviews, your patient experience will be constantly improving as well. Even if you are getting positive patient feedback on your current processes there are always areas that could use a little extra attention, it’s just a matter of finding them!