Think about the last time you enjoyed a great experience as a customer.
Now think about a time you encountered a bad customer experience.
How did both interactions make you feel? Given a choice, which of the two businesses would you support and return to, and which would you avoid? Which would you recommend to a friend, and which might you consider leaving a negative online review for?
Much like a good customer experience, a good patient experience is imperative to the success of your practice. A happy patient is a loyal patient who can positively impact your revenue and reputation. They’ll not only return to you repeatedly but also become an advocate for your practice — a source of word-of-mouth referrals and growing awareness for your organization.
An unhappy patient, meanwhile, could have a lasting, damaging impact on your reputation and revenue. Sadly, 51% of practices have been negatively impacted by poor reviews, and 91% of patients trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when selecting healthcare providers.
The good news? You’re in the driver’s seat regarding patient experience and have control over how it impacts your practice.
What is patient experience?
Patient experience is what patients encounter throughout every aspect and interaction of their healthcare journey. It encompasses every patient touchpoint — from the ease of information gathering on your website and seamless appointment scheduling to the waiting room atmosphere, provider communication, and continuum of care.
When considering improvements to patient experience, the most common mistake a practice can make is to focus solely on patient feedback.
While online reviews and the outcome of standardized surveys like CAHPS are critical, the patient experience consists of so much more. Without walking through the patient experience yourself, plenty can be missed.
One exercise that has proven to be the most effective at evaluating a practice’s online and offline patient experience is to have members of the leadership team go through the entire patient journey themselves – from pre-appointment and an in-office visit to receiving post-appointment communications and follow-up.
Take notes on where you — as the patient — would like to see improvements. Perhaps you’ll notice paperwork that could be completed online rather than having stacks of pre-appointment forms to complete in the office. You could spot the potential for a more soothing waiting room TV experience — home improvement or nature shows over anxiety-inducing news channels. Maybe you see patients are forced to walk a long way to the front door and look to lease additional parking spots. There could be opportunities for post-appointment patient education materials, educational videos on your website, or even follow-up phone calls to ensure the patient is adequately prepared for the next steps.
Other factors that can impact patient experience:
- Ease of access and timeliness: Do you offer online appointment scheduling and digital appointment reminders? Is a qualified staff member available to promptly address patients’ follow-up questions via phone or email? Is your check-in process quick and efficient, with clear expectations set on waiting time?
- Look and feel of your practice both on and offline: Is your website patient-friendly? Is it helpful, informative, and easy to use? Does it reflect an appealing, comfortable, clean office environment so patients know what to expect?
- Attentiveness of staff: Are patients treated with warmth, patience, and respect by every staff member?
- Exceptional communication: Whether it’s phones answered with prompt enthusiasm, eye contact, unwavering attention, and plenty of time for questions during appointments, do you consider the human factor when communicating?
- Cost transparency: 80% of patients want their provider’s help communicating what insurance covers vs. what they owe, but 45% of doctors report not doing a good job with this request. How can your practice improve its cost transparency?
Why is patient experience important?
The on-demand economy has not only revolutionized consumer behavior but has also greatly impacted how we expect service to be delivered across the board.
Think of the ease and flexibility of your day-to-day online experiences. Need a new coffee maker? You’re a mere click away, thanks to Amazon’s Buy Now functionality. Struggling with what to watch once the kids have gone to bed? Netflix has developed cutting-edge algorithms to serve a personalized carousel of options uniquely tailored to your preferences.
The transactions are so routine and seamless we barely think about them. They’re what we’ve come to expect.
In today’s medical landscape, patients have no shortage of healthcare options and are not afraid to go elsewhere if the experience isn’t up to par. By going the extra patient-centered mile, your practice can increase the quality of care, improve patient outcomes, and boost staff morale and fulfillment. Not to mention, patient retention is much more cost-effective than patient acquisition. And, of course, a happy patient is an excellent source of patient referrals and increased practice revenue.