Patient experience should be a top priority in every practice. On average, people consult a doctor only when they are sick. This means they only visit the doctor when they are most desperate. When your clients experience something that makes them rethink how important you are to them, it will make them consider other providers who better cater to their needs.
The consumerization of patient access to medical care has shifted how practices engage with their patients. Fortunately, small practices have the advantage of creating an environment many patients will value: a practice that knows them on a personal level, cares about their needs, and goes out of its way to see that its patients are getting the best service possible.
Focusing on your patient's experience in your practice will help your practice retain patients for life, increase revenue, and lead to better medical outcomes.
What is the patient experience?
The patient experience is the sum of all the interactions a patient has with your practice and its employees. It includes everything from how long it takes for someone to get an appointment, to how long they wait in the waiting room, to how their doctor treats them during their appointment.
How you treat patients will determine their satisfaction levels. If they don't feel like they're being listened to or taken seriously, they'll be less likely to return—and if they do return, they'll probably not be as engaged in their care as they need to be. But if you make an effort to make patients feel valued and respected, they'll be more likely to trust your team with their healthcare needs.
Why is the patient experience important?
The patient experience is important because it has a direct effect on the quality of care patients receive, and therefore the outcomes they achieve. The patient experience directly impacts the quality of care because it helps determine whether or not patients will return to their doctors and other medical professionals. If they are satisfied with the care they receive, they will be more likely to return for additional treatment.
High patient satisfaction also affects the quality of care by helping ensure good communication between patients and practitioners—communication that can help prevent errors from occurring during treatment. Patients who feel like their concerns are being heard and addressed are much less likely to complain about poor communication, which may lead to errors down the line when practitioners fail to follow up on patient questions or concerns.
When patients feel like their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed, they're more likely to feel better about the care they've received. In fact, research has shown that patient satisfaction can predict whether or not a patient will return to a practice. When your patients have a positive experience at your practice, they're also likely to recommend it to others—which means that when someone thinks about visiting your practice, they'll remember what their friend said about it first.
How can you start to improve the patient experience in your practice?
You can start to improve the patient experience in your practice by understanding what is important to your patients.
Often, doctors and staff don't realize that their patients are not satisfied with how they are treated. Doctors need to understand that patients come for their health care, but also for the experience of being cared for in a medical setting.
Patients want to be treated with respect and dignity, and they want to feel like their concerns are being taken seriously. They want to know that you will take good care of them, and they want to be able to trust you with their health. They also want you to have a good bedside manner and follow through on promises made during appointments.
If you're interested in improving the patient experience in your practice, there are some things you can do right away:
-Ensure you and your staff follow the basic fundamentals of respectful patient engagement:
-Empathy - The ability to listen and respond appropriately to the patient's
concerns. This may include taking time to hear them out before jumping into a
diagnosis or treatment plan.
-Collaboration - The ability to work together with the patient on a course of
action that will lead them towards better health or well-being. This could mean
providing information about all options so that they can decide what best suits
their needs, or simply asking questions about their lifestyle and habits so that you
can tailor your recommendations accordingly.
-Make sure that all staff members treat each other with respect and kindness at
all times; this will set an example for how patients should be treated as well.
-Put yourself in your patient's shoes and walk through the entire process of
setting up a visit, coming into the practice, taking care of the paperwork,
waiting for the visit, the medical visit itself including all interactions with your
team, post-visit and medical and billing/follow up communication. Would you
want to be treated the way you currently treat your patients?
-Leveraging Technology - Using technology in ways that enhance the patient
experience without detracting from it (for example, using email
correspondence rather than phone calls).
-Set up systems so patients can give feedback on their experiences after visits or
procedures; this will help identify areas where your practice needs
These are only a few examples of good practices to engage and retain patients but being conscious of the patient experience and understanding the value returned by prioritizing it is the first step in improving patient experience and creating lifelong clients.
Foothill Practice Management offers affordable practice management solutions for practices throughout the US. Reach out to us to learn how we can help your practice thrive.