10 Ways To Enhance Patient Experience
by Tyson Downs
Patient experience has always been important, but its impact has significantly increased over the past few years. As the healthcare industry continues to go through a complete overhaul, a positive patient experience will have to incorporate new technologies and data. A patient-centric approach is possible in an industry that is often complicated and highly regulated. Although there will constantly be pressure to improve outcomes, reduce costs and increase patient volume; enhancing patient experience will remain just as important.
The goal here is to achieve proactive and personalized healthcare by using the tools that are available today.
It goes far beyond doctor-patient relationships, as patient experience can also incorporate the following variables:
- Online booking
- Valet parking
- Upgraded entertainment options (streaming services, premium video game consoles, tablets, etc.)
- Gourmet meals
- Turn-down service
As patients review and share their satisfaction on social networks, the opportunity for you is huge! If you can enhance all aspects of patient experience, (regardless of whether it’s a small private practice or a large hospital) and be known as a premium provider that goes beyond what others in the industry do, image what that will do to your bottom line as word spreads about the crazy, awesome experience that somebody had when they visited your office.
Traditionally, hospitals, drug rehab facilities, and mutli physician clinics, and similar types of settings have been focused on patient volume and profit. This philosophy will have to change to one that adopts a patient-centric business model. Further, patient experience must go hand-in-hand with the strategic vision of the organization.
As staying competitive is crucial to the longevity of an organization, providers need to start changing from a single-patient view. Today, it's important to incorporate all of your touch-points to develop a new holistic view of the patient before, during and after treatment.
So how do you improve patient experience?
1. Adopt a Patient-Centric Business Model
Hospitals and private practices need to start focusing on a patient-centric model like the customer-centric model approach of commercial brands. You'll need to figure out if your institution is meeting all of the patient’s expectations.
In order to execute a successful paradigm shift, the organization’s philosophy and approach may need to change from top to bottom (as everyone needs to have a common focus on patient experience). In order to successfully shift to a patient-centric model, every part of the organization will need to reflect the change. Simply put: adding it as a bullet point to an overall mission statement will not suffice.
Put patients first and it will certainly enhance patient satisfaction. Not adopting a patient-centric approach puts the organization at risk of focusing on activities that don’t have an impact on patient satisfaction.
Whenever you need to, always swing back and reacquaint yourself with patient-centric healthcare to stay on course.
2. Get Doctors to Improve Patient Engagement
Studies have shown that physicians have a direct impact on 40-75% of all hospital revenue. As a result, physicians play a vital part in providing an enhanced patient experience. Because of this, medical facilities need to engage with practitioners as partners in care to improve their own experiences. If you look at customer experience in other industries, it’s the happy and efficient staff that generally provide better customer experience without sacrificing profitability. Therefore, it’s important to properly train medical staff and to manage their grievances properly. A well trained and happy employee will add another dimension to the service they offer, thus improving patient engagement
As I'm sure you know, the Affordable Care Act has significantly transformed healthcare. Some would say that it has changed the focus from a profit-driven business model to one that is focused on patient satisfaction.
Further, today's patient has evolved. Perhaps it is a bit of entitlement, I'm not sure, but as you've no doubt seen, they have very high expectations. Patients are more engaged with their treatment options (many do their own research) and have come to expect the same type of type of interaction they have with commercial brands outside of the healthcare industry.
As a result, the paradigm shift has changed organizational priorities with more focus placed on analytics and metrics.
To cater to the modern patient, significant emphasis needs to be placed on the following:
- Quality of care
- Time spent
With 1 in 20 Google searches falling under patient-initiated medical searches, it is important to note that this is the first point of contact in many instances. According to Google, 77% of patients search for information before booking an appointment.
As a result, the demand for physician (digital) marketing will continue to grow as practitioners work toward improved visibility in a crowded marketplace.
It’s also important to note that 62% of smartphone users use their mobile device to search for information regarding health conditions. As mobile marketing is different from traditional digital marketing that we are accustomed to, physicians need to devise specific, mobile strategies to grow their business.
Important healthcare marketing statistics to consider:
- Online videos are HUGE; 1 in 8 patients view them to learn about medical procedures or the staff.
- Healthcare provider selection is heavily influenced by social media (so it’s important to maintain a significant dental social media presence).
- Traditional marketing in healthcare doesn’t work like it used to. However, inbound marketing has the potential to deliver 54% more leads.
According to a study conducted by BerylHealth, a focus on patient experience will have a positive impact on patient experience:
- Post-discharge communication
- Perform interactive care
3. Understand your Patient
To provide improved patient experiences, you have to first understand the patient. Most of this knowledge comes from direct contact.
Create opportunities for various staff members to work with other departments within your facility. This allows them to develop an understanding of the patients via face-to-face interactions, as well as learn the various functions of other departments.
It’s important to be able to refer back to these experiences when making important decisions. When all employees have some sort of interaction with the patients, it will help them see things from a patient's perspective.
Further, collecting and maintaining a robust database of patient interactions can help you with your overall patient-centric strategy. The data collected can include everything from internal data to surveys and feedback.
Performing these tasks will essentially make it easier for healthcare providers to identify opportunities to improve the patient experience. As a result, in-house research should always be clearly defined and actionable.
4. Providing Superior Patient (Customer) Service is Vital
Everyone working for the organization (regardless of whether they’re actively involved with patients) needs to be attentive, friendly and treat the patient with respect and courtesy throughout the interaction.
By giving your undivided attention to the patient, you will essentially leave the patient feeling:
If improving patient satisfaction is your goal, staff need to be trained to keep their personal life away from the patients’ ears.
5. Seek Out Patient Interactions
Regardless of individual positions, staff should be encouraged to look for opportunities to engage with patients. Being friendly, making eye contact, and just asking them how they are doing can go a long way.
Patients don’t expect employees that don't directly provide care to remember them. Therefore, any positive interactions between administrative staff and the patient can go a long way toward improving patient satisfaction.
Plus, you never know who that patient that you are chatting with really is! Perhaps they are your next big donor!
6. Incorporate a Strategy to Decrease Anxiety
Patients coming in for a medical procedure can sometimes arrive full of fear and anxiety. To help alleviate stress, send information about the procedure, the institution, staff profiles, tips and reminders before they come in for a scheduled procedure.
7. Set-Up a System of Accountability
In order to consistently provide exceptional patient experience, your organization must devise a system for accountability. By developing a measurement system that tracks anonymous feedback from patients and colleagues, employees can significantly improve the quality of their patient interaction.
This data can also be used to motivate staff members by publicly recognizing those who provided good service. Further, other departments and individual employees can use this as a benchmark to improve and learn from the success of others.
When dealing with discontent, always create a plan to improve accountability.
Information derived from employee satisfaction surveys can also be used as a tool to change staff behaviors. It’s hard to improve something without measuring it, but improvement methodologies like Six Sigma can be utilized in this situation to successfully change staff behavior.
8. Embrace Big Data Analytics
As the world becomes better connected and digitized, the development of a personal health cloud is important to access important data from everyday devices:
- Machine learning
As the Internet of Things (IoT) gains significant traction over the next few years, a proper system to collect, manage, analyze and store the data will be imperative. This, in turn, will enable practitioners to make better informed and personalized decisions concerning a patient’s health.
Big data health clouds will also need to be developed along with machine learning technologies to automatically predict and prescribe. This technology has the potential to make personalized diagnoses, develop recommendation engines and provide enhanced feedback to patients.
The biggest challenge here is getting around the structural and regulatory design. Unlike commercial industries, healthcare operates on payment for services through intermediated payments or reimbursement. In most cases, patients themselves are not paying directly for the services rendered.
As a result, it impedes the collection of data to analyze and use to improve patient experience. Unlike commercial establishments that rely on real-time data to make recommendations, healthcare can't do the same as a result of regulatory roadblocks.
Further, data-driven behavior changing tools and remote diagnostics models won’t financially benefit providers as there is no current framework for reimbursement.
9. Build Behavior Modifying Tools
Harmful behaviors like smoking, drinking and poor diet are major contributors to high medical expenses. Building applications that have the ability to support healthy behaviors can help make a real change across the spectrum.
Further, it provides a wealth of data that can be used to identify new opportunities to enhance patient experience. It’s also a tool that can be used to support patients once they have been discharged from a clinical setting.
New mobile applications need to be built to help guide the patient and the behavior, rather than just track it. With personalized individual guidance, patients have a real opportunity to develop healthy behaviors.
By measuring patient experience and satisfaction, you can basically measure the progress made by the whole institution, measure the health of the organization and track progress. It’s important to note here that you can’t just stop after the data is collected. It has to be an ongoing exercise if you truly want to achieve excellent patient satisfaction.
You can energize your patient experience strategy by focusing the following key points:
- The patient is the primary focus of everything
- Be clear about your goals and why you want to achieve them
- Maintain a sustainable momentum so that the changes that have been made become part of the organizational culture quickly
- Maintain top to bottom leadership vision and support
- Make sure that everyone in the organization is adequately engaged
- Be persistent and committed to continuous action
10. Create a Positive Environment for Patients and Staff
Like any other business, having a positive work culture makes a big difference. Promote a healthy working environment where employees are driven by the patients that they serve rather than avoiding reprimands.
An empowered workforce has the ability to empower the patients they serve. These days, most organizations have a patient and family advisory councils, so why not put them to good use?
These groups provide important feedback from the most mundane to the most serious functions within the organization.
It’s a great way to learn first-hand about satisfactory ways to deal with situations that arise (handling death with compassion, for example).
Many doctors and staff members may experience compassion fatigue and even burnout. Digital tools can be structured to monitor this to ensure that patients receive compassionate care. After all, our experiences are what influence better overall health and better outcomes.
What steps have you taken to improve patient experience? What is your biggest challenge in improving patient experience in your office? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the Author
Tyson Downs, the owner of Titan Web Agency, has years of experience working with small businesses and helping them meet their revenue goals. Prior to starting Titan Web Agency, he freelanced in SEO and Web Design while working in the corporate world. Tyson is a graduate of Brigham Young University, the father of 5, and enjoys spending time with his family. Particularly on the baseball field.