Finding new ways to improve your patients’ experience is more than just about making your patients happy. We’ve spent time talking together about how important the patient experience is for any healthcare system. It is, in essence, integral to the patient-centered care many systems have begun to focus on from listening to patient voice. Patients want to be part of their care plan, want to know they are with a doctor they can trust, and expect to have positive experiences when they visit their doctor.
Patient experience, and what those patients share with others, can make, or break, a healthcare system, and it’s important to manage it properly. Your marketing department—if you have one—isn’t the only area that needs to focus on patient experience. Genuine, organic patient experience requires a holistic approach between every department and each employee to the point that it becomes second nature. The stronger the base of your patient-centered approach in care, the better the responses.
The question is: How do you improve patient experience to gain these benefits? We’ve put together five ways you can do just that to help inspire you to create your own programs!
1. Online presence
Think that online reputation doesn’t matter in healthcare? The assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. About 90% of consumers use the internet to research local businesses before they work with them, and this includes healthcare providers. That means at any time most of your potential patients will see what others are saying about you online before they make a single phone call or appointment. Taking care of your online presence can be the difference between seeing more patients or closing your doors.
It’s not just in the reviews, however. Do you share helpful information on social media? Can your patients easily access you through updated information in search engines? All of this works together with your online presence. Your brand and the message you convey should be consistent across all channels.
For example, on your website you showcase numerous awards and detailed information, you are active on social media sharing educational posts, and you are responsive to a chat system you have on a forum. However, you might discover that your reviews are down because the clinic is known for shutting down early or overbooking to create long wait times. You may find that despite all the amazing things going for you, the online conversation about your brand isn’t consistently positive across the board.
This may not seem to directly impact patient experience, but it does because this may be the first and only interaction with your targeted market. Because of this, it is important to ensure that your online presence is on target with your goals, vision, and strategy to make the next steps much more effective.
Remember, just like creating a care plan, you have to cover all your bases.
2. Invest in employees
Your employees are your first line of interaction. This typically starts from administration—like front desk, reception, or admission—and then extends to direct care staff—your nurse aide, nurses, doctors, etc. As any of them can have interactions with your patients, developing them increases engagement. Research has shown how a fully engaged employee drives patient satisfaction rates higher.
Because of this, having focus on how you employees develop through their career and with your company will be of great benefit. Why is professional development so important for patient experience? Because professional development ensures you have the right people, with the right skills, and knowledge within your healthcare system.
Better understanding your employees’ goals and supporting their development will encourage them to stick around and continue to grow. In turn, employee retention and improved engagement improves your patients’ experience. Because you believe in those employees and show them you do, they also believe your organization. Like managing your online presence, this isn’t a direct metric within working with your patients, but a powerful way to create a culture of caring and value which extend lifecycle value over time. Just like there’s a buyer or patient journey, so too is there an employee journey. Take your employees through these steps to help them—and your organization—grow!
Examples of professional development:
- Virtual training
- Cross-train to broaden skill sets
- Mentoring programs
- Participation on professional organizations
- Relationship building through employee buddy system
The possibilities are numerous to invest in your best resources!
3. Bedside manner
Most of us at least know of House, M.D., and how the charismatic doctor is one of the best to solving almost impossible medical mysteries in the nick of time. We applaud his care, the success he has, and the lives he saves. We may even laugh at his acerbic wit. However, most of us wouldn’t want to deal with him directly in the flesh. His bedside manner leaves much to be desired.
Your bedside can be one of the few ways you can directly influence patient experience. Are you kind? Do you actively listen to what is being shared with you? How are you with explaining care or what you plan on doing? There are many more questions to ask yourself, but how you interact with patients when they are in the hospital gives multiple opportunities to improve their experience across each touchpoint.
Empathetic listening can be help you deal with patients who are struggling with diagnosis or simply wanting to feel like someone cares about what is happening to them. Feedback requests can ensure you are proactively taking in any frustrations or problems your patient may have had with their service before they even leave. Taking time for respite can help an employee who’s dealing with grief for losing patients or facing burnout get back to them so they can feel invigorated again.
Don’t think that bedside manner is only when the patient is in the examination room. Reception can meet patients with smiles and kind assistance. Billing offices can make sure they explain what is on a patient’s billing as clearly as possible. Housekeeping can make sure the clinic materials and building is clean, disinfected, and safe for patients and employees alike. Chick-Fil-A is consistently known for their high levels of customer service and interactions from everyone at their locations.
Asking yourself how you’ve shown your patients you value them in each interaction can lead to much higher patient satisfaction scores and keep patients coming back. Bedside manner is the “human” element that can provide relatively easy short-term wins as patient experience strategies evolve.
4. Involve Patients and Caregivers
Patients may seek care alone, but they are rarely completely alone. Sometimes you have patients that are facing their illness or issues alone, but most of the time they have a support system with them. Encourage patients to include their support system in their care plans, coming to visits, sharing questions and concerns, and even being contact points during the course of treatment.
Empowering patients and their supporters to have more say and influence over their care can be powerful. It can also help providers in ways they may not realize. Sometimes others know, or are more willing to speak about, issues they see with the patient. Others may know more about medical history or provide gap-closing information.
Or, and it may be the most important, they simply are the support the patient needs.
No matter the situation, involving a patient’s support network can greatly improve patient experience, and also extend to creating potential revenue later. Imagine you have a patient who had a bad case of the flu and you involved their spouse in their care, discussed signs to watch out for, and shared how to keep them safe. The spouse was also involved in hearing results of testing and keeping the doctors updated with the patient’s progress. Later, the spouse gets sick. They may be more inclined to come back to the same doctor to have that level of care provided for them. They could also share this in reviews or with others. Just by having one extra caregiver involved, you double your touchpoints to provide great experiences!
5. Leverage technology
During COVID we learned that remote access was necessary to keep people connected and their care continuing. Post-COVID, Tele-Med is still a viable, and preferred, option for patients to interact with providers. Having the ability for patients to have visits, check-ins, therapy sessions, and more online can be a great motivator for better experiences. It’s all about the accessibility.
As we mentioned in the online presence section, accessibility is important for many patients. Different ways to receive treatment can help patients be happier with the services they could use. It doesn’t have to be limited to just visits either!
A hospital, for example, can give options for patients to remote check-in to keep their place in line at urgent care or emergency rooms. It allows them to see not have to sit in a waiting room for long periods of time. You could also set up scheduling to be done online as well as on the phone to give patients complete views of your availability. You can also reach out to your patients or caregivers who are grieving to let them know you care. The more ways you are accessible using technology, the more responsive you can be for you patients.
Responsiveness can equal perceived value for your patients, and greater value leads to greater satisfaction.
Approaching different ways to improve patient satisfaction can be a simple process, and one that doesn’t always involve great financial investment. This is great when you think of the potential ROI on non-financial improvements! If you need help strategizing options or finding ways to improve your patient experience, Sogolytics is here to help. Connect with our team and we’ll be happy to find the solution that works for you.