5 Ways to Improve the Patient ExperiencePosted: November 16, 2021 - By Health Dev
It used to be that providing top-notch patient care was enough to build and maintain a successful practice. Today, however, you need to do more. Along with treating patients with the utmost care, you need to provide an optimal overall patient experience.
The road from potential patient to established patient is a long one. It begins with online research, which occurs well before a person contacts you to make an appointment. It continues through the scheduling process and the actual visit itself — but it doesn’t end there. It lasts well after a patient leaves your office and decides to make another appointment. In other words, it’s an ongoing cycle.
Being on top of your patient experience game might seem like a lot of work, but it’s well worth the time and effort it takes. In fact, 96% of patients believe the patient experience is a critical factor in choosing a provider. A 2019 U.S. Healthcare Consumer Experience Study found that 41% of patients would stop going to a provider over a poor digital experience alone in favor of a practice that offers a better one.
The Importance of an Optimal Patient Experience
As competition increases, patients are making their decisions on what provider to visit based on several factors. Essentially, they’re looking for an overall incredible experience — both inside and outside of the office.
The overall patient experience encompasses all interactions a potential or existing patient has with your practice — including those that occur before and after the appointment. This includes everything from the ease of getting an appointment when needed to check-in to the actual visit itself and beyond.
When you offer an optimized patient experience, your new and existing patients are sure to take notice. Implementing strategies that make things easier and more convenient can make patients want to stay with your practice long-term. They can help you attract and retain new patients as well. That can help your practice thrive, grow, and continue providing high-quality care and experiences to all of your patients.
Top 5 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience
Repeated positive interactions can go a long way in helping your practice deliver the best possible patient experiences. When you’re able to provide an exceptional overall experience, patients are more likely to trust your practice over others. They’re more likely to continue coming back because you’ve worked to build a strong relationship and sense of loyalty with them.
There are several strategies you can implement to help improve the patient experience. Here are five of the top options to consider.
1. Create and Maintain a Solid Online Presence
While word of mouth is still an effective way to bring patients to your office, most potential patients begin their search for a provider online. In other words, the first impression you leave with a majority of prospective patients is what they see on the internet. As such, a solid online presence is a must.
Building the Right Website
A significant part of your online presence is your website. When a potential patient searches for healthcare providers to meet their needs, they’ll generally come across that first. Your website is a reflection of your practice’s brand. It shows them what they can expect from you if they decide to make an appointment.
Your website should provide clear, consistent information on every page. High-quality images offer potential patients a better sense of your practice’s overall brand before they arrive. Including actual testimonials from current and past patients can help build trust. A blog that you regularly update with relevant content that provides value can also help to establish your practice as a trustworthy authority.
Pay Attention to Reviews
Another factor to keep in mind is your online reviews. Approximately 70% of patients read reviews before choosing a practice. While positive reviews are the goal, even the best practices get a few bad ones here and there. It’s not always about how many positive reviews you get either. In many cases, patients look to see how a practice responds to the negative ones. Online review management is critical. Reaching out to unsatisfied patients and trying to fix the situation tells potential patients that you care about their experiences. It also shows that you’re willing to work with them to fix any wrongdoings or mishaps that may have occurred.
Optimize for SEO
In today’s highly digital world, you’ll also want to optimize your website for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) makes it easier for search engines like Google to rank you. When you use strategies like incorporating keywords, ensuring your site pages load quickly, and optimizing for mobile devices, you can help get your website to the top of the search results pages.
Take Advantage of Social Media
Your online presence doesn’t end at your website, though. One study found that nearly two-thirds of physicians use social media platforms for professional reasons. Not only that, but professional use of social media by healthcare providers is on the rise. It’s not only for marketing either. Healthcare providers are using social media to provide valuable information and engage with existing and potential patients. Interacting with followers and providing them with answers to their questions can help build trust and establish loyalty.
While you don’t need to be on every single social media platform, having a presence on a few can benefit your practice and improve the patient experience as a whole.
2. Offer an Online Booking Option on Your Website
Let’s face it; calling to make appointments isn’t the most convenient thing to do. Potential patients have to take time out of their schedule to pick up the phone. That takes away from other tasks they may need to do. Not only that, but they could end up having to wait on hold for an unknown amount of time. Along with taking up more of their valuable time, waiting on hold can be frustrating.
On the flip side, making appointments by phone isn’t much easier for your practice either. Answering calls and trying to work with a potential patient to find a time slot that fits within their schedule takes away from other tasks that your front desk staff needs to complete. That often includes managing patients already in the office.
Blend Traditional Phone Booking With an Online System
While you can still offer patients the ability to call and schedule appointments, consider implementing an online booking system, too. According to a 2020 report by Kyruus, 48% of patients still prefer making appointments by phone. However, 43% prefer booking online — and that number will continue to rise each year.
Empowering your patients to make their own appointments on your website or patient portal helps them and your office staff. Both new and existing patients can schedule appointments when it’s convenient for them — including after hours. They can see all available slots on a given day and choose what works best for them.
At the same time, an online scheduling system also benefits your staff. Those working at the front desk won’t have to spend time answering as many phone calls, which means fewer interruptions. They can focus their attention more fully on essential tasks and taking care of the patients waiting in the office. Additionally, an online booking system can keep your practice’s schedule fuller more frequently. With more appointments, your practice can bring in more revenue.
3. Send Automated Appointment Reminders
The traditional method of reminding patients of their appointments and obtaining appointment confirmations is to call each patient individually. It works, but like scheduling appointments by phone, it takes a lot of time. That’s time your front office staff could be using for administrative tasks or assisting patients currently in the office.
For patients, phone calls might not always be the most convenient method of receiving reminders or confirming their appointments either. They might forget to write down the date and time (or think they’ll remember it), which could result in late arrivals or no-shows. Both of these situations present problems for your practice as well as your patients.
Save Time With Automated Reminders
Automated appointment confirmations and reminders offer a solution. They show your patients that you value their time by sending them an unobtrusiveunintrusive message that lets them know when their appointments are. At the same time, these messages can help to reduce your no-show rate, which benefits your practice significantly.
Research supports the trend toward automated appointment reminders and confirmations via text message, with nearly two-thirds of patients preferring this method of communication. Send periodic automated messages starting as soon as the patient books an appointment online (or over the phone). As the date approaches, your practice can then send a message asking the patient to reply with “yes” or “no” to confirm (or cancel/reschedule) their appointment. If they don’t respond, you could then send another message the day before the appointment to ask again. Even if they do reply to confirm, one more message the day before may prove helpful in reminding the patient and ensuring that they not only arrive but also arrive on time.
4. Provide Your Intake Forms on Your Website or Patient Portal
Filling out patient intake forms takes time. In the past, many practices would ask patients to arrive 15 minutes or more ahead of their scheduled appointments to fill out all of the essential paperwork. That meant a patient needed to take more time out of their day and spend more time in the waiting room. Not only that, but the front-end staff would have to take time to process the documents, adding more work to their plates.
Another drawback to filling out intake forms in the office is that many patients feel rushed, especially if they arrive close to their scheduled appointment time. In some cases, they might not finish before their name gets called, so they’re left scrambling to complete everything while they’re in the exam room. In other cases, patients might not get called back until they complete their paperwork, which could mean pushing back their appointment time. In turn, that could affect other patients’ appointment times.
Take the Stress Off Your Patients With Online Forms
Instead of having patients fill out paperwork in the office, make your patient intake form and other essential documents available on your website or patient portal. That way, patients can fill everything out on their own time — rather than trying to rush through it in the waiting room. Instead, they can remain calm and relaxed in the waiting room.
At the same time, your front-end staff doesn’t have to worry about making sure the patients fill everything out. Nor do they have to enter everything manually into the computer. Your doctors have more time to review the information before the appointments, which allows them to provide better quality care. Additionally, digital documents reduce paper usage, which can save your practice money.
5. Implement a Mobile Check-In Process
It wasn’t long ago that patients would have to walk into the office and wait in line to check-in before their appointment. Many offices still run this way. A busy front desk means patients could be waiting a while. Then, they have to sit and wait again for an unknown amount of time before getting called back.
A mobile check-in process offers an alternative. Rather than waiting in line, patients can check in on their mobile devices as soon as they arrive. They can then receive updates regarding their wait time and when it’s their turn to be seen.
Mobile check-in technology reduces queuing and offers more flexibility to patients when they arrive. In a post-COVID world, it allows for social distancing and even makes it possible for patients to wait in their cars if they feel more comfortable. It creates a lower-stress experience for them, which can go a long way in improving their overall experience with your practice. It also helps your staff at the front desk, alleviating some of the pressure from their shoulders by taking away the tedious task of checking in every individual patient.
High-Quality Care and an Exceptional Patient Experience: A Winning Combination
When it comes to an optimal experience with a healthcare practice, it’s about so much more than the quality of care a patient receives during their appointment. While high-quality care is an essential component, the overall patient experience matters most. From scheduling appointments to their time in the office and even beyond, patients want a process that’s simple, smooth, and convenient.