Patient Experience

Patient Experience: What it is and why it matters

In the highly competitive healthcare industry, everyone is looking for the one thing that will set them ahead of the pack. Although new technology and better procedures are certainly good things, what seems to attract and maintain the most patients these days is a positive patient experience. 

A positive experience will invite more positive reviews. This, in turn, will help to improve your online reputation, a vital marketing tool in today’s digital world. More than just a marketing ploy, the patient experience can affect your quality of care, your patients’ safety, and even the outcomes of your treatments. 

The problem is that the term “patient experience” has proven difficult to define in exact terms. If you don’t know what it is, you’ll have trouble finding ways to improve it. Read on to learn more about exactly what patient experience means and why it should matter to you. 

What Is Patient Experience? 

Patient experience is a broad term that covers the entire range of interactions that a patient has within the health care system. This includes interactions with their: 

  • Insurers
  • All doctors, nurses, and staff
  • Hospitals, medical practices, and other healthcare facilities 

It can also be used to describe interactions with any one part of the greater healthcare system, such as a specific practitioner or facility. 

Patient experience should be seen as an important part of the push to increase the quality of healthcare. Patients who have positive experiences communicating with their providers, access to necessary information, and scheduling are more likely to continue their care and trust those who are delivering it. 

Patient experience is also an important part of patient-centered care. By looking at the reasons for positive — or negative — patient experiences and implementing changes based on these reasons, it’s possible to create an atmosphere where patients feel respected, valued, and understood. This is the environment that patient-centered care strives to create. 

The Purpose of Quality Improvement Efforts for Patient-Centered Care 

Quality improvement and patient-centered care have a symbiotic relationship in which the benefits earned by the implementation of one are enhanced by the implementation of the other. Patient-centered care hopes to lower costs and improve treatment outcomes by building a relationship based on trust and respect between the patient and the healthcare system. This relationship helps to ensure that patients will follow their doctors’ instructions and return for follow-up care. 

Patients willing to heed the advice they receive from their doctors are more likely to stick to the roadmap laid out for their care. This roadmap is designed to maximize effectiveness while minimizing costs. Patients who follow the given roadmap see more predictable results, increasing the effectiveness of quality improvement initiatives. 

Why a Positive Patient Experience Matters

Positive patient experiences benefit both the patients and the practices that serve them. There are several reasons why this is true. Here, we will focus on two of the key reasons — patient engagement and consumer loyalty. 

Patient Engagement 

When a patient is an active participant in their own healthcare, good things happen. They’re more likely to ask questions and try to understand how the treatments and medications they’re prescribed will help them. This understanding increases the chances that they’ll follow their treatment plan. 

Patients engaged in their health and wellness also tend to better monitor their own health and seek treatment more quickly than those who aren’t. As most ailments and illnesses are easier to treat the earlier they’re caught, patients who pay attention to their health and regularly seek treatment reduce the costs of their healthcare and extend their quality of life. 

Consumer Loyalty and Retention 

Positive patient experiences will help you create patients who are loyal to you and your practice. Patients are, of course, interested in the quality of the care you offer and the outcome of any prescribed treatments. But what really keeps them coming back to you year after year is knowing that you respect and listen to them. 

Ultimately, your medical practice is a profit-making enterprise, so you know that there are financial benefits to retaining your patients. Finding new patients — which is also easier if you have a history of patients with positive experiences — is a great way to grow your practice. But it can be expensive and time-consuming. The best way to ensure the long-term success of your practice is to hold onto the ones you already have.

How to Create a Positive Experience for All Patients 

New or old, you need a plan to ensure that each of your patients leaves your office feeling positive about the experience. Although it’s not possible to please everyone all the time, following these steps will certainly please most:

  • Greet patients warmly and sincerely
  • Show an interest in their life outside of their care in your office
  • Show empathy when discussing their condition
  • Ask questions about their health/condition and listen to the answers
  • Encourage them to ask questions, and give them thoughtful and accurate answers
  • Discuss your recommended treatments, including what they should accomplish and any potential downsides 
  • Explain everything, even how to find their way to the reception desk
  • Follow up with them when you say you will

And outside the exam room, technology can help you further improve these positive experiences.

Increase Communication from Healthcare Providers to Patients

Traditionally, patients reach out to their healthcare providers when they have questions or concerns. Patient portals and apps for electronic health records have made it even easier for healthcare providers to maintain contact with their patients. From follow-up calls and appointment reminders to providing a forum for answering questions, technology now allows providers to facilitate more intentional patient communication. 

Be Consistent and Focus on the Delivery of Care 

Everyone — including your patients — feels more comfortable when they know what to expect from a given situation. Follow your code of ethics as it refers to your delivery of care every time you interact with them. This will help your patients to trust you and put them at ease.

How Patient Relationship Management Software Can Improve Patient Experience 

Patient relationship management software is designed to maintain a free flow of information between healthcare providers and between providers and their patients. It also provides opportunities for your patients to stay engaged in their care. This software harnesses the information gathered in your electronic medical records and combines it with patient engagement technology to enable more patient-centered care and improve the patient–provider relationship. 

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