Healthcare workers smiling

Improving the Patient Experience

Improving patient experience is all the buzz. But where do you begin?

For starters, you might think patients rate their healthcare experience solely on outcomes. A reasonable expectationโ€”but not entirely correct, reports APNORC. More than half of consumers base their experiences on doctor personality and relationship. That compares to slightly more than a quarter based on the delivery of care or outcomes. Research also confirmed better patient ratings were based less on how well illnesses were diagnosed. Patient treatment before, during, and after the visit impacted scores more.

So how does your healthcare practice rate? Do you know what elements influence patient opinions? Finally, how is the patient experience defined?


โ€œPatient experienceโ€ and the healthcare consumer

According to Patient Satisfaction News, patient experience includes all the interactions that consumers have with a health care system. Or perhaps in this case, with your practice. Experience opinions essentially come down to the three Cs: care, communication, and care access.

Your strive to provide the best in health care while fostering well-being. But it takes more than clinical knowledge to create a positive experience.

The APNORC survey revealed a few other noteworthy stats. 59% Of respondents believe doctor interaction was the top indicator of a high-quality provider focus. Compare that to only 29% who consider the delivery of care or outcomes to be the top indicator. Only 11% valued the doctorโ€™s ability to accurately diagnose and fix their health problems. Eight in 10 patients choose a provider based on the amount of time the doctor spends with them. More than three quarters also highlight staff attitudes and scheduling ease as criteria.


Communication is key

So, when it comes to improving patient experience, communication is the key. Patients want to be listened to, taken seriously, and communicated with, not to. Information needs to be fully explained and in a timely manner. And a certain, personal report needs to be established. With that, patient trust and confidence increases. And that, in turn, creates a positive experience. It increasing the likelihood that they will share positive feedback about their care.

Convenient access encompasses a wide range of items. It includes the option of scheduling appointments on evenings and weekends. It provides website options to request prescription refills or send messages. And it covers easy to get toโ€”and get into locations. For example, if the majority of your patients have mobility issues, can they navigate to your office entrance easily? This could be especially important if youโ€™re in a complex with a distant or congested parking lot.


The patient perspective

When evaluating your practice from a patient perspective, start with a clear understanding of your customers. In The Changing Face of Healthcare Marketing, we discussed gaining a good understanding of your consumer segments. If your goal is to improve patient experience for your current patients, then use some of those tools. They’ll provide some of the feedback you need.

Like all system improvements, begin with an understanding of what is working and identify opportunities for improvement. When refining patient experience, who better to ask than those receiving the care?

Implementing ongoing patient feedback and then reviewing the results can help. Feedback will identify mismatches between what the patients want and what they actually receive. Obtain information during the visit, through follow-up phone calls, and with email or online surveys. According to an NEJM Catalyst Patient Engagement Survey, this approach is very successful. 73% Of Council members used internal surveys of patients as the most valuable means of capturing patient input. Patient-generated data was a close second at 68%.

Continued regular reviews will provide valuable details about what patients want. They’ll also highlight where your delivery is falling short.


Evaluate your system

You should evaluate the patient experience at every stage of your process. From scheduling to check-in. From the doctor engagement to check-out. And communications and even virtual visits, if applicable. How well does the phone system operate? Are patients able to reach people or departments easily? Is their time on hold a reasonable length?

One way of measuring performance is to use a โ€œsecret shopper,” with someone secretly playing the role of patient.

But knowing where improvements are needed is only part of the process. Improving patient experience requires changes be made practice-wide. It is important that all care team members understand the goal and the strategies for achieving these goals.

Remember, this is more than keeping patients happy. Thereโ€™s also a solid business case for making these improvements. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report make the point. โ€œPatients keep or change providers based upon experience. Relationship quality is a major predictor of patient loyalty. “One study found patients reporting the poorest-quality relationships were three times more likely to leave.


Improving patient experience requires a โ€œPatient firstโ€ approach

Having a โ€œcustomer firstโ€ mindset can serve as a guide while improving patient experience. Retailers understand this approach. Aย Patient Satisfaction News report noted that retailers know their customers want not just quality goods, but also respect from staff. Patients can be expected to act more like those retail patrons now, as theyย shop like healthcare consumers. They’ll demand the same type of reception when they walk into your practice.

So, fuse a consumer-centered philosophy into your practice. It will ensure your patients receive the experience you both desire.


Enlist a healthcare marketing team for help

As your patient experience improves, be sure to let your community know. If you need assistance in developing a healthcare marketing plan for your practice, B63 can help. We are experts in strategic messaging, public relations and brand management, serving practices, hospitals, and networks. An EDGE-certified, woman-owned business located in Southwest Ohio, B63 provides strategically focused creative solutions with measured ROI.

Call us today at 937.490.4000 for more information or schedule a free consultation at: