People can now make anything happen at the touch of a button on any smartphone or device. Patients can even order prescription medications online without having to physically visiting a doctor! The digital age has changed how patients interact with their healthcare providers.
That’s why it’s critical to have relentless focus on the patient experience and monitor satisfaction levels. From choosing a provider to leaving a post-visit review, to referring friends and family, patients expect their providers to meet them where they are already comfortably interacting with all other businesses—in the digital space.
A satisfied and loyal patient base is the first and most important pillar of success for healthcare practices.
Growing and maintaining your patient base starts with patient experience from the very beginning of their journey when they research new providers. Your practice needs a strong digital presence to stand out during this stage and provide patients with a glimpse into how their care will be handled.
Great quality healthcare is more than just providing great patient outcomes. Patients who feel cared for, appreciated, and respected are more likely to become loyal and refer friends and family.
To keep up with the digital age and its implicated expectations from patients, scheduling appointments online and allowing telehealth (virtual) visits are imperative for a successful healthcare practice and greatly improve the patient experience.
For simple visits, patients are turning to the quickest, easiest options, which should be your practice-- not an app offering instant diagnoses and prescriptions. Online appointments encourage patients to see you even if they are far away, without transportation, or lead busy lifestyles.
In fact, patients have reported a 95% higher satisfaction rate when using telehealth appointments over office visits.
While the visit is still fresh in their mind, send patients a satisfaction survey. This gives them an outlet to either express their satisfaction or air their grievances. Either way, the survey makes them feel that their opinion matters and is valued.
Additionally, you will gain insight as to what patients are satisfied with. The best medical practices are continuously striving to improve their patient experience and reputation. What better way to come up with improvement strategies than to get them directly from patients? Survey results can greatly help you and your staff choose how to improve both in daily management and your long-term operations.
A bulletproof patient retention strategy is a must for any practice, but let’s focus here on the overall patient experience. If an unhappy patient leaves a review, files a complaint, or something of the sort, it’s not a lost cause! Unhappy patients are likely to be retained if responded to properly. Most likely, they had a bad experience and feel unseen and unheard. Address these patients, let them know you see and hear them, and offer them a better experience on their next visit.
When patients feel cared for after expressing their concerns, they are more likely to be retained and give your practice another chance.
About 65% of patients were satisfied with the response from their practice after leaving a negative review. So, show them you care, and they will return the favor.
A more data driven and scientific way to improve patient experience at your practice is by implementing AI-based sentiment analysis. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, this tactic gathers and analyses data from your patients through free text and quantitative ratings found from all over the web. This is a way to understand your patients’ emotions and instinctive, intuitive feelings about their experience with your practice.
With a nuanced understanding of how your patients are truly feeling, you can make changes to your practice to improve the overall patient experience.
Giving patients a way to communicate with your staff can improve their experience and increase satisfaction. Two-way SMS allows your staff to communicate in real time with patients via phone or a desktop platform.
Healthcare practices can be hard to reach, so allowing patients to feel like they are having a personal text conversation with your staff is a fantastic way to bridge the communication gap often felt by patients.
Let patients know you are thinking about them year-round with automated birthday ecards, holiday cards, and even special event cards if you know your patients well. Personal touches like emails and handwritten cards keep you front of mind to patients, and shows that you care about them beyond their yearly visit.
Cards can also give your practice personality. Sending funny, cute, quirky, or branded cards build your practice up and can elicit positive feelings in patients’ minds.
Essentially, this type of patient engagement software is a one-stop digital interface with powerful tools to keep patients engaged in their own care in the digital space. This can include scheduling, appointment check-in, general communication with the staff, patient education, billing information, reviews and surveys, retention strategies, and more.
In the digital age, people have strong desires for simplicity and convenience via the internet. Whether it’s ordering food instantly, renting a car in seconds, or booking a healthcare appointment with a few taps of the screen, people appreciate and expect modern conveniences.
With many medical practices offering automated scheduling, telehealth appointments, SMS messaging, and more, it’s more important than ever to provide a patient-friendly online experience. If patients are frustrated with difficult scheduling options, broken websites, and have a hard time getting in contact with your staff, they are far more likely to choose another practice.
Letting patients book their own appointments online allows them to feel in control of their own journey. Additionally, they are not limited to calling during office hours but rather can book on their own time from wherever they are using their computer, phone, tablet, or another smart device.
Giving patients easy and automated access to booking an appointment can greatly improve their experience from the very beginning.
Patients have busy lives too and may forget they scheduled an appointment with you, especially if it was scheduled months in advance. Keep connected with your patients by engaging them in email and SMS confirmations and reminders about their upcoming appointments.
This is also a great opportunity to send any important information about their appointment such as what to bring, directions to your location, parking, and more. Keeping patients engaged with their pre-appointment process makes them feel that you truly care about them and their time.
As simple as it may sound, delivering great care with friendly staff to your patients is the best way to keep them coming back and can easily set you apart from competitors who may have less-friendly staff or even less of an emphasis on providing the best care.
To begin, consider mapping out a patient’s journey that they take from beginning to end. This can include their initial issues or need for a new provider, researching practices in their area, making initial contact with your staff, scheduling an appointment, receiving directions and appointment reminders, parking on site, checking in, wait time to be seen, and so on.
Once you know the general steps your patients are taking to see you, you and your staff can work to ensure every step is streamlined and satisfying.
Cut down on wait times wherever you can. Patients often dread visiting healthcare providers due to the amount of time they will lose out of their day waiting. Consider implementing changes such as allowing patients to fill out their paperwork digitally before their appointment.
Practices that fail to address these wait-time frustrations stand to lose up to 48% of their patient base in a year—and that’s not counting potential patients who avoid your practice after learning about long wait times through online reviews. – Software Advice
Consider the overall design and feel of your waiting rooms. Are the chairs all facing each other, crowded together? Is it too hot and bright or too dingy and dark? Does it get deep cleaned regularly? Is the front desk in the middle of everything, where patients can hear each other’s private information? Try looking at your waiting room with fresh eyes. Perhaps you are used to seeing the room every day, so try seeing it from a new patient’s perspective.
Patients also see added value to their experience when encountering amenities such as free Wi-Fi, fresh drinking water, televisions, and warm, non-sterile interior design in waiting rooms.
Provide them a clean and comfortable waiting space to easily boost your patient experience.
Another easy way to improve patient experience is to be thorough and invite questions. Healthcare is a daunting world for many, especially when it comes to things like insurance, medical terminology, procedures, and being a brand new patient.
Be sure not to rush your patients through anything, and always ask if they have any questions before they move on. This makes them feel valued, and that you truly care that they are informed about their care.
While this one may seem simple, it is of utmost importance in these times. After quarantining, many patients may feel wary of seeking medical care. They may not want to encounter any sick patients or wait in a room full of strangers. It is important that patients feel comfortable and safe during their experience at your establishment.
Your practice should not only be clean and follow all COVID-19 safety protocols but should also be enforcing policies for all staff and patients.
Patients will keep coming back to your practice and referring family and friends so long as their experience is routinely great. With the above 15 essentials for healthcare practices in the digital age, patients can experience practical and smooth visits that ensure they are happy to return.
Remember that a satisfied and loyal patient base is the first and most important pillar of success for healthcare practices, which starts with the patient experience.