Good Patient Experience: A Key to Achieve Practice Growth

Good patient experience has become essential to make sure a steady growth of physician practices. Satisfied patients drive growth in various ways and they never opt out of the continuity of care from the same practice. Dissatisfied patients seldom revisit and switch to another practice which affects business and brings down collections of a practice. Patient experience directly influences the patient retention ratio, feedback, referrals, reimbursements, and growth of the medical practice. Patient experience is not something that is confined to an elegant waiting area or new technologies. Although these things play an important role, however, patient satisfaction now depends on various other factors that start from booking an appointment and spans over the whole care delivery process.

Before moving to factors that are instrumental in creating a good patient experience, we should understand first what makes patients dissatisfied. Patients are most dissatisfied when they are not engaged at a personal level; staff lacks professionalism, sluggish administration, and when caregivers do not communicate well about the medical condition. Dissatisfied patients will search for a better practice next time, which can meet their expectations and provide a better care experience. Customer retention is the key to bring down the operational cost in every business. In this situation, even when practices try to attract new patients to their practice, they fail terribly, when their reputation gets tarnished due to negative feedback and bad patient experience. Healthcare consumers are now quick to leave reviews online that stay for a long time and whenever new patients search about practice, they decide after assessing ratings and reviews. Dissatisfied patients also share a bad experience with family and friends that limits new referral visits.

A well-equipped medical facility is something that impresses visitors. However, we cannot limit the patient experience to just a good infrastructure, spacious waiting area, and cutting-edge technologies. These are contributing factors but do not cover the complete patient journey. The patient experience starts from the pre-visit stage. It is when a patient searches about a practice, checks rating and reviews online and calls to schedule appointments. The patient journey enters the second stage when a patient visits the practice and makes the first contact with the staff. It further moves on to actual care delivery process, billing and follow-up patient engagement. Improving every stage of patient experience must be a vital part of the practice growth strategy.

As patient experience is not bound to just care delivery, let’s evaluate what to consider when practices look for holistic improvement to achieve a better patient experience.  

Online Reputation: According to a survey more than 77 percent of patients started the health-related search through a search engine. Patients are now seeking information about symptoms, medical disease, treatment, procedure and the physician of a particular specialty. They get an excess of information online and this tendency is increasing with every passing day. Google and other search engines now present information in multiple ways; the results are not just limited to search queries. Google would show answers to search query, map, address, and phone number, link to social media pages, customer reviews, comparisons, and ratings. A positive online presence would spread good repute of your practice and patients would envisage positive outlook. Practices should promptly respond to online queries and feedback and should also showcase all the information about their practice through a good online presence. Practices can further add value with informative blogs, frequent posting on social media and positive reviews. Consumers now live in a connected world and they seek all the required information online before starting their journey to physical a location.          

Appointment Scheduling: Facilitating your patients to conveniently schedule the appointment can improve the patient experience at an early stage. Patients are more likely to book an appointment by calling the practice or through an online scheduling portal if the option is provided by the practice. The front desk staff should be well-trained to handle scheduling calls with the capability to ask the right questions and taking down all the required information at this stage. Electronic health record systems and the integrated patient portal can make the scheduling easier by providing patients the option to set the appointment online. Adding more value to this process, practices should send appointment reminders through text messages or emails. It not only reduces no-shows but also adds up to patient experience.

Efficient Front Office: Front office is the face of practice and it is the place where a patient first interacts with the practice staff. The front office should be welcoming, cordial in receiving the visitors and should be capable to answer all the queries that the visiting patient asks from the front desk.

Clear Directions: Patients are disgruntled and get irritated when they are not provided with clear directions and guidelines. Either it’s in the reception area, waiting or through the corridors, patients should be provided with the right directions to self-manage their journey.

Good Communication: Good communication translates into the better patient experience. Practices should communicate well all the information to patients, and they should never feel neglected. The physicians are now required to spend more time over the screen and this has drastically reduced eye contact and one-on-one communication between the patients and the physician. It can give the impression that the physician is not listening to the patients well and is more engrossed with practice management tools. Physicians must listen to what a patient wishes to share, their concerns, symptoms and the recent experiences would leverage good patient-centered communication.    

Minimum Waiting: Practices must reduce the waiting time to a logical low. If the scheduling system is performing well then it is easier to keep track of each booked slot. If by any chance there is a lag in time, then the front desk staff must timely information about the delay and the subsequent wait time.