How to Improve the Patient Experience + Keep Patients Happy

Unlike customers waiting at an airport terminal, jittery with excitement, patients waiting in a dental office are often experiencing anxiety and uneasiness. To make sure that you keep your patients satisfied in such a high-pressure environment, you’ll need to give them a great experience across the entire patient journey.

From the moment they visit your site to consider your services to the moment they leave their appointment, you need to make sure you offer a seamless, supportive patient experience that makes them want to come back. If your practice is successfully able to do this, you are guaranteed to see your patients come back.

While a good experience may be overlooked as something of a minimum expectation, a bad experience will leave a lasting impression that might be difficult to forget. In this article, we will be talking about ways to improve the patient experience that is guaranteed to delight your patients.

  • Why you need to improve the patient experience
  • 12 ways to improve the patient experience
  • 5 ways to improve the patient experience in the hospital + emergency department

Why you need to improve the patient experience

Patient care has evolved and come a long way from just going to a great doctor to get treated. While this can be partially attributed to other industries ramping up their customer service through digitization, the healthcare sector has driving forces that have demanded improvements to the patient experience.

What drives the need to improve the patient experience?

Your patients are used to automation and convenience in all other aspects of their daily life, whether they are ordering food or booking a ride. As they’ve grown accustomed to this, they expect this same quality of service in other areas of their life.

Whether your practice is ready or not, there is a growing demand among patients for an enhanced service experience and greater participation in their healthcare. While this places pressure on healthcare systems to shake things up, it puts them on the path to deliver more patient-centered care and service.

As practices look for new ways to deliver better patient experience than their competitors, there are government approved merit-based programs for practices to apply to that will help them gain recognition among their community and also gauge where they stand.

  • According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, all medical practices with two or more eligible professionals are required to report patient experience using the PQRS CAHPS Survey, which has a direct impact on Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) payments made to all participating physicians. 
  • The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA)  encourages practices to use the CAHPS Clinician & Group Survey with Patient-Centered Medical Home Item Set if they are seeking recognition for patient experience.
  • The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), that oversees confirmation of physican’s qualifications every five years, requires medical boards to use patient experience to assess the communication skills and professionalism of physicians with direct care responsibilities.

Leveraging these resources can give you insight into patient experience trends, and a good idea of what patients are expecting - and in some cases demanding - of their providers. Armed with this information, you can be sure to offer a patient experience that stands out.

Providing adequate care: the clinical reasons for improving the patient experience

The quality of care that you offer to your patients is made up of the medical advice and course of treatment that you suggest, your ability to openly discuss and keep patients informed, and tools that help you improve patient experience in healthcare. Once your patients start seeing positive changes in their health as a direct result of your treatment and care, you will have more engaged and happier patients.

A heavy focus on your patients’ experience shows that you genuinely care about their health and wellbeing. In turn, this will lead to more positive interactions, more loyalty, and a growing, thriving practice.

Enhance the experience: the business reasons for improving the patient experience

By automating repetitive tasks like scheduling, sending out reminders, payment links, paperwork, and surveys, your staff can focus on the human aspect of delivering a great patient experience. This not only helps your practice streamline day-to-day operations, but with all patient records and information in one place, your practice management system works seamlessly, eliminating the need for any manual data entry.

Since finding new patients costs 25x more than retaining your existing patients, it is imperative that your efforts should largely be focused on improving patient experience, keeping your patients satisfied and ensuring they will return. Once you have built a strong foundation of loyal patients, it is easier to upsell your services and pivot your outreach efforts to their network (friends and family) who may already have an idea about your services through your patients.

Empower your practice with NexHealth whose patient retention strategies can help you retain 44% more patients on average.

12 ways to improve the patient experience

Perfecting the patient experience is a continuous process, as it involves adapting to the most cutting edge technology and reacting to patient feedback. If you’re just starting out or it’s been a long time since you last optimized your patient experience, there will be a lot to do. If you’re maintaining it regularly, these are still important things to consider to keep your patient experience current and up-to-date.

Below, we cover some of the most important things to do to improve your patient experience and keep patients coming back to your practice!

1. Offer online scheduling

Self-scheduling appointment screen

When you offer online scheduling, it breaks down a barrier for your patients to reach you. Keeping your website and social media pages up to date with all the information and a ‘Book Now’ button allows them to equip themselves with your services and book their visit at their convenience. Even more importantly, it gives patients the option to book appointments outside of your office hours!

With NexHealth’s online scheduling system, your patients can see your availability in real-time and schedule their appointments on-demand from any location or device. As a practice, you can define appointments by type, duration, provider, and exam room, giving you full control over the logistic details of the visit.

2. Send appointment confirmations and reminders

Users who are comfortable booking their vacations or ordering food online are attuned to receiving a confirmation email or message to make sure the process is complete and is in the system. So when you send out an appointment confirmation communication or a reminder before their visit, it not only reassures your patient and mentally prepares them for their visit, but also contributes to lowering your no-shows and cancellations.

Using NexHealth’s automated text and reminders (that sync with your EHR procedural codes) allows you to customize when and how many times you want to send out reminders. While this not only eliminates the need for your staff to make reminder calls to your patients, patients who miss or cancel appointments are sent automated messages to reschedule their visit.

3. Replace paper forms with digital forms

Patient filling out the online form

Offering HIPAA-compliant digital forms not only saves your staff the trouble of manually entering information, but also allows your patients to conveniently fill out and upload documents from their devices.

With NexHealth’s integrated HIPAA-compliant digital forms, your patients can access the form on email or text message, fill out their information, upload a selfie and other documents, and digitally sign their forms, making the onboarding process hassle-free. Once patients fill out the digital form, all the information instantly syncs with your practice management system, saving your staff time collecting and recording information.

4. Offer the option of getting on a virtual waiting list

If your patients receive a text from your practice with the option to move up their appointment, how do you think that will affect their experience with your practice? They will not only be delighted with this pleasant surprise that allows them to access your care and treatment sooner than expected, but also get one step closer to meeting their health goals.

Practices that use NexHealth can make use of the ASAP List feature that automatically sends a text message to patients to ask them if they are interested in moving up their appointment. Patients can simply respond with a Y or N if they want to move up their visit.

5. Be friendly and helpful

Being a customer-facing business, you must ensure that your staff greets your patients with a smile and does everything in their capacity to go above and beyond. This includes guiding patients through each step of their care, educating them with your processes, and ensuring that they are comfortable and at ease while waiting for their turn.

6. Keep the waiting room clean and comfortable

Doctor’s office waiting room

By putting yourself in your patient’s shoes, try walking into your office and spending a few minutes in the waiting room, and making notes of the things you like and don’t like. You can use the following questions in your checklist to help you evaluate your waiting room and create a comfortable and pleasant experience for your patients:

  1. Are the seats comfortable?
  2. Is the room well lit?
  3. Does the waiting room and office smell nice?
  4. Are there enough magazines for patients?
  5. If your patients are kids or your patients come with kids, can you accommodate a small play area to keep them engaged?
  6. Can you play some soft ambient music while they wait?
  7. Can you put up a TV screen that can run some DIY tips, testimonials, and learning material created in-house?
  8. Can you offer water?
  9. Is there a clean washroom for your visitors?

7. Reduce patient wait times in the office

Your patients want to be in and out of your office as quickly as possible. When scheduling appointments, be mindful of how long the visit will be, leaving a little bit of buffer time on either end so that other patients don’t have to wait for too long. When sending appointment reminders, you can inform your patients of any prep they need to do before coming for their appointment, what to expect, and how much earlier they need to come in.

8. Ask for timely feedback - and implement the right changes

Five feedback smileys

Patient feedback is critical in determining the success and future of your practice. Sending out feedback forms after their visit gives you the opportunity to hear how their experience was and if there is something you can do to make their experience even better.

With NexHealth, you can source patient feedback and generate ratings and reviews that not only saves your staff’s time with automated outreach, but also gains more insight into patient satisfaction. The positive ratings and reviews can be posted to your Google, Facebook, and Yelp pages.

9. Share helpful content on social media and your blog

As a healthcare provider, your patients will value your advice higher than any brand or lifestyle blog. You can leverage your social media channels, create a website blog, or run a podcast to educate your audience. This not only helps you build your web presence and create more impressions, but also helps your patients stay connected with you outside of their appointment.

10. Respond to feedback online (promptly and professionally)

Irrespective of whether you get a positive review or negative feedback, it has to be addressed and acknowledged within 24 hours. The lifespan of a comment or a review is very short. If your patient doesn’t get a response from you, it not only leaves a bad impression, but will encourage them to talk about your subpar services to their friends and family. Not to mention the thousands of potential customers who are shopping for a healthcare provider who sees an unresponded comment from an angry patient.

11. Offer better communication with multiple channels available

Happy customer looking at mobile phone screen

Giving your patients multiple options to communicate with your staff enables them to reach out without any hesitation, helping you serve them better and closing the communication loop quicker. Since your patients prefer texting over phone calls, offering this mode of communication will not only see higher open rates but will also maximize your patient access.

NexHealth’s two-way HIPAA compliant messaging feature allows your patients to communicate with your staff from anywhere and at any time without the need to create an account.

12. Minimize bureaucracy - especially on the patient’s end

Your patients come into your office with the sole purpose of achieving their health goals. The faster you help them reach their goal, with minimum disruptions, the happier they are going to be.

NexHealth equips you with easy-to-use digital tools that can help you offer a modern patient experience that will keep your patients coming back and skyrocket your revenue.

5 ways to improve the patient experience in the hospital + emergency department

Patients coming into the emergency department of a hospital are certainly not in the best mind frame. The following actionable steps can help alleviate some of the stress that they are going through so that they can go back home with their family.

1. List and recognize pain points

Asking questions to find a solution

With the volume of patients an emergency department sees every day, there are several insights that can be captured to get a good idea of what the common issues are that they all complain about. Once you identify these issues, your team can develop strategies to mitigate their impact, ensuring your patients and visitors don’t face any more discomfort than they already are.

By going through review websites like Yelp and Google My Business to see what customers who have visited your facility have to say about you, you can gather unbiased and honest feedback. Since patients can fill these out on their own time, they’re more likely to fully complete these surveys, and have been able to give their feedback some thought. While it’s highly unlikely that emergency patients (and their families) are going to commend you on your fantastic service, they will not think twice if they had an awful experience.

2. Create a seamless patient journey

By tracking patients’ journey from the minute they walk into your hospital in their distressed state, you will be able to note how they interact with each of the touchpoints. Here are some useful questions to ask to help you provide a seamless experience:

  1. Are there clear instructions for a patient or their families who come in?
  2. Is there someone at the desk that they can talk to?
  3. Can the patient fill in an online form to capture their details and list their emergency?
  4. How soon can they be informed about how long their wait will be?
  5. Is there someone who can keep families/visitors informed about the patient’s treatment?
  6. Is there staff to help elderly patients?

Your goal must be to create a clear and directed patient journey that leaves little to the imagination, reducing chaos and confusion in the office.

3. Provide visitors and patients with the basics while they wait

A trip to emergency care is definitely not typically planned, and when friends and family have to rush to the hospital it is likely that they will forget some essentials. Since waiting times in an emergency are unknown, the least you can offer your patients and their families is some basics that will keep them going until they can go back home.

Here is a list of items that can make the waiting process endurable:

  1. Drinking water
  2. Vending machine with snacks
  3. Coffee/Tea
  4. Enough seating for patients and their families
  5. Clean washroom
  6. Clean and safe environment

4. Set up a customer service team

Your customer service team must be well equipped to handle crises. Thus, having a separate (non-medical) team whose sole responsibility is to make sure that patients are taken care of from the time they enter your facility is important, as the patient experience will be scrutinized as closely as the outcome of the clinical process.

5. Set up a team to support the emotional needs of patients and their families

Counsellor holding patient’s hand

Patients and families at the hospital are already dealing with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. By having social workers and counselors on-hand, you can provide patients and families with support to help get them through difficult times.

Improving the patient experience, the NexHealth way!

The dominance of convenient, responsive services like DoorDash, Uber, and Amazon has created patients that expect this convenience in any service industry. Practices that fail to offer the best patient experience possible will fall behind, and struggle to attract and retain patients.

Since you may only see your patients 2-3 times a year, making their visit smooth and stress-free should be your goal. Practices that use NexHealth collect 5-star reviews from their patient base that helps them build a solid online reputation and stay on top with patient communication that contributes to higher revenues.

Schedule a demo with NexHealth today to see how a digital patient experience can enhance the quality of healthcare services you can offer to your patients.

Want to learn more? Book your free demo today!

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