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Improving the Patient Experience Starts with These 7 Steps

By Paul Sinclair 06.21.21
Reading time: 5 minutes

At one time, providing high quality of care was enough to build a successful healthcare practice. Today, however, doctors and their staff must also provide high-quality, efficient service to attract new patients and achieve high patient retention.

The road from potential patient to loyal, returning patient is long — beginning with an online search for a doctor and continuing after they leave their appointment. But it takes effort to ensure each step is designed for patient ease and convenience. Prioritizing the patient experience in this way can lead to greater patient satisfaction and, ultimately, higher patient retention.

As a result, healthcare organizations are working diligently to improve patient satisfaction and the patient experience. Besides guaranteeing future success with long term patient relationships, patient experience of care is a critical quality domain used to evaluate hospital performance under the CMS Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program, which accounts for 25% of a hospital’s VBP score, and comes with the potential for a penalty or bonus.

If you’re looking to improve your patient experience, here’s how:

7 ways to improve the patient experience

According to the Beryl Institute, 70% of patients will share a positive experience with others. But your bigger risk is that 76% will share a negative one. And with a negative experience, 43% of patients will not go back to that provider, with 37% finding a different doctor altogether.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools, such as those from Salesforce, can be used by healthcare organizations to help attract, acquire, and retain customers; provide insight to drive behavioral change; and help manage and unlock assets contained in accumulated data sets. They can also be used to improve the patient experience by incorporating prescriptive analytics to tell healthcare providers what the next best step for the individual, as well as social determinants of health data.

A great patient experience is impossible without ongoing and meaningful communication. Incorporating Salesforce with your EHR, you can enhance the patient experience in several ways, like improving the personalization of information being sent to them, better management of the referral process, and tracking which specialists a patient sees to improve continuity of care.

So how do you begin your strategy for improving the patient experience? Here are seven ways to get started:

 

1. Create a helpful online presence

Your healthcare website is the way to make a great first impression with prospective patients and serves as a reflection of your practice’s overall brand. To help patients understand what to expect from your practice, make sure you are offering clear, consistent information on website pages. 

This includes the About Us, Service, and Contact pages. Showcase high-quality photos of your practice (both interior and exterior) so patients can get a sense of your brand before they visit. It is also a great idea to include testimonials from current patients, which helps generate trust. You want to make sure the patient feels like they can trust your care team.

2. Be available for your patients

Give patients the freedom and convenience to book appointments online with your practice. 83% of those surveyed indicated that appointment availability was a very or extremely important criteria when selecting a provider — with 60% of respondents indicating that they have looked for another provider in search for a sooner appointment. Of those, 39% said they had in fact switched providers to get a sooner appointment

In fact, most consumers cannot get them after-hours or on weekends. This is a non-starter for Millennials, who are three times more likely to choose a provider based on availability. Nearly one-third of consumers say they cannot get an appointment at a convenient location.

Bottom line: Investing in online scheduling for your practice will better satisfy new and returning patients.

3. Create a holistic patient profile

Creating a holistic patient profile means that anytime a patient engages with you, you have a complete picture of their health — including risk factors, social determinants, and medical history — so you can provide better care.

A 360-degree view of your patients provides you with a full understanding of a patient, ensuring that your healthcare team always engages in the right channel, at the right time and with the right content or message – at every point in the individual’s healthcare journey.

Creating a relationship with the patient to drive better outcomes requires having every conceivable piece of consumer data in one place.

4. Send appointment confirmations and reminders

Patients are busy, just like you. Help them stay in communication with your practice with appointment confirmations and reminders. Not only do automated reminders let patients know you value their time, but they also help you reduce costly no-shows.

Send appointment confirmations via email or SMS/text after patients have booked, and then send a reminder three days before a scheduled appointment asking them to confirm. If a patient does not confirm, send another reminder the day before and even an hour before the appointment.

After the visit, use thoughtful touchpoints to interact with patients to show them you value their feedback. Sending automated patient satisfaction surveys via text or email will yield higher engagement, since patients are not as likely to submit a survey on their own.

Sending a survey shortly after a visit is the best time to get feedback, as the experience is still top of mind. Even negative feedback can help improve the quality of your services and lead to happier patients (and better reviews) over time.

5. Build better patient engagement journeys

Every patient interaction is part of the patient engagement journey and a moment of truth for the health system or provider care team to increase positive clinical outcomes. 

A patient engagement journey organizes those communication touchpoints and ensures you are delivering the right information at the right time to the right person and leveraging the appropriate communication channel. Millennials and Generation Z, for example, may be more likely to prefer a text, email, or chat to a phone call.

By building out journeys for your patient personas, you can close gaps in care and establish robust preventative routines that ultimately help your patients stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Engaging consumers and patients where they are builds trust and confidence that keeps patients in the system and encourages them to refer their friends and family to your practice.

In today’s value-based healthcare world, having that personalized experience is more important than ever. 

6. Empower patients to take charge of their healthcare

Cut down on the tedious tasks for patients and staff members alike when they arrive in your waiting room by giving them the option to view, print, and fill out intake forms before their visit. Patients can fill out the necessary paperwork when it is convenient for them and avoid completing it in a rush before an appointment.

Consumers know that you have the data and expect you to use it. Digital tools can remove many of the least enjoyable parts of healthcare, changing the experience from negative or neutral to positive. The more information you have about your patients, the less hoops they must jump through to feel better. Suddenly, they are part of their health and wellness conversation.

7. Utilize analytics to uncover hidden challenges

You may have a patient confirm their appointment, but every day, late arrivals and no-shows wreak havoc with appointment scheduling and wait times. Do you know why?

Predictive analytics sift through the data to understand the bigger picture. Perhaps patients do not have access to a car and are unable to make an appointment or childcare falls through at the last minute. It may be that you have a doctor’s office closer to their home or workplace that is easier for them to get to.

AI can detect if a patient lacks access to transportation — captured as part of their social determinants of health — the provider is alerted and can help the patient arrange a ride to avoid missing the appointment.

It can also help understand the overall coverage for your healthcare provider network. Hire more pediatric specialists if most of your patients have children, for example. Or consider offering more geriatric care options if the majority of your patients are over 55.

Improving the patient experience starts with Silverline

At Silverline, we have a wealth of experience when it comes to digitally transforming provider and patient experiences. Increasing patient satisfaction scores is just the beginning. Let our team help you address these trends head on.

Silverline can tailor digital transformation solutions to meet your current and future needs. Our team leverages insight acquired through 10+ years of real-world expertise gained across the Healthcare industry. From strategy and implementation to managed services, we guide clients through every phase of their journey — enabling continuous value with the Salesforce platform. How can we help you deliver the best possible patient experience? Learn more.

Ready to see real results? We can help.

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