The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

6 ways patient feedback can help improve your healthcare practice

It’s impossible to know what’s working or not working for patients without asking for their unfiltered feedback. Here are some ways to gain deeper insights from patients.

patient feedback

No matter what kind of business you’re running, feedback is valuable. It’s the best way to gauge customer satisfaction and pinpoint issues that need to be addressed. Feedback is so important that you could travel down an endless rabbit hole at Harvard Business Review on the topics of giving and receiving feedback — if you were so inclined.

For clinicians, patient feedback is critical for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it tells you how your patients perceive your practice and the care you provide. This can help you improve your quality of care and patient satisfaction — which ultimately aids with acquiring new patients and retaining current ones. 

Patient visits are multifaceted, and every facet is important. Even though referrals and patient registration happen out-of-office, those digital experiences make an impression. The entire patient journey is full of opportunities to improve your practice, so feedback from every stage is needed.Patient attrition is rising, with 36% of patients saying they’ve left a healthcare provider in the past 2 years. The same research found that 8 out of 10 did so because of a poor in-person experience or lack of patient access and patient communication. This makes it all the more vital that you take the temperature of your practice’s performance from the people who know best — your patients.

36% of patients have left a healthcare provider in the last two years, and eight out of 10 of them did so because of a poor in-person experience ”

Once you get your feedback loop cycling smoothly, you’ll see patient referrals and retention rates increase, boosting revenue and growth. Here are 6 ways feedback from patients can help you improve care, enhance your reputation, and grow your practice.

1. Feedback helps providers understand patient wants

Having a clear picture of patient expectations is one of the main reasons practices should seek feedback. Maybe your patients expect to schedule appointments online (did you know 73% of patients do?) and you’re not offering that option yet.

They could find your bills confusing or the waiting room drab. Maybe they would prefer to get appointment reminders via text message. Perhaps one member of your front office team is a rockstar and always goes above and beyond for patients. Do you know who that is? If you don’t ask what your patients are thinking, you’ll never know.

Without finding out what your patients like and dislike across the entire patient journey — from how they find your practice and schedule appointments to the care they receive — there’s no way for your practice to implement changes to better serve them. Proactively asking "How can we do better?" is a surefire way to build patient trust. And improving patient satisfaction and engagement is the clearest path to retaining patients.

2. Patient feedback can help providers boost online reputation

There’s no underestimating the power of a positive online reputation. In today’s digital world, it’s your top tool for patient recruitment. The opposite is also true: A negative reputation can deter prospective patients from trusting your practice with their health.

Some 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. According to our patient survey, 3 out of 4 people have searched online to find a doctor. About that same number say they find online reviews helpful when choosing a provider. A further 61% say they won’t consider a provider with an average star rating lower than 4 out of 5. This means getting patients who are satisfied with your practice to share testimonials on social media or review websites is crucial to boosting patient volume. 

3. Patient feedback helps providers give better care

Once a patient has left your office (or completed a telehealth visit), you have only a short window in which to connect, catch up, and address their needs. That’s difficult under even the best of circumstances. Without knowing how that patient encounter went — Did you provide the necessary care? The right advice and counsel? Did the patient think you seemed rushed or too focused on the EHR? — you’ll never be able to step back, assess your performance, and work to make it better for the next time.

As a provider, you should always be striving to specifically understand how your performance impacts patient perceptions about quality of care. This is crucial not just for a practice’s online reputation but especially if and when you begin to take on value-based reimbursements.

4. Track the recovery of patients

Patient monitoring is critical to understand how a treatment is progressing, and their feedback can play a big role in that process. Tracking current patient care plans, along with patient outcomes, gives medical practices valuable data. You can compare a patient history with current patient acuity to demonstrate just how much improvement there’s been.

It’s a great practice to conduct a data audit of new information each month. At patient intake, what symptoms are people presenting with? Is a pattern emerging in what ailments folks walk in with? This information can inform your patient education strategy and improve patient safety by offering tailored training to staff.

Keeping patient confidentiality and clinical research in mind, publish compelling findings on social media or websites. If 80% of clients find symptom relief within one month, let prospective clients know! Of course, patient privacy is key and no part of any individual patient’s history should be shared.

5. Feedback can create a culture of open communication and continuous improvement

The only constant is change — and that’s certainly never been more true than in today’s healthcare landscape. The best strategy to stay relevant and drive continuous improvement is to build a culture of open communication amongst staff of all levels. Be open to discussing any idea that might benefit the practice.

Patients are the customers of medical practices. Without soliciting feedback from them on your performance, it’s almost impossible to improve your business. Feedback, then, is the only foolproof way for physicians and practices to truly become patient-centric.

6. Assess performance of staff

Openly sharing and analyzing patient feedback on front office and provider performance is one of the best ways to create the psychological safety that’s inherent in the highest performing teams. Once this trust is established amongst teammates, constructive dialogues can take place that uncover ways the practice’s performance can be improved for the benefit of patients.

Researchers have found that patient feedback of staff is often positive. And reviewing these collectively can result in improved staff motivation and psychological well being. This can lead to improved performance and staff retention, which in turn means more positive and experienced care for patients.

Trust is key for the clinical and office staff, but also for the patient. Patient trust comes from close listening, and consistent openness to feedback. Fostering an office environment that prioritizes patient safety and patient engagement allows patients to overcome any vulnerability and offer honest feedback.

Methods to gather feedback

At this point, you may be asking yourself: How do I encourage patient feedback? Collecting patient data is easier than you think. Patients are 22% more likely to give feedback when asked. While requesting patient reviews can seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. 

Surveys and questionnaires

Instead of asking in person, which might feel awkward or intrusive, sending a digital request is easier for everyone. And it provides an immediate opportunity to reflect on their patient experience and respond. With automated patient satisfaction surveys, it’s simple to encourage patients to post positive reviews online, too. In fact, we found that patients whom providers asked for feedback were 2.3x more likely to post one.

Patient interviews and focus groups

Putting together a focus group of patients isn’t necessary for every little thing. Your website redesign, for example, probably won’t need in-person input from clients. But more complex physical or systematic redesigns could use input from patient advocates. If your office is auditing your entire patient journey, invite some patients to discuss their experiences in-person. Patient interactions with the office can be varied, and bringing multiple voices to the table can be a huge help.

Online reviews and social media monitoring

Patient reviews can make or break a medical business. But even negative feedback provides an opportunity for growth

This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true — as long as you respond to patient concerns in a timely manner. When patients post negative feedback, they usually just want to be heard. In other words, it’s another opportunity for patient engagement and to learn about patient needs.

When a practice responds to negative feedback, 81% of patients are satisfied. And when you don't respond, dissatisfaction increases by a factor of 7. So be prompt. Monitor feedback regularly and reply directly to any negative posts within a day or two at the most. Thank people for their feedback, let them know they’re being heard, and offer to take the conversation offline to protect any sensitive patient information.

This way, other prospective patients will see how quickly you responded, which is good for your reputation, and you can address their concerns privately, maintaining HIPAA compliance.Your patients are your number one source of insights into how well your practice is performing and the quality of care you and your team are providing. So do your practice (and yourself) a favor and start collecting patient reviews today.

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Bianca Wollman, medical marketing consultant

Bianca Wollman is the senior manager of customer marketing at Tebra and resides in Marina Del Rey. She has extensive experience consulting private medical practices on SEO and marketing strategies and has led healthcare customer marketing efforts for the last 3 years. Bianca previously worked in the tourism marketing industry in Washington, DC.

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