The healthcare journey from potential patient to recurring visitor is long. It begins, in many cases, with a prospective patient’s online search for expert medical treatment, and it continues long after the patient leaves that first appointment. But it’s worth your while to make sure that each step is designed for patient safety, ease and convenience. Prioritizing an exceptional patient care experience can lead to greater patient satisfaction and, ultimately, to higher patient retention.
There are many specific steps that doctors and their staff can take to improve patient experience at their practices.
12 ways to improve patient experience
At one time, providing excellent, professional-level care was enough to build a successful healthcare practice. Today, however, medical facilities must also provide related services to attract new patients and achieve high patient retention. When medical practices focus on patient-centered care, studies show there is higher patient satisfaction, higher physician satisfaction and fewer malpractice complaints.
Here are 12 ways to improve healthcare delivery and patient interactions.
1. Create a helpful online presence
Your medical practice’s online presence — including your healthcare website and your local directory profiles — is your prospective patients’ first impression of your practice.
Your medical practice website is your online home base. It serves as the banner for your practice’s overall brand. To help patients understand what to expect from your practice, make sure you’re offering clear, consistent information on website pages. Be sure to include About Us, Services Offered, and Contact pages. Showcase high-quality photos of your practice (both interior and exterior), so that potential patients can get a sense of your brand before they visit. It’s also a great idea to include testimonials from current patients; this helps to generate trust.
You’ll also want your practice to be accurately represented wherever else you appear online. Claim and update your profiles on important online business and healthcare directories. And be sure to include photos, location information, and hours. Make sure that those profiles link to your practice’s website.
2. Offer online scheduling for patient visits
Give patients the freedom and convenience to book appointments online. According to Kyruus, 43% of patients prefer to book their medical appointments online. In a recent survey, more than 60% of patients told us they preferred digital options for booking appointments, whether via browser, email, or text. Plus, 30% of patients said that the option to book an appointment online is what they wanted most from their healthcare provider, following quality care.
Patients will appreciate not having to provide the same information again and again as they arrive at appointments. If patient records and necessary documents are already in the system, they can confirm them digitally at home and save time in the waiting room.
Bottom line: Investing in online scheduling for your practice will better satisfy both new and returning patients.
3. Send appointment confirmations and reminders
Patients are busy. Help them stay in communication with your practice with appointment confirmations and reminders. These reminders let your patients know that you value their time, and they help you reduce costly no-shows.
The large majority of patients report that they prefer to receive these notifications, especially appointment-related reminders, by text messages rather than other patient communication methods. In fact, 66% of patients would choose to receive a reminder for an upcoming appointment via text message. In addition, 59% of patients would like a text message reminder to book an upcoming appointment.
Send appointment confirmations via email or SMS/text after patients have booked. Then send a reminder three days before a scheduled appointment, asking them to confirm. If a patient doesn’t confirm, send another reminder the day before, and another one an hour before the appointment.
4. Make paperwork available on your website
Cut down on the tedious tasks for patients when they arrive in your waiting room by giving them the option to view and fill out patient intake forms before their visit. More than 60% of patients report that they prefer a digital method for filling out registration and other forms. This way, patients can fill out the necessary paperwork when it’s convenient for them and avoid completing it in a rush before an appointment.
5. Instruct front office staff to be friendly and helpful
Patient engagement begins long before they see the doctor. Your ability to provide a great experience during a patient’s visit is essential to keep those patients coming back. A warm, welcoming attitude from the front office staff helps set the tone from the moment your patients walk in the door. About 50% of patients say that a welcoming staff is what they want most from their healthcare provider, besides quality care. Simple gestures from the front-office staff like saying hello, smiling, and being friendly during the check-in process can help create a positive patient relationship.
One way to achieve this is to be sure that all of your office employees, particularly your trained medical personnel, act according to your practice’s ethos. Be sure that they have what they need to do their job seamlessly. Train new hires thoroughly and offer training for everyone on any new equipment. When your staff is comfortable, they’ll make your patients comfortable.
6. Provide a clean, comfortable waiting room
Doctors’ offices are no place for hard furniture and harsh lighting. Instead, fill your waiting room with comfortable seating, use warm lighting to create a more welcoming environment, and stream spa-like music to relax your patients. A soothing environment can make patient visits feel more like they are getting a break from a hectic day and less like an inconvenience.
7. Keep wait times to a minimum
A bit of a wait is understandable, but patients become frustrated when they feel that you’re not respecting their schedule. In a list of what patients want most from their healthcare providers, patients prioritized a short wait time (52%) as second only to their doctor’s being a good listener (67%). Remember that communication is key. If you know that you’re running a bit behind, make sure that your staff tells patients how long they can expect to wait. They will appreciate your transparency.
8. Offer personalized care
Ultimately, patients come for your trusted medical opinion. But patients also want to see someone they feel comfortable with, a doctor who will listen and who will be invested in their well-being.
In Tebra's patient perspectives survey, patients revealed that their doctor’s being a good listener was the very most important part of their patient experience. In fact, 67% of patients said it was what they wanted most from their healthcare providers, in addition to quality care. You will want to address this aspect of your patient needs.
Be mindful not only to provide a thorough examination, but also to display a warm, caring, and friendly presence. Make sure that your patients sense your compassion and empathy, and that they leave with a full understanding of their treatment plan. Patient understanding leads to better patient outcomes.
9. Post-visit follow-ups
After their visit, use thoughtful touch points to interact with your patients to show them that you value their feedback. You can send an automated patient satisfaction survey by text or email. That will yield higher engagement, since patients aren’t as likely to submit a survey on their own.
Sending a survey shortly after their visit is the best time to get feedback, since their experience is still top of mind. Survey results can help improve the quality of your services; this will lead to happier patients (and better reviews) over time.
10. Promptly respond to online feedback
Your response to feedback, whether good or bad, is just as important as collecting that feedback from patients. Your thoughtful responses foster trust with patients and show that you care about their experiences with your healthcare practice.
Don’t ignore critical feedback, and patient concerns, either. Research shows that reviewers contacted by a practice after a visit are satisfied about 81% of the time. If you receive negative feedback, politely acknowledge the author and encourage them to contact you directly to address their experience.
Reminder: Be sure to comply with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when you respond to reviews or comments online. Never confirm that a reviewer is a patient or mention any Protected Health Information (PHI) such as their name, location, or and social media handle.
11. Share helpful content on social media or on a blog
Create and share content on your social media profiles. It’s a great way to provide valuable healthcare information and to increase patient satisfaction. Consider what patients want to know about the treatments and the services you offer. What are their most commonly asked questions? Use them to develop timely, educational content that addresses these questions.
To demonstrate your authority in your specialty, share a mix of your own original content and other medical blogs or news articles. Sharing your original blog posts on social media is a great way to drive patients to your practice website so they can learn more about your services.
12. Use email for patient communication
Email is a great way to communicate and engage in patient education. According to omnimarketer, 58% of consumers check their email in the morning before they do anything else online.
Use emails to send:
- Regular newsletters
- Promotional offers
- Appointment reminders
- Alerts about clinical services and any new services you offer
- Tips on healthcare
Many factors go into creating a positive experience. Taking steps to improve patient experience will help increase their satisfaction, which, in turn, will lead to higher patient retention and a greater number of glowing online reviews.