At one time, providing excellent 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 recurring visitor is long — beginning with an online search for a doctor and continuing after they leave their appointment. But it’s worth a practice’s effort to ensure each step is designed for patient ease and convenience. In fact, 72% of patients say they would switch providers to get their preferred patient experience. Prioritizing the patient experience can lead to greater patient satisfaction and, ultimately, higher patient retention.
12 things doctors can do to improve the patient experience
1. Create a helpful online presence
Your online presence — including your healthcare website and local directory profiles — is your first impression with prospective patients.
Your practice website is your online home base and serves as a reflection of 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, including 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’s also a great idea to include testimonials from current patients, which helps 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 to include photos, location information, and hours. Make sure your profiles link to your website.
2. Offer online scheduling
Give patients the freedom and convenience to book appointments online with your practice. According to Kyruus, 43% of patients prefer to book appointments online — a percentage that goes up every year. In a recent survey, more than 60% of patients told us they preferred digital options for booking appointments, whether it be via a browser, email, or text. Plus, 30% of patients said the option to book an appointment online is what they wanted most from their healthcare provider, following quality care.
Bottom line: Investing in online scheduling for your practice will better satisfy 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. Not only do automated reminders let patients know you value their time, but they also help you reduce costly no-shows.
The large majority of patients want to receive practice outreach via text messaging over other patient communication methods — specifically for appointment-related reminders. In fact, 66% of patients want 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, and 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 even 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 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
Providing a great experience during a patient’s visit is essential to keep 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 a welcoming staff is what they want most from their healthcare provider, besides quality care. Simple gestures like saying hello, smiling, and being friendly during the check-in process are often all it takes to start the visit off right.
Look: How to attract and retain patients by focusing on your front office staff
6. Ensure the waiting room is clean and comfortable
Make your waiting room a place that’s enjoyable for patients before their appointment. Avoid 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 patients. Giving your patients a soothing area to unwind will feel more like a break from their 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 like you’re not respecting their schedule with excessive wait times.
In a list of what patients want most from their healthcare providers, patients prioritized a short wait (52%) only second to their doctor being a good listener (67%). Remember that communication is key. If you know you’re running a bit behind, make sure the staff tells patients how long they can expect to wait. They will appreciate your transparency.
8. Display excellent bedside manner
Ultimately, patients come for your trusted medical opinion. But patients also want to see someone they feel comfortable with and a doctor who will be invested in their wellbeing.
In Tebra's patient perspectives survey, patients revealed that their doctor being a good listener was most important to their patient experience. In fact, 67% of patients said it was what they wanted most from their healthcare providers, besides quality care.
Be mindful to not only provide a thorough examination but to also display a warm, caring, and friendly presence. Make sure your patients leave with a full understanding of their treatment plan.
9. Follow up appointments with a survey
After the visit, use thoughtful touch points 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 aren’t 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. Survey results can help improve the quality of your services and lead to happier patients (and better reviews) over time.
10. Promptly respond to online feedback
Responding to feedback, both good and bad, is just as important as collecting feedback from patients. Thoughtful responses foster trust with patients and show you care about their experiences with your healthcare practice.
Don’t avoid the critical feedback, as research shows that reviewers contacted by a practice are satisfied by the process about 81% of the time. Politely acknowledge the author, and encourage them to contact you directly to address their experience.
Reminder: Be compliant with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, when responding to reviews or comments online. This means you should never confirm that a reviewer is a patient or mention any Protected Health Information (PHI) such as their name, location, dates, and social media handle.
11. Share helpful content on social media and a blog
Creating and sharing content on your social media profiles is a great way to provide valuable healthcare information and increase patient satisfaction.
Consider what patients want to know about the treatments and services you offer. What are the most commonly asked questions? Then 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 to learn more.
12. Stay in touch with patients through their inbox
Email is another way to have thoughtful communication with patients, likely through a regular newsletter or promotional offers. Patients use email often. According to omnimarketer, 58% of consumers check their email in the morning before doing anything else online.
Use emails to send appointment reminders, alert patients to new services and discounts you offer, and provide healthcare tips.
There are many factors that go into a positive patient experience. Taking the necessary steps to create a great experience for your patients will help increase patient satisfaction, which will lead to higher patient retention as well as a greater number of glowing online reviews.