Today, health consumer preferences are synonymous with an excellent patient experience that’s built on quality care, personalization, and convenience.
For some, this means the ability to get a “real person” on the phone quickly, but for most, it means streamlined digital processes that make it easy to book appointments, request prescription refills, and confirm or cancel appointments online.
One peer-reviewed study found that 90% of patients want technology-driven care, and our research shows almost 75% of patients would leave a practice if they have a poor experience.
Let’s look closer at how to improve the patient experience and why it’s important for independent practices.
Why is it important to improve the patient experience?
The rising cost of healthcare means one thing for patients: their premiums keep ticking higher. With healthcare continuing to climb, many patients choose high-deductible insurance plans to keep their monthly health insurance payments down. As patients shell out more for each visit, they expect a customer experience to match.
Complicating things further is the changing landscape of the healthcare market. Big tech is expanding into the healthcare market. Amazon bought One Medical and Pillpack, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) owns Senosis Health. We’ve seen the increase of consumer companies like Ro Health and Hers offering specific healthcare solutions, and telehealth has exploded over the pandemic, fundamentally changing how we provide care.
The fact is this: innovation and disruption have entered the healthcare industry and are here to stay. Independent practices must modernize or risk falling behind.
One of the best ways to do so is to provide a customer-like patient experience across the patient lifecycle. Below we look at 5 tips on how to improve the patient experience.
“The fact is this: innovation and disruption have entered the healthcare industry and are here to stay. Independent practices must modernize or risk falling behind. rn ”
How to improve the patient experience in 5 easy steps
1. Ensure a professional online presence
Your website will likely be your first point of contact with a prospective patient. Fortunately for private practices, this can help you gain a serious competitive edge; a clean, professional, modern, and helpful website that’s easy to find creates a great impression before the patient has even walked through the front door.
Websites should be easy to find, with up-to-date contact information and hours. You also want to refine your practice’s presence on listing websites, like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other online marketplaces to ensure a consistent web presence. This makes it easy for patients to find you across the web and improve your search rankings.
You should also list the services you offer, answer FAQs, enable online scheduling through the website, provide photos of your practice, and share testimonials from other patients.
2. Offer online scheduling
From ordering a ride to placing a coffee order, today’s life happens online. In order to remain relevant, practices must offer seamless 24/7 scheduling for in-person or telehealth appointments via online scheduling. According to a report by PatientPop, a Tebra company, 73% of patients prefer to schedule online, and more 63% are more likely to choose practices that offer online scheduling.
No-shows are costly and over time can restrict your practice’s growth. Online appointments reduce no-shows and make it easier to fill last-minute cancellations. Online appointment self-service makes it convenient for patients to select times that work best for their schedule and gives patients easy access to same-day and next-day appointments.
3. Put patients in control of communication
Waiting on hold to make an appointment, request prescription refills, or ask a question is frustrating and unnecessary. Patients want the freedom and control to handle these items on their own time.
Independent practices must provide multiple ways of getting in touch if they want to compete in the new healthcare landscape. At a minimum, practices should make it possible to text, email, and send messages through a secure online portal, in addition to calling the office.
Empowering patients to handle communication with their provider’s office on their own time results in a better patient experience and reduces the administrative burden for staff. Patients who may be more comfortable calling the practice, like an older demographic, benefit from reduced time on hold, while others can simply text or send a secure message.
Additionally, providing various ways to get in touch makes your practice more accessible to those across a range of abilities. Make it easy to get in touch through various mediums to give patients options and convenience for a better patient experience.
4. Send automatic appointment reminders
Automatic reminders simplify the confirmation process for both the patient and the practice. Patients benefit from having one less thing to remember. At the same time, practices experience reduced no-show rates with automatic reminders and remove the financial and administrative burden of having to call patients to confirm. Other patients benefit, too; with in-the-moment confirmation or cancellation, patients gain access to a wider selection of appointments as they free up in real-time.
We found that two-thirds of patients want text message reminders for upcoming appointments, and 59% would like text message reminders to book their next appointment.
5. Make it easy to pay online
On the practice side, online billing has big benefits, too. Practices can eliminate the hassle of paper billing, receive payments more quickly, streamline the reimbursement process with insurance, and help the billing team keep track of patient payments.
Patients today expect a consumer-like level of customer service from their medical providers.
Digitized processes that streamline the patient experience across the patient lifecycle are no longer a nice to have. The rising costs of healthcare coupled with the digital, on-demand world we live in today mean patients expect modern conveniences from their medical providers, like online scheduling, text message communication and reminders, and easy online payments.
Independent practices that provide the digital infrastructure to improve the patient experience benefit from better patient retention and improved office workflow.