A positive patient experience is an integral component of health care quality – both that which is perceived by patients and that which is based on health outcomes. Areas that patients report valuing highly include ease of getting timely appointments, easy access to information, low wait times, and good communication with health care providers. Improving the patient experience can promote deeper and more frequent patient engagement, the reduction of no-shows, helps keep schedules full, and supports productive and efficient healthcare operations.
Patient Satisfaction Differs from Patient Experience
The terms patient satisfaction and patient experience are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Satisfaction denotes whether a patient’s expectations about a health encounter were met. Two people who receive the exact same care, but who have different expectations for how that care is supposed to be delivered, can give different satisfaction ratings because of their different expectations.
To fully assess patient experience, healthcare organizations must find out from patients whether something that should happen in a health care setting (such as clear communication with a provider) actually happened and/or how often it happened. A satisfaction score can further contextualize a patient’s response and helps healthcare organizations target high-impact areas of the patient experience for priority improvement.
10 Ways to Level-Set the Patients Experience Foundation
When your healthcare organization is ready to tackle improving the patient experience, consider first these ten foundational elements that contribute to both experience and satisfaction. Creating reliable performance in these areas can give immediate lift to the interactions that occur daily.
1. Create an Informative Website.
Not only should the website be professional and visually inviting, make it easy for your patients to find the information they need. Organize information logically and put contact information in a prominent place. Since mobile phone use continues to climb, make sure your site is mobile friendly.
2. Create an Inviting Atmosphere.
Keep the lobby tidy and clean. Minimize clutter. When possible, offer a small space for young children. When managing traffic flow due to volume or special circumstances, be sure the desired actions and expectations are clear.
3. Make Appointment Setting and Communication Easy.
In addition to accepting appointments by phone, consider offering closed-loop scheduling via SMS. Allowing the patient to self-schedule is convenient for them and reduces burden on the staff.
4. Send Appointment Confirmations and Reminders.
When surveyed, patients report that appointment reminders are helpful. Deliver reminders in multiple channels including patient-preferred SMS.
5. Reduce Wait Times + Communicate Delays.
Create reasonable appointment durations based on historical need of patients, balanced with operational goals. Communicate delays when possible. Patients share that receiving notice of a delayed appointment start helps them manage their own expectations about the experience. Communicating delays and closures can be easily accomplished via broadcast message using your patient engagement platform.
6. Make a Good First Impression.
Welcome patients to the office. Express empathy and patience when managing check-ins, paperwork updates, and during delays.
7. Be Professional—But Personable.
Smile and speak loudly and with clarity. Especially when masked, it can be difficult for patients to hear. And sometimes medical-related information can be confusing and/or scary. Use a calm, neutral tone and provide options for helping patients better understand their care requirements.
8. Encourage Patients to Ask Questions.
The more questions patients ask, the fewer surprises there will be. Clear expectations provide a foundation for care continuity.
9. Set Realistic Goals
Whether it’s wait times, hold times, or response times, manage the expectations of staff and patients by explaining the goals and possible barriers. When well informed, most people can manage minor inconvenience and disruption.
10. Send Patient Surveys
One of the most powerful tools you have for continuous improvement is the opinion of your patients. Short surveys during and after a care cycle can be delivered and captured via SMS – a quick and convenient channel that allows patients to engage when they are ready. Keep surveys short and allow patients to provide open-ended feedback.
Using Automated Engagement to Improve the Patient Experience
Patient engagement is an important part of delivering a quality care experience – creating and managing the patient experience against what the patient expected would happen. Conventionally, engagement has focused on the functional steps of making and keeping an appointment and improving the patient’s ability to manage their own care between visits. Messages are typically delivered via email and phone, with some text messaging. For some outreach, health systems also use postcards as an additional touchpoint. These touchpoints endeavor to make communication easy, and help patients remember and keep their appointments.
98% of patients want to feel valued by their provider and 7 of 10 patients report wanting to receive more communication between appointments. For these reasons alone, modern healthcare organizations are finding more ways to leverage their automated patient engagement solutions to connect with patients more frequently and improve the care experience:
- Reaching patients via SMS before, during and after appointments to deliver education, care instructions, and care checks
- Recalling patient for preventative care
- Making referral scheduling convenient by proving closed-loop scheduling options via SMS
- Automating more frequent pre-and post-procedure instructions to build trust, increase care compliance, and reduce the chances of complications or escalation of complications
- Helping patients understand when payment is due and making it easy to pay by providing links via text message
- Distributing patient experience and satisfaction surveys via text and more
This comprehensive approach delivers communication more frequently, in the communication channels patients prefer, which helps manage patient expectations, and promotes learning, retention, dialogue and commitment to care plans.
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