Patient Engagement Lessons and PX Best Practices From HealthNet
Healthcare consumerism presents benefits to both sides of the care coin. Patients get the opportunity to influence and review their providers. In turn, providers can draw from this feedback to become more responsive and proactive in how they deliver their services.
But with patient experience still seen as a major challenge for the healthcare industry in 2024, it’s clear the healthcare industry has a long way to go in meeting patients’ consumer-centric expectations of care as well as improving patient engagement.
That’s where HealthNet Community Health Centers stands out from the crowd. Feedtrail’s leadership recently co-hosted a Health Data Management webinar with HealthNet’s Chief Business Development Officer, Carrie Bonsack, to share best practices and lessons learned on HealthNet’s own path to satisfying patient needs. Below are three takeaways.
1. Digitize and personalize patient surveys to improve engagement
Patient surveys aren’t new. Healthcare providers have been trying to listen to and engage their patients through post-discharge prompts for over 30 years. But with the rise of increasingly digitized healthcare consumerism, what have changed are patients’ preferred communication channels.
HealthNet used to choose one week a quarter to survey its patients, aiming to get 100 responses from each health center. The surveys were on paper, one-size-fits-all, and generated 1,500 responses — a small fraction of its patient base. Additionally, all this data had to be recorded and manually analyzed before any useful insights could be gleaned to inform decision-making.
After HealthNet noticed how much patients enjoyed interacting with their phones — which sometimes even distracted them during exams — the company realized it had to make the entire process more accessible and personalized to change course. It knew it had to leverage SMS messaging.
HealthNet now sends its patients short, engaging surveys via text. With the help of Feedtrail’s platform, it can customize questions and send the surveys in three languages. HealthNet now receives an impressive 19,000 responses per year — all of which are delivered instantaneously into the hands of care team members who can act on them in real time.
This level of responsiveness on the part of a healthcare organization instills a sense of trust in patients, who see that their providers value their input and are committed to meeting their expectations. It also boosts patient engagement and serves as the foundation of a highly beneficial feedback loop. Moving from generic surveys to those that are more personalized makes it possible for providers to drill down and analyze data by location, service line, or provider. This granularity enables increased visibility into the organization and insight into where and how it can do better — essential factors in an effective patient experience program.
Historically, patient feedback has been limited to data collected after discharge. So, naturally, this can contribute to an uptick in patient engagement further along the patient journey.
However, the most effective patient experience programs focus on engagement starting before visits and continuing until after patients are discharged. In a July 2022 Patient Experience Maturity Survey administered across thousands of U.S. healthcare organizations of all sizes, Feedtrail found that 68% of organizations said they need to improve their pre-visit engagement, over a third said they could do better during visits, and only 15% felt their post-discharge surveying was actionable.
Some best practices HealthNet discovered for increasing patient engagement at three distinct points of care include:
Pre-visit: Set expectations
When HealthNet started getting a lot of appointment no-shows, it reached out to its patients to learn why. Was it COVID? Childcare? Transportation barriers? The company found that simple communication before a visit went a long way. For instance, construction going on nearby or a change in the location of an appointment could cause stress on the day of a visit. Discussing factors like these with patients reduced anxiety and helped them feel supported — encouraging them to show up in the right place at the right time.
During the visit: Manage expectations
It’s paramount to ensure that patients feel welcome and accustomed to current processes and procedures. Several Feedtrail customers have found that an SMS welcome message puts patients at ease as soon as they walk through the door, while text correspondences about doctors who might be running behind schedule reduce frustration and increase senses of trust and transparency.
Post-visit: Exceed expectations
Patients often aren’t in the right state of mind to reply to surveys after a procedure or doctor’s visit. That’s why, in addition to personalizing their outreach, healthcare facilities need to extend engagement efforts to families and caregivers, whose feedback is a rich source of insights.
3. Demonstrate the impact of patient experience efforts with numbers and visuals
Ultimately, the key to success for all patient experience programs is the ability to demonstrate impact to providers and boards. This can prove to be a difficult task for some healthcare organizations, but a more–than–worthwhile one. An Accenture study from 2016 reported that U.S. hospitals that provide “superior” customer (or patient) experience achieve 50% higher net margins than those delivering a merely “average” experience.
Data visualization is a highly effective tool in these efforts. HealthNet’s board benefited from easy-to-use Feedtrail dashboards that tie patient engagement to hard figures like Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Providers and operational leaders can also use Feedtrail’s platform to connect positive changes in patient sentiment to decreases in burnout and improved retention rates.
One platform to level up your listening capabilities
Establishing an effective, high-performing patient experience program means shifting to a patient-centric listening strategy. That transition is achievable — but not with generic, outdated, post-discharge patient surveys.
Forward-thinking tools like Feedtrail’s XM Platform enable your healthcare workers to engage with patients and their caregivers, understand how they think and feel, and provide them with the right insights to deliver an effective and personalized patient experience across the entire continuum of care.
Want to see our platform in action? Speak with one of our experts.