Anyone who works in a hospital or many other organizations has heard the phrase “patient experience” many times over the last few years. However, when it comes to hospitals and other medical organizations, the idea can elicit a bit of annoyance, as discussed in many of our previous blog posts. Nearly every professional in the healthcare world wants to spend extra time with their patients and will do the best they can to make that a reality. The fact is, they feel they can’t actually accomplish that. However, that doesn’t mean all is lost. There are a few small things that make a difference with patient experience that you may not be aware of.
Author: Gert Volmer
Code of Conduct
Treating all patients with respect is the most important aspect of creating a positive patient experience. A smiling face and friendly demeanor is just the beginning of the process, of course. People expect more from healthcare professionals now than they have in the past. Having the ability to offer great customer service and then following through with it is crucial in healthcare.
Any patient who steps into your office wants fantastic customer service. These patients expect to be treated just as well as anyone else would be. The good news is that there are several simple ways to offer that.
Make Sure Staff are Available and Answering the Telephone
While training new staff requires an up-front investment, it’s more than worth it in the long run. Staff who are trained poorly can cause your organization to lose a significant amount of revenue every single year. If a potential patient stops by the front desk and finds staff uncaring or disrespectful of their time, they aren’t likely to come back. If the staff are instead pleasant and respectful, that person is more likely to visit your location a second time.
When a patient is interested in using your services, they may choose to make a phone call to schedule an appointment. At that point, the only thing that can keep that patient from visiting you is bad front desk service. That’s why your staff should be trained to handle prompt situations quickly. They should also be capable of treating patients in a respectful way.
This means answering the phone within three rings, greeting the patient in a friendly and consistent way, speaking positively of the services and doctor, and avoiding putting individuals on hold for long periods of time. Many patients will notice these things and use them to determine whether your practice is right for them. You don’t want to turn them off from the very beginning.
Always Be Sure the Property is Clean and Tidy
There is no reason to leave dirt, dust, and other debris around for patients to notice. If there is dust in the corners of the room or the waiting room furniture is falling apart, nobody is going to take that as a good sign. These small things can easily add up and make patients less comfortable being in your space.
Having disorganized paperwork, running out of soap in the bathroom, or having an odor in the office are things people notice. Having someone come in more often to clean can make a significant difference. Make sure you use quality cleaning products and cleaners. Ensure that staff know how important it is to refill items like toilet paper as soon as it is gone.
Go Through the Patient Experience Yourself
If you want an idea of how patients feel in your office, take time to go through the process on your own. Go through appointment scheduling with a staff member. Think about whether someone with a disability can get in the building easily. Hang out in the waiting room and time how long it takes to be taken care of. Think about how the things you see will impact a patient.
It can be challenging to put yourself in the role of a patient, but it can be a really valuable exercise. Have staff members go through the same experience as well and mention changes they would want to see if they were a patient. This may lead you to realize that some processes need to change to offer a better patient experience.
Take Time to do Follow-ups
Something that can set you apart from other medical offices is by having follow-ups after a patient leaves. Taking a few minutes to call up a patient to see how they are doing goes a long way. While there is never a guarantee that a patient will come back after an appointment, a follow-up call will make them remember you. When calling, ask about how their medication is working, whether they have any concerns or questions, and if they want any changes made.
Spend Time Asking Patients About Their Experiences
The patient check-out process is the perfect opportunity to find out how the person feels about the experience they just went through. Those who had a great experience could be asked to leave a review on your website or on social media. Those who had less than perfect experiences can explain why, which helps you improve the experience next time.
An automated system can be used to determine how patients feel about their experience. Those who offer a high rating can be directed to review you while those with a low rating can be followed up with to ensure you resolve the problem.
Make Patient Experience the Top Priority
In a lot of hospitals and practice, patient experience is based on what other healthcare organizations are doing. For instance, one practice nearby might take 30 minutes to see patients while you take 20, which seems like plenty to offer to a patient. However, being the best in a small area isn’t the same as being the best overall, and it’s not the same as being good enough to retain patients.
Trying to put yourself into the shoes of your patients requires empathy more than it requires competition or comparison. That is why it is crucial to remove pain points in as many places as possible. This will make it more likely patients come back to see you again and get the best care they could possibly ask for.