What is the Patient Journey
Most patients feel uncomfortable.
To varying degrees, patients are usually in your office because they’re experiencing some kind of pain and discomfort. This is compounded by any negative emotions instigated by their illness, and perhaps even the environment in which they are seeking care, and their concerns with how they are going to pay their medical bill after their visit.
The patient journey” refers to the quality of a patient’s experience with a practice and includes every touchpoint a patient has with your practice.
The patient journey begins when an individual identifies a health issue and decides to seek treatment. The patient journey also includes the moment they hear about your practice, their visit and treatment, and any and all communication between practice and patient that happens before, during, or after.
It might end when they share an online review and rating, or it might continue indefinitely — for as long as they remain a patient of your practice.
Why the Patient Journey is Critical
The growing number of healthcare compliance standards are almost overwhelming. It’s complicated by the fact that outcome measures are often affected by variables outside of a practice’s control.
A practice may have done a wonderful job with a patient, but in the days following treatment, elements of the patient’s lifestyle may lead to readmission. These might include diet and exercise, or their inability to pay for medication and rehabilitation.
Additionally, there are growing financial incentives for practices to meet outcome standards.
For example, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is a star rating system aimed at helping consumers find excellent care and at elevating quality healthcare facilities. According to research, practices with higher HCAHPS patient ratings have significantly higher net margins.
That’s no surprise: a positive patient journey results in a greater collection rate from satisfied patients. It also improves patient retention.
In other words: healthcare practices have every reason to ensure patients follow recommended treatment, rehabilitation, and/or follow-ups.
The single best way to do this is to improve the patient journey. It’s a matter of making every patient touchpoint a pleasant one. It’s a matter of creating a patient-centric system.
Therefore, improving the patient journey is simple, but not always easy. Consider this: Research conducted by the Journal of Internal Medicine suggests that doctors spend an average of 11 seconds listening to patients. It also suggests that this limited time is likely due to time constraints and physician burnout.
So, it stands to reason that in order to improve the patient journey, time constraints and physician burnout need to be alleviated.
Fortunately, the best solutions work for patients and practices. Here are three ways you can improve the journey — for your patients and you.
3 Ways to Improve the Patient Journey
1. Shared Decision-Making Model
You can improve the earlier stages of a patient’s journey with the shared decision-making model. When a practice works together with patients to decide on treatment and care, as well as how they are going to pay, there’s an opportunity to balance clinical evidence with the patient’s own preferences. This is a great way to improve patient engagement, as patients who participate in the decision-making process:
- Are more informed about the nature of their illness or health issue
- Are familiar with the pros and cons of each available option
- Are more aware of the costs that come with the treatment and how it can fit their budget
- Are more likely to adhere to whatever course of action is agreed upon
This has a powerful effect on the overall patient journey. Patients who engage in shared decision making are more trusting of their physicians. They’re also better educated, which is another key component in the patient journey.
2. Make the Patient Journey Resemble Their Retail Journey
With the rise of healthcare consumerism, the healthcare industry is looking more and more like the retail industry. In this digital age, patients expect payment to be a quick, easy and — above all — convenient process. They also require that they know how much they will have to pay during the time of treatment rather than receiving a surprise bill a few weeks after. If you give patients the cost information up front and offer financing that provides the ability to pay in a way that’s convenient for them, you’re simultaneously enhancing the patient journey and your bottom line.
Convenient payment options may include the ability to pay via:
- Mobile device
- Interactive voice response (IVR)
- Patient portal
- Account on File technology
At the end of the day, your practice is still a business. Just as in retail, a successful business is successful because it emphasizes the experience of the consumer (or in healthcare’s case, the patient). By offering flexible payment options, practices are better able to meet patients on their terms while streamlining the medical billing and collections process.
The Medical Group Management Association estimates that the average practice receives $15.77 for every $100.00 charged. And since patients are being forced to shoulder increasingly more of their healthcare costs, they naturally want to understand the part of the billing process that’s relevant to them.
The combination of uncertainty and increased financial burden contributes to patients’ disillusionment with providers.
Patient financing addresses both of these issues. By implementing patient financing, a practice helps patients by:
- Providing transparent and reliable estimates before care is received
- Enabling patients and staff to discuss financial options upfront
- Offering affordable payment plans
Financing is a way of both alleviating financial burden and uncertainty. The practice benefits from financing, too, by having the ability to:
- Get paid upfront with a receivables purchase program
- Increase case acceptance rates, which directly impacts practice revenue
- Address outstanding balances at the point of service
- Leverage omni-channel communication to drive enrollment in payment plans
Your Guide to a Better Patient Journey
SaaS technology is bridging the gap between providers and patients to create the optimal patient journey. Want to learn more? Discover how ClearGage Healthcare Systems can delight your patients and improve your bottom line when you schedule a demo with us today.