Why Improving the Patient Journey Is Worth Your Attention

The patient journey is more complex than ever as those visiting your practice transform from patients to customers. More of your patients are paying out of pocket for care, which is driving a mindset shift and causing practices to rethink how they engage with patients. 

A patient journey map can serve as a “GPS” for designing the patient experience. What paths are customers taking when engaging with your practice? And how can you make those interactions more positive and meaningful? 

Improving the patient journey enables you to keep patients engaged and happy along the entire path of care. As you focus on improving interactions, understanding patients’ largest problems, and empathizing with their hardships, patients start to feel truly known by your practice. Achieving success, however, isn’t always easy, and many practices struggle with finding the best starting point. Understanding patients’ largest challenges and implementing tools and strategies to address those challenges will get you on the right path to success.

The patient journey: why is it important? 

Patient expectations today have rapidly transformed. People are receiving fast and convenient transactions from all types of businesses, everything from shopping at the local grocery store to receiving takeout delivery. What’s more is that since people are paying a greater portion of their bills out of pocket, they are acting more like customers instead of traditional patients. The number of patients enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans has increased from 10.6% in 2007 to nearly 25% in 2018 among adults ages 18 to 64 with employer-based coverage.

Focusing on the patient journey allows you to improve patient satisfaction and retention, which have a large impact on your bottom line. Increasing customer retention rates by as little as 5% is shown to increase profits from 25% to 95%. Happier customers are also more likely to pay you on time, reducing the risk of slow receivables and bad debt. Additionally, these satisfied patients are more likely to refer friends and family and to leave positive online reviews about your practice.

How to improve the patient journey 

Improving the patient journey can feel overwhelming, with so many options and not knowing which will provide the greatest impact. An effective place to start is mapping out customer touchpoints and ensuring that every touchpoint is a pleasant one. Consider taking the following actions. 

Focus on patient pain points. What keeps your patients up at night? One major pain point is the cost of care. More than half of Americans avoid getting necessary medical care because of worries about cost. Implement technology and tools that help patients feel supported in their largest challenges. For example, consider offering patient financing to ease financial burdens. Some programs, such as ClearGage’s ClearFund, allow you to sell your patient receivables and get paid upfront, enabling you to improve the customer experience while streamlining cash flow. 

Improve cost transparency. Patients increasingly want to understand the cost of care. Nearly all Americans (91%) agree that the cost of medical services should be as readily available as prices on a restaurant menu. Patients who don’t receive this communication upfront are at risk of slow payments or bad debt. For example, consider patients who believe their insurance company will pay more and question their medical bill. Instead of paying that bill quickly, they let it sit on their kitchen countertop until they have time to follow up with questions. Improve the patient journey by offering upfront, accurate estimates

Provide convenient processes and tools to increase engagement. Many patients prefer digital payment options and automatic payments. People are already using many of these technologies to pay for a variety of services, such as online shopping, grocery orders, takeout delivery, and more. Give patients the option of storing credit card information to automatically pay future bills after insurance adjunction. 

Also, streamline payments by sending customers a text or email and allowing them to pay using their favorite device. Patients who can’t pay the entire bill upfront can set up a customized and affordable payment plan.

How to measure the patient journey and satisfaction

Implementing tools to improve the patient journey is a critical first step, but how do you know that those tools are working? Measuring the patient journey allows you to clearly see which strategies are working and which need improvement. One of the best ways to gauge success is to have an open and ongoing dialogue with patients and staff. A few things to consider include: 

  • Define specific metrics. Make a list of the changes that you’re making and the specific items you plan to measure. For example, will you measure an increase in total patient volume? Will you measure patient retention? Will you measure referrals of friends and family? Set up a baseline and start measuring the results. 
  • Talk with your patients. One of the best ways to measure success is to keep the lines of communication open with your patients. Do they like having the option of patient financing? What are they worrying about most, and how can your practice help? Do they need easier payment options? Survey patients frequently and collect feedback. 
  • Partner with staff to get feedback. Staff members are one of your best resources in gathering feedback. They are talking with patients every day and regularly receive feedback about patient experience, the patient journey, and any new tools that you’ve implemented. Survey staff to get feedback about what they are hearing from patients. 

Fine-tuning the patient journey and your success 

Operating a successful practice is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s fast-evolving environment. Practices are navigating unique challenges during a time when patient expectations are rapidly changing. One of a practice’s most effective tools is focusing on the patient journey and the touchpoints that make that journey better. The result of managing this successfully allows you to help patients manage the stress of seeking care, have the ability to open your doors to more patients, and position your practice to thrive into the future.