Why is the patient experience so important?
The patient experience paves the way to increased patient engagement and loyalty. In a digitally saturated healthcare system, the human element is easily lost. To move from human to humane and create an engaging practice, consider the patient experience.
What is the Patient Experience?
The patient experience is extensive; It encompasses every interaction between the patient and healthcare system, including delivery of the service, online interactions, scheduling, office atmosphere, contact with any member of staff, post-appointment follow-up and communications. A critical component of the patient experience and one that is often overlooked is the patient’s financial experience.
But it does get a little tricky. Many people interchange the patient experience with patient satisfaction, although this is not the case. According to general standards, patient experience addresses what should happen. Patient satisfaction addresses whether a patient’s unique expectations were met. For example, two patients who received the same care might express different satisfaction rates due to varying expectations. Patient satisfaction is sensitive to a patient’s unique expectations, where experience refers to a more impartial reality.
Why is Patient Experience Important?
Patient experience dictates whether a patient views your services positively. It also plays a key role in patient engagement. One positive experience can inspire another and create a favorable view, ultimately resulting in The Halo Effect. When your halo starts to outshine mistakes made, patient engagement increases. In a favorable light with recurring positive experiences, patient engagement will continue to flourish.
How to Improve Patient Engagement?
There are several ways providers can enhance patient engagement. The following highlights 6 elements your practice should consider:
1. Trade Shoes
As an educated professional with lots to do, it’s easy to get stuck in your own shoes. But in order to improve patient engagement, you must imagine yourself as the patient. If you were the patient, you would’ve been tasked with responsibilities outside just the appointment, such as calling and scheduling the appointment, finding parking, navigating through the office–all while dealing with pain. All these elements can lead to frustration and irritation. Every staff member should become familiar with the particular patient experience your service offers. Understand how the patient interacts with every component of the clinic in order to broaden awareness and educate staff on how to make any patient’s day just a little better.
2. Physical Cues
Once again, imagine that you are the patient–how can you tell the professional cares? Indifference has become an element of professionalism; however, perceived indifference invites a negative patient experience. Harsh voices and lack of eye-contact from exhausted, overwhelmed staff can induce patient anxiety. Indifferences not only hinder the professional-patient relationship but can cause medical miscommunications and unresponsiveness, such as the dismissal of symptoms proposed by patients. By showing physical signs of active listening like smiling, eye contact, open body language, and questioning, we could reduce error and create an attentive, more humane patient experience.
3. Office Space
Your medical office doesn’t have to be fancy, just considerate. Calm and collected. Choose colors that are calming such as neutrals and pastels; these colors communicate health and wellness. Brighten drab areas with artwork or a community board; engaging elements work as resources for anxiety. Your medical office should offer books, magazines, interactive activities, or music stations to distract nervous patients. To keep anxiety at an all-time low, ensure that patients have easy access to basics they might need, such as a comfortable chair, bathroom, water, snacks, charging station. And secondly, ensure they’re handicap accessible. Anxiety could heighten without access to basic needs in the waiting room.
Now that you’ve created a calm environment, consider whether it’s collected. Is it neat? Are communication pathways clear? Offer emergency call buttons and keep patients up-to-date on wait times. Wait times are another source of patient anxiety. According to many healthcare managers, it’s not the duration of time that causes anxiety but the uncertainty and lack of communication. Additionally, a clean, uncluttered area and bold signage will aid navigation issues and discourage safety hazards such as tripping.
Ensure that your technology is up-to-date and functioning in order to improve patient engagement. In a digitally saturated world, patients are most likely to discover you on the web. Your online presence is often your first impression. Ensure that online scheduling procedures work seamlessly, and instructions on completing forms and reserving appointments should be clear. Online frustrations could trigger patient anxiety. If patients are struggling online, they should be able to contact you directly. Contact information should be available within the first 3-5 seconds of visiting your site.
Another key to improving patient engagement involves patient data, according to Healthcare IT News. With access to individual data, patients may develop questions and begin to use an agency in their healthcare journey.
Surveys could be a major key to improving the patient experience. Asking for feedback shows that your practice cares about the patient’s experience. Furthermore, collecting point-of-care data through surveys is essential to making effective changes. By giving surveys during or near point-of-care, patients can provide immediate feedback. This way, data becomes specific to particular components of the patient experience and changes become more directive and purposeful.
6. Patient Financial Experience
As the healthcare financial burden increases, patients are more concerned about the cost of treatment. For those who have to incur expenses in order to receive care, their stress level is further heightened once they walk through the office doors. To relieve this stress and to provide a better experience for patients, you will need to be empathetic towards their financial concerns. Make sure you and your staff are comfortable speaking with patients about the total cost of care by taking the time to explain the amount they are responsible for after insurance. Your office should also offer meaningful and ethical solutions that accommodate your patients’ needs. These solutions should be flexible, allowing patients to make payments over time while still receiving the care they need. By being empathetic and having the right solutions in place, providers can decrease financial pressures and enhance the patient experience of their patient. Not to mention, it can help increase your medical practice revenues.
We need to create not just a human experience, but a humane experience. If you were sitting in the chair, how could you improve the patient experience your practice offers?