Many healthcare organizations and providers are actively looking for ways to improve patient engagement and quality of care. After all, healthcare providers should focus first and foremost on the patient and their needs – of course, without neglecting clinical effectiveness and safety. This focus has become a strategic imperative as consumers’ expectations of health care quality continue to grow.
Everyone wants to receive good treatment in a comfortable, safe, and caring environment. We also want to be regarded with honesty, dignity, and respect. This means that any program that intends to provide patient-centered care and create a positive patient experience will need to consider the behavior of receptionists, nurses, doctors, and managers.
One of the most important lessons we learned in the last couple of years is that our healthcare system needs to be ambitious if we want to improve health outcomes. And one of the best tools we have to improve patient experience is the use of digital technologies. But how can we exactly respond to all the different patient needs and enhance the experience for everyone involved?
What is Patient Experience?
You could define experiences as moments. We all partake in them (each in a slightly different manner) and also measure them against our expectations. And when we have a particularly good or bad experience, we tend to tell others about it.
Patient experience measures how we receive care. It’s a critical element of healthcare quality, alongside clinical excellence and safety. A patient experience can include the way administrative staff answers the phone, how a nurse explains what’s happening to a person, or the treatment someone receives from a GP. It’s something that encompasses the entire experience of care.
When we aim to design better patient-centered care, we need to look at both the patients and how healthcare professionals interact with them and each other to ensure we are meeting everyone’s needs. One way to understand experience is to capture direct feedback from visitors, service users, and caregiverss (for example, using questionnaires and complaints analysis). It’s only with this evidence in hand that we will be able to make better decisions to improve our heath systems.
Why is it Important to Improve Patient Satisfaction?
Improving patient satisfaction and patient experience is all about designing services that meet people’s needs. Investing in enhancing the patient experience is always a good idea. There are many reasons why healthcare organizations should always work towards this goal. For example:
- If patients have a negative experience when using the health system, it can damage an organization’s reputation.
- Patients have a better experience when they feel they have control over their care and can make more informed choices about the treatment they will receive.
- There are documented links between positive patient experiences and better health outcomes.
- There is also a relationship between poor patient experience and a negative impact on staff experience.
- Patients that suffer poor quality of care or poor hospital care usually require longer stays or have to be readmitted for more treatment.
The Importance of Patient Feedback and Hospital Consumer Assessment
The more people involved in patient experience across an organization, the better the outcomes can be for healthcare providers. This includes leadership, patients and their families, caregivers, and staff. Our health services tend to be more centered on improving the functional aspects of care. But relational aspects are just as necessary.
For example, a recent significant finding when interviewing patients with long-term conditions was that the relational aspect is what matters the most to them in terms of medical treatment and healthcare delivery. Specifically, patients want to feel listened to and informed. Clinical effectiveness and safety are important, but people want to be supported so they can make meaningful decisions about their care. Several studies have also shown that the essential elements of patient engagement include being treated as a person (not a number), having staff that listens to them, receiving individualized treatment, using language that is easy to understand, and feeling informed and free to ask questions.
Patients and caregivers are at the center of healthcare, so it’s important to understand what they need to provide better medical care.
Actionable Ways to Improve Patient Experience
There are several ways in which you can improve the patient experience as a healthcare provider. Back in the day, it was enough to provide excellent care quality. Today, doctors and staff need not just to attract patients but also to retain them. The key to achieving this is to increase patient experience and satisfaction.
Online and Phone Scheduling
One of the key components of an excellent patient experience is the ability to book appointments and review results online. Many hospitals have already replaced phone calls with online booking systems through email, browser, or text – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Automatic Confirmations and Reminders
A good way to keep patients informed is to use automatic confirmation and appointment reminders. These alerts, typically sent received an email or text messages, can not just increase patient satisfaction but also reduce costly no-shows. You can, for example, send a message right after a patient has made a booking and then a reminder a few days or an hour before the scheduled appointment.
Your online presence is often your first impression with potential patients and customers. This can include your website or a local directory profile – both of which should include consistent information about your organization. Many clinics and hospitals also show photos of the practice and patient testimonials. You should always want your practice to be represented accurately online.
Online Documents and Paperwork
Many clinics are already using the option to fill out intake forms before their visit is due (for example, asking their patients whether they have had any COVID-19 symptoms in the last week). These forms are usually easy to fill online and can allow people to complete them when it’s more convenient for them.
We mentioned how the relational aspects of patient satisfaction are usually valued above the functional ones. A key to keeping patients coming back is to be welcoming and warm from the moment someone steps into the clinic. Simple gestures like a smile and a greeting can go a long way. Ultimately, though, patients want a trusted medical opinion. They want to feel comfortable with a doctor they see as invested in their wellbeing. Besides quality care, patients require a caring, warm, and friendly presence.
Short Wait Times
Patients can become very frustrated if they have to wait for an excessive amount of time. Some delay is understandable, but it’s always important to communicate to a patient the reason why their appointment might start later. For example, by instructing your staff to always inform patients how long they might be expected to wait or to send automatic notifications with an estimation.
After any visit, you should make sure your patients know you value their feedback. You can send automatic patient satisfaction surveys after appointments or interactions. It’s best to do this right after a visit when the experience is still fresh. Don’t be scared of negative feedback, for it can help you improve your care services and lead to higher satisfaction.
Re-Imagining Patient Experience with Disruptive Innovations
Disruptive Innovations is a consulting firm specializing in aligning technology with business vision. We regularly help health care providers create executable actions to improve the patient experience. Our customer and patient experience (CX/PX) optimization module redefines the customer experience lifecycle and can help your organization achieve consistency across different channels, reduce hold times, integrate critical applications, and create unified visibility across your entire network. Let us help you re-imagine what technology can do for your healthcare organization.