- A positive patient experience can help keep patient retention high and schedules filled. However, patients are much more likely to share bad experiences over good ones.
- It can take 40 positive reviews to counteract one negative review – it’s important to increase the likelihood of positive reviews, but also essential to prevent negative ones wherever possible.
- When you’re looking to improve patient experience, focus on communication, ease of use, and commitment to quality. Patients should feel like they’re in the loop, experience little to no stumbling blocks during the appointment or billing process, and feel like they’re getting a comparable experience in a contactless visit.
In a virtual setting, focusing on a positive patient experience is more important than ever.
We’ve all had to adjust to the recent challenges brought on by COVID-19, including providing ways for patients to receive high-quality care without visiting health care facilities. These virtual interactions are an important part of a positive patient experience, and touchless visits need to be taken just as seriously as in-person interactions.
Why is the patient experience so important?
A positive patient experience is the difference between a thriving medical practice and one that will struggle to retain and fill their schedules. People who receive high-quality care and report a high level of patient satisfaction contribute to the overall success of your practice in a couple key ways.
When a patient has a positive experience, they are more likely to come back for future visits. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You can cultivate a lifetime loyal patient with the right kind of experience. But because your patients have a lot of options at their fingertips, you need to make sure they’re satisfied with what you have to offer in order to get them to commit.
Social proof – Word-of-Mouth and Reviews
It’s not enough to keep your current patients coming back. It’s also essential to improve your odds to receive positive reviews, and avoid negative ones at all costs. A lot of research has been done about people who share their negative experiences with others, and how negative experiences lead to more dramatic outcomes than positive ones. In fact, a ratio calculated by Inc.com indicates that it takes 40 positive reviews from customers to counteract just one negative review.
People who have a bad experience with a service or product are very likely to leave a bad review, but when everything goes as planned, they’re not as compelled to share that information. Going above and beyond in your patient experience will help push those who may not normally share to do so, but you have to do something that goes past what they might normally expect. So how do you do that, especially now that you’re up against new virtual challenges in a contactless setting?
How do you improve patient experience?
Here are 12 ways you can work to improve patient experience in a contactless environment, thereby improving patient retention and the likelihood for positive reviews. The tactics are broken into three simple categories: communication, ease-of-use, and commitment to quality.
Communication is essential to a positive patient experience, and when you are not able to be in person with your patients, it makes that part of your practice even harder to do. It’s important to go above and beyond when communicating with patients during this time.
- Scheduling reminders: Send out reminders to your patients about their upcoming appointments, as well as how to prep for different appointments. Your messaging should include what patients need to keep in mind for virtual visits in terms of technology and paperwork, versus what they need to do in your office.
- What your reopening procedures are: Explain to patients how you are abiding by state and local guidelines in reopening your practice, and how you are approaching reopening based on case numbers in your area.
- What you are handling as in-office visits versus virtual visits: Pair your reopening procedures with how you are working to limit risk in the office by offering virtual pre-screening visits. This helps your patients understand who you want to see in the office, and who you’d like to see for a virtual consult first based on the spread of cases near you, the urgency of their issue, and the potential for them to receive everything they need in a touchless visit.
- Safety and office procedure changes: Alongside these reminders, also communicate about any changes that occur to your office procedures to ensure safety of those who are coming onsite. Patients should know what you have in place in terms of social distancing, mask requirements, and sanitation before they come in for an appointment. Setting the standard for what they can expect, and how you’re rolling with the punches, will make your patients feel cared for and paid attention to.
Ease of Use
Improve ease of use with every step your patient takes, from scheduling through billing. Use NexHealth tools to support a touchless patient experience that is both user-friendly and safe.
- Online booking: NexHealth offers online patient booking to make it easier than ever for people to find time that works best for them to get the care they need. No need for back-and-forth phone tag or long wait times with scheduling; availability is shown in real-time and online booking syncs bi-directionally with your pre-existing practice management software. Patients are able to book in off-hours and reschedule with ease, while you’re able to fill last-minute openings and save time for your staff.
- HIPAA-compliant digital forms: So much of the healthcare system is still manual and analog, but it doesn’t have to be. NexHealth offers digital, customizable, HIPAA-compliant forms you can send to your patients to prepare them for their next appointment. Whether you’re trying to collect information on medical history, gather consent and authorization, or do patient intake, you can send links to these forms via text or email, putting them in front of your patients where they already are.
- Telehealth appointments: Whether you want to conduct pre-screening or have a full virtual appointment, you can use NexHealth to hold appointments using our telehealth platform, available for free during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without extra software to download, the learning curve to getting patients on the platform is low, and appointment reminders can be sent via email or text. While other free services are available, NexHealth is designed specifically for the needs of healthcare providers, and is ready out-of-the-box for remote patient care.
- Online billing: The last thing you want to do is make it hard for your patients to pay the bill after their appointment. The easiest way to do this is to offer online billing that doesn’t require a login, where patients can pay in as few taps as possible. Making that process easy means 80% of your patients could pay their bill within 10 business days, and both sides have settled up with little to no hassle.
Committing to Quality
Technological advancements that allow for increased communication and ease of use can improve the patient experience significantly, but the thread that needs to run through everything you do has to tie to the quality of patient care.
- Timeliness: Just because patients may be saving time using online forms and having virtual visits, don’t keep them in the waiting room for too long. The more you commit to a prompt schedule during remote visits, the more respected your patients will feel.
- Focused visits: In addition to sending out reminders to prepare patients for virtual visits, reiterate the intention for the appointment at the outset to ensure it stays focused and you and your patient both understand the goal of the session.
- Offering a personalized experience: Patient-centered care starts with your patient feeling like they are getting a visit personalized to what they need, so in addition to identifying a goal early, make sure your patients feel like individuals. Short, virtual visits with limited windows can feel impersonal if you don’t take the time to connect with your patients on a human level.
- Reinforce with everything you do that the quality of a virtual visit is the same as an in-person visit: In messaging leading up to the appointment, and during their online consultation, both tell and show your patients what quality care looks like. In addition to telemedicine often saving time, money, and extra appointments, they need to feel like virtual interactions are as valuable as a visit to a healthcare facility would be.
What is a positive patient experience?
Supporting a contactless patient experience may seem like a challenge, but if you keep these 12 things in mind, you are well on your way to a positive patient experience. A patient experience would be considered positive when the person feels like they have been heard. Their needs have been met by the appointment, and nothing has felt like a compromise. You also want expectations to meet up with reality. Your patient should understand the point of the appointment, and any follow-ups that may be needed, and they should either not have additional questions after the appointment or know where to go should additional questions arise. Finally, a positive patient experience is tied to that personalized care: They feel like they are getting high-quality care, coupled with the convenience of a virtual visit.
Keeping patient experience at the forefront of your mind is the key to keeping patient satisfaction high during touchless consultations and digital patient management.
Use what you know about the importance of a positive patient experience to keep it always in the foreground. This emphasis on patient experience should help you craft your communications, improve ease of use, and commit to quality care. When your patients leave their appointments, especially contactless sessions, they should feel like they got what they needed, and then some. During times when tensions are running high and people are feeling dissatisfied with being cooped up, bad reviews are even more likely to occur. Don’t fall victim to the 40-to-1 ratio: Start improving patient experience from booking to billing now.