When you’re in the medical and healthcare business, it’s easy to forget that patients are just as much “paying” clients as any other service. Even in countries with nationalised healthcare schemes. If your clinic has a poor patient experience and no one wants to come to you, you will lose funding. Another better, clinic will get funding instead. When you have a private medical practice, your patients have multiple choices for their health concerns. You had better be sure they want to be your patient.
A patient by any other name is a client or customer. You’ll never see a commercial enterprise not making the most of their client experience. What’s more, patients can sometimes be at their most vulnerable when attending to their health issues. It’s not a time to skimp on patient care. And I’m not just talking about doctor/patient time.
The easier you make the patient experience when they feel their worst, the more patients will return to you. Even if people don’t have much choice in their medical practitioner, it’s not just about them wanting to come back to you; it’s about being willing to put themselves in your hands. Poor patient care and experience can lead to the patient not attending to health issues out of fear, discomfort and inconvenience, making things much worse in the long term.
So What Makes The Best Patient Experience?
It’s easy to assume that patient care and patient experience revolve around time spent with a medical practitioner. However, patients have far more negative experiences with long waiting times, difficulty getting an appointment, endless reams of forms to complete, the list goes on.
The doctor could be excellent, but if you have to run a gauntlet of other poor experiences just to get to them, it can be exhausting – especially when you’re not feeling your best.
The process of patient contact with the clinic should be streamlined, straightforward, and convenient. All the way from discovery and information gathering to appointment booking and follow up. However, the human connection and empathy required by those working in a healthcare environment are still crucial.
Digitising Admin Makes More Time for Patients
The world is becoming more and more digitised as we demand more convenience and instant responses. That’s no less true simply because we’re talking about the healthcare industry.
A convenient digital online system for access to medical care is critical as the technological age advances and the tech-dependent patients demand it.
Digital Solutions to Patient Experience Issues
The following are the major digital implementations that can help reduce admin time and costs while enabling greater attention to direct patient care.
Website – Clear & Concise
When patients need to visit your clinic, hospital or surgery, they want to know what they can expect. Patient experiences are so much better when they can plan for the occasion and aren’t likely to have any unwelcome surprises. A comprehensive website is the only way to effectively keep patients, both existing and potential, fully informed.
Why would patients choose your clinic over any other? Maybe you have a celebrated dermatologist on your schedule, or perhaps you have a comprehensive approach to holistic health. People can be exacting when it comes to choosing a health care provider. Make the provisions of your clinic clear and easy to navigate, and let potential patients know what they can expect when they visit you.
Let your patients know what they need to do when they visit you, how they can book an appointment with the right specialist, and any other information specific to your clinic setting. When people are looking for information, please give it to them to make an informed decision.
Introduce your clinic staff so that people don’t feel like they’re dealing with a stranger, and let people know what their qualifications and experience are. A
Online Self-Scheduling – Easy & Accessible
In a study by Mayo Clinic, they implemented a self-scheduling system and trialled it with a group of 1099 patients (okay, it’s a small study). Of those patients, a massive 73.1% used self-scheduling and cancelling software exclusively. The demand for effective online self-scheduling in healthcare is massive, not just for patients but also to relieve the burden on staff schedulers. The rescheduling rate with staff-scheduled appointments was 28.3% against a rescheduling rate of only 6.9% of self-scheduled visits. That’s a lot of saved time in appointment rescheduling.
Another key finding of this study was that 29% of appointments were actually booked outside regular operating hours. People who work odd hours or can’t call during the day need this self-scheduling ability, not just the people who prefer it.
Yes, there will always be a need to contact the clinic to book an appointment. However, the proportion of self-scheduled appointments will increase as more healthcare services implement the systems. It’s convenient, and if COVID has proven anything, digitisation can work in a healthcare setting.
Contact – Direct & Convenient
You will always need to have the accessibility to allow patients to call you. That is not under debate. However, as more people become further reliant on and understanding the technologies available, alternate methods will become feasible and even preferable to talk to patients. Social media and live chat are ideal channels to answer queries, even chatbots to respond to simple queries.
Social media is also an excellent channel to distribute important information about your clinic. If you have a new specialist joining your team or leaving, that information is crucial to some of your patients. Likewise, if you have new services, you want to let your existing patients know about them.
Keeping communication lines open is a critical aspect of keeping your patient experience positive, whether they’re digital or analogue. However, you really shouldn’t ignore the digital option.
Documentation – Online & Accessible
There is nothing worse than showing up for a medical appointment only to discover you have reams of paperwork to complete. Even worse, perhaps they had already completed all the information when they booked the appointment. It happens to so many people, and it is always frustrating.
Understandably, some procedures and documents require a witnessed signature. However, if the patient has already completed all the required details, asking them to fill out a form again is a waste of time for everyone. It can also send the doctor’s schedule running late because the patient is still completing a form.
The easiest way to mitigate this terrible waste of time is to ensure all necessary documents are available online. You can also ensure that when your online booking system collects patient information, it saves it to the client record or the specific booking.
Some options that could benefit both patients and clinic administration is the use of online forms.
- Intake forms for individual appointments or courses of treatment,
- Client Fields for patients specific information that is unlikely to change from visit to visit.
These are just two options in the SimplyBook.me system that allow clinics to collect pertinent information from clients.
Another option is being able to download and complete documents for upload to a patient record. Alternatively, any information collected in the booking or sign-up process can be saved to a CRM and used to pre-populate and documents requiring a witnessed signature.
Online form completion and only completing the information once benefits everyone.
Actionable Patient Feedback – Surveys & Reviews
You can’t be sure what you are doing is correct unless you get feedback from your patients. Automated and scheduled feedback requests to patients at the end of a course of treatment is an excellent way to gauge the patient experience. It’s also a perfect way to tell other potential clients how good a clinic you are – including the positivity of the patient experience.
While feedback requests for reviews are good, some patients might not feel comfortable giving a candid response if their experience was negative. In these cases, it is best practice to supplement your review requests with an annual or bi-annual patient satisfaction survey. In these cases, you can send the link to a third-party survey (one that observes HIPAA security and confidentiality ) to collect vital information to improve your patient experience.
With all the feedback in the world, you won’t make improvements if you don’t actively review your patient reviews internally. Whenever you have a significant number of responses, you need to analyse what they say about your patient care. While it’s great to get positive feedback, you will learn more about your clinic from the negative and lukewarm responses. Your responses to negative feedback could also benefit potential patients; they’re not always a bad thing.
How Digital Tools Improve Patient Experience
When you remove the mundane tasks such as answering phone calls, emails and other appointment requests, you free up both medical and support staff to look after the incoming patients.
If a patient walks into a clinic feeling ill and weak, having a clipboard pushed into their hands while a receptionist is still on the phone is not an excellent way to make the patient feel cared for. When your admin support isn’t rushed off their feet inputting every completed document into the system, they have more time to make sure people are okay. Keeping watch on your waiting room and ensuring patient care doesn’t begin and end at the doctor’s office door.
Patient experience comprises so much more than the brief consultation with a medic. Much of the patient journey will be characterised by their contact with support staff. Yes, that includes brief contact with the receptionist.
Some of the questions a patient might ask before choosing a healthcare provider:
- How easy is it to find information?
- Can I book online?
- Is it simple to book an appointment online?
- Will I be treated with respect?
- Can I ask a question and get a timely response?
- Will I be kept waiting long before my appointment?
- Is the doctor willing to listen to my concerns and opinions?
- Do I have the opportunity to follow up with the doctor?
While digitisation can’t answer all of those questions or make them any more accessible, it can reduce the workload and time spent by administration support on jobs that automation can fix. Meanwhile, the time saved can be spent on the delivery of a top-notch patient experience.