There’s been a great deal of talk about the patient experience recently, and for good reason. This facet of care is central to a patient’s care episode and has the possibility to influence outcomes in a major way. Let’s explore exactly what the patient experience is, why it’s so important, and five ways to improve it.
What is the patient experience?
The patient experience includes all the interactions a patient has with the healthcare system, from their insurance company to their providers, and everyone they come in contact with along the way. While many people use the terms “patient experience” and “patient satisfaction” interchangeable, they’re not exactly the same thing.
The patient experience is more objective and refers to all that should happen within a healthcare episode. Patient satisfaction, on the other hand, is more subjective and depends on the patient’s expectations for their care and whether those expectations were met. There is, however, an element of meeting care expectations within the patient experience and the overall distinction is nuanced. Best practice for providers is to take a patient-centered approach to the patient experience, tailoring each patient’s care as individually as possible.
Why should you improve patient experience?
There are several reasons that it’s important to improve the patient experience, and they essentially fall into three separate areas: the practical, the clinical, and the business. On a practical level, the public reporting of CAHPS survey scores is a compelling reason to improve the patient experience. Savvy patients who will take the time to research such information will make a decision on which practice to visit based on the type of patient experiences their current population is reporting. Additionally, the patient experience is being considered for performance-based compensation, certification, and licensing, so there is a lot riding on positive patient experiences.
Clinically, positive patient experiences are associated with better disease management and prevention. Patient experience is also associated with medication adherence and treatment plan compliance. The natural conclusion, then, is that better care experiences lead to better health outcomes.
Finally, from a business standpoint, good patient experience correlates with lower medical malpractice risk, which obviously creates a better financial situation for the practice. Additionally, improving patient experience leads to greater employee satisfaction, reducing costly turnover. And, as one might expect, a positive patient experience leads to better patient retention, which is obviously important for revenue.
5 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience
- Provide a helpful online presence. Your digital footprint should accurately represent your practice and its culture, along with the services you provide. This begins with your website, which should be attractive and easy to use, and continues to your social media accounts and the reputation you have on review sites.
- Make access to care convenient. Scheduling should be efficient, with appointment options that reduce the patient’s burden to request time off work or arrange for childcare whenever possible. According to Kyruus, 43% of patients prefer online scheduling, so providing this option is a great way to offer convenience and efficiency. Additionally, over 60% of patients prefer digital intake. Allowing patients to provide their information on their own time is much more convenient than handing someone a clipboard full of forms when they arrive on site. Finally, provide convenient options for payment, including payment plans for those patients facing financial struggles.
- Utilize automatic appointment reminders. 66% of patients want text reminders for upcoming appointments. Remember, today’s patients are busy, and they appreciate help in remembering their commitments. As an added bonus, this also reduces empty appointment slots, preventing lost revenue.
- Create a positive first impression. Emphasize the importance of friendliness and helpfulness to your front office staff. They are the first interaction your patient will have with your practice and it’s essential that experience is positive. Keep your waiting room clean and comfortable, but also strive to reduce wait times as much as possible.
- Continually monitor the patient experience and look for ways to improve. Issue patient satisfaction surveys after appointments and take action on the insights they provide. Also, monitor online review sites and respond to negative feedback promptly and politely.
Focusing on the patient experience has a number of benefits for your practice, from better CAHPS responses, to better patient outcomes, and stronger revenue. This is one area of patient care that you can’t afford to overlook, but one that is relatively simple to improve. Knowing how important the patient experience is, we at SolutionsHub have worked hard to find the best possible partners to help you in improving this important facet of patient care.