This blog is based on the insights shared by Lisa Marie Wark on Advice Media Webinar; her work has been paraphrased throughout here. For more information, look at the references at the end 

Your patients aren’t just buying the services you offer. They are buying something emotional to them. There is a story behind every procedure. Make sure you connect with it. 

Happy and satisfied patients are the lifeblood of any practice. Healthcare reform boosts transparency and enables patients to become more savvy consumers. Hence, healthcare providers must be creative enough when it comes to attracting patients to their facilities.

Important to this process is changing the patient experience of the facility from good to extraordinary. In healthcare, we all tend to work in our silos. Nobody owns the entire patient experience. We might own our small price, but that results to fragmented care and a less than optimal experience.

One of the first things you should keep in mind is that patients want to be:

  • addressed as a person (not a disease)
  • be treated with respect
  • communicated within a way they can understand 
  • be listened to 

In this blog allow us to present to you the five essential things you need to create the ultimate patient experience.

1. SOUL

Positive patient experience is a vital goal in its own right. Further, relevant evidence leads to a positive link between different facets of patient experience, like good communication between providers and patients, and numerous vital care processes and outcomes. 

With that in mind, we will look at reasons why relationship management is a vital part of successful patient experience.

  • Values. The values you represent in your practice.
  • Team. Your employees are the ambassadors of your business. They should communicate the practice’s values to customers and to each other. Employees must be both flexible and proactive whilst having integrity. 
  • Always think about your patients. Listen to them and connect with them, especially when they are distressed. 
  • Adopt values and translate them into principles within your practice. Your values are the glue that holds your team together. They offer clarity and direction to employees by clearly defining everyone’s role, helping the team to work towards a common goal.
  • Encourage employees to create relationships with their patients. The impression you leave on your patients will not be forgotten, good or bad. Your team is responsible for enhancing that experience by simply having a willingness to go above and beyond expectations. 

They need to innovate in order to differentiate the experience from your competitors. They need to provide simple solutions to complex problems. And most importantly, they need to connect with your patients. 

  • You must be very clear about what you offer. Be unique, be clear, and be concise. Being unique is what separates you from your competition, clarity is what communicates this and conciseness improves clarity – if you can condense your values into a sentence instead of a paragraph, do so. 

Clear Communication Skills: 

  • For your patient’s satisfaction, they have to know what’s going on in advance.
  • Send consistent updates by email and avoid cloudy language. Don’t leave anything to needing clarification and just be as open as possible.
  • Open communication at all levels.
  • Respect interaction between your team and your patients. 

Adaptability

  • Industries change, patients change, and the makeup of your patients change. So continuously please your patients, it is important that you change with them.
  • As you administer patient surveys, ideally can be done regularly. You shouldn’t take criticism lightly and incorporate some of those recommendations.
  • The more accommodating  your practice can be, the more connected you will remain, and the more durable you become.

2.  YOUR TEAM

The medical sector continues to put emphasis on patient satisfaction and positive patient experiences. Hence, organization leaders must learn the role various employees play in accomplishing that end. The entire healthcare team is vital in the journey to better care experiences and quality for the amount of time they spend at the patient. 

Happy employees result to happy patients. That makes sense. When healthcare staff members are not anxious about arguing with the leader, being acknowledged for their efforts, and getting the right training and support, they can present a quality experience to the patients in their care. 

Employees need to know that their work is valued from basic job alignment to engaging in regular activities. Altogether, those factors help to drive wonderful employee experience, and that’s the cornerstone for a wonderful patient experience too.

  • Employees provide more than just skills. They create healthy relationships in practice. Each employee offers a unique set of skills and personal qualities to your team. Embracing them will make your team more dynamic and improve their chemistry.
  • Empower your employees. Your employees are the lifeblood of your practice, and so they must feel valued. Rewarding them with responsibilities will reward you with a more effective workforce. 
  • Everything must be professional. Employees that undermine you undermine the practice. Employees that respect you respect the practice. Maintaining a degree of professionalism is crucial to preserving your values.
  • One bad apple ruins the barrel. A lazy employee is enough to sink a team. They force others to pick up their heavy burden, erode efficiency, and damage staff morale. Be careful who you hire. 
  • Qualities you want in employees. Someone who is proactive, goal-orientated, and willing to go the extra mile is someone you want to have in your team. These traits are part of a winning formula in all successful businesses. As your employees grow, so will your practice.
  • Train your employees. High staff turnover is costly. When you invest in your staff, you’re investing in your business.
  • Front office communication is very important. Effective communication with patients at the front desk is crucial to maintaining efficiency. Patients should be asked to present all relevant documentation. Patients should also be made to feel welcome. Everything should be natural and professional.
  • Courtesy.  Greet patients as you would greet a family member. 

Integrity 

  • You want your team members to follow procedures and company standards, understand when something is confidential, and speak up when they witness something wrong or inappropriate.
  • Accepts responsibility for actions, accepts discipline and correction.
  • Does not cover up bad news.
  • Focuses on performance.
  • Keep promises and follows through.

Flexibility 

  • A lot of employees have variety in their everyday work, while jobs for others may be unsurprising. Even in those predictable jobs, employees must be sufficiently adaptable and shouldn’t get upset when things don’t go as expected.
  • Multi-skilled employee.
  • Ability to adjust to cross-utilization.
  • Desire and ability to take on additional tasks. 

Engagement 

Engaged employees create engaged patients: 

  • Get strong commitment from your team on programs your patients need to be led by you.
  • Share information and insights across the team to your patients.
  • Choose a platform that allows you to connect your marketing, sales, and service activities. 

Be Knowledgeable 

  • You must be the expert in what you do and the product you provide your patients.
  • The patient already looked at all avenues of your expertise and has decided to do business with you. They want to know what they don’t already know or heard about you.
  • Becoming an expert and matching your knowledge to the needs of your customer will go a long way in establishing credibility and trust. 

Empathy 

  • Caring about the voice of the customer and ensuring their feedback is addressed proactively.
  • Let the patient know that you sympathize and that you’re willing to do anything you can to fix the problem.
  • Your compassion will assist them in seeing that you really do have the best for them in mind.

3. SERVICE

Experts don’t often agree on the value of patient experience surveys. Some assume that patient satisfaction precisely mirrors the quality of their care. Some assume the surveys have no link with patient results.

However, what’s indisputable is that customer experience has become one of the vital aspects of success in all trades. Healthcare is no exclusion to that. 

Consumer expectations are changing as on-demand services continue to improve their standard for high-quality, bespoke experiences. In fact, seventy-two percent of industries say enhancing their customer experience to meet that standard is their utmost importance. According to a report, forty-three percent of doctors consider strengthening patient experience a priority at all.

Unluckily, any healthcare organization that disregards the importance of patient experiences does so at its own risk. Not just are patient expectations fluctuating. Scores from HCAHPS* surveys could cause organizations to increase or lose at least two percent of their Medicare reimbursement. 

  • You want to get to know your patients. Learn what your patients’ cosmetic needs are and exceed their expectations with VIP treatment. 
  • Services must be tailored to the patient’s requirements. Understanding what your patients are looking for in your practice allows you to prepare a service that is based on their needs.
  • Look like the expert. Testimonials and thank you messages add merit to your services. They instill trust, improve reputation, and assure patients that they’re in safe hands. Make them clear to see. 
  • Always ask patients for feedback. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is pivotal to improving your practice. Ignoring them will condemn you to mediocrity.
  • Your website should look professional. A flimsy website will give a flimsy impression. Make it cutting edge, easy to read, visually appealing, and wrap it up with a clear call to action. 
  • Respond immediately to all inquiries. When a patient sends an inquiry, you are obliged to respond quickly. 

KNOWING YOUR PATIENT

Gathering as much information as possible about your patient will separate you from your competition. This will allow you to:

  • Improve your target marketing.  
  • Understand their needs.
  • Create stronger customer relationships.
  • Provide more personalized service.

  ANTICIPATING NEEDS

  • Address the complaint immediately. Responding quickly to complaints prevents them from getting more serious.
  • Doctors shouldn’t carry the burden.  Doctors should be focusing their time and energy on treating patients – not complaints. 
  • Deal with complaints methodically. Address complaints from the beginning. Firstly, managers should be informed. Secondly, a plan to resolve the issue must be put in place. Thirdly, resolve the issue with the patient. 
  • You should be solutions-based. A mindset that focuses on solving problems for patients will minimize conflict and improve customer relations.

Deliver in the Moment 

  • Technology enables us to create value for customers in real-time and starts by connecting your demand chain to the supply chain.

Good isn’t good enough 

  • You need to experience data. This is what patients feel about your service or how many stars they are giving you.
  • Then you need operational data. This is the breakdown of what makes you earn your rating

Together, understanding both data creates a foundation for delivering a five-star experience. This complete view helps close the experience gap and aligns expectations between your team and patients. 

Be anticipatory 

  • You should anticipate the needs of your patients and know what they want or need before they tell you. Paying attention to what they say and remembering their preferences will help your team anticipate your patient’s needs.
  • Talk with your patients: listen and hear.
  • Use your experience to anticipate questions and anticipate needs.
  • Identify and monitor red flags.
  • Talk to your team: clinical and non-clinical. 

4. AMBIANCE

Healthcare leaders often concentrate on the patient-provider relationship when approaching the concern of patient satisfaction. Nevertheless, enhancements in hospital ambiance might also have a substantial effect on patient satisfaction and experience with their treatment. 

Leaders have sufficient incentives to boost patient satisfaction between hospital star ratings and industry surveys. Apart from that, leaders likely wish to improve patient retention to help leverage the hospital revenue cycle. 

As such, hospital managers could enact various different fixes to support efforts to enhance patient satisfaction. These improvements might help lead to a better hospital culture, even though altering an entire hospital setting is no small job.

  • Treat your patients. ‘Would you like tea or coffee? Or how about a bottle of water if you are thirsty?’ Small gestures go a long way to building strong relationships.
  • Advertise that you are successful. Before and after photos, video compilations and testimonials are all powerful ways of instilling trust in your patients. Highlight what your patients’ problems were and clearly illustrate how you tackled those problems. Evidence is everything.
  • Use professional photos. First impressions count – look the part.
  • Produce content to gain trust. Content is the holy grail of digital marketing. It demonstrates your expertise, engages your target market with your brand, and enhances brand awareness. Find out what platforms your target market is using and communicate with them via content. 
  • Feature your influencers in your advertising. Have you worked with celebrities or online influencers? Advertise this on your website, your posters, and your emails. If celebrities trust your practice, so will ordinary people. This will immediately separate you from the competition. 
  • Closing the patient. Patients coming in for a consultation are almost prepared to do business with you. Your doctors need to appropriately demonstrate their expertise, showcase previous results, and connect with patients on a human level. Doing this successfully will close the patient. 
  • Share your information on social media. There are 2.89 billion people on social media. Use it to build bridges for your target market to cross over but make the journey interesting. Entice them with your best work, intrigue them with your unique brand personality, and, most importantly, keep them engaged.

Personalize 

  • Across all channels, physical and digital, every engagement needs to feel crafted to the individual on the other end.

5. YOUR COMMITMENT

Going the extra mile for your patients will create a lasting impression. They will not forget.

Your surgeries will have just as much of an impact emotionally as physically. They help patients overcome insecurities, so it’s important to show that you care. Be sincere and make the experience a personal one. If you can change a hundred lives, a hundred more will queue up for your service.

Show genuine interest

  • Patients want you to authentically engage and show interest in them.
  • Be personal and transparent
  • Real messages build relationships and loyalty.
  • Opt for authenticity in your communications. This is patient service skills that will set you apart. 

Your Willingness to Go The Extra Mile

  • Any chance you get to go above and beyond for your patients, do it! It will leave a lasting image with your patients, and they play a part in word-of-mouth business.
  • Assess the performance of your practice.
  • Assess the expectations of your clients.
  • Make the necessary personal changes
  • Create and enforce service policies and procedures.
  • Unleash the imagination of your team to create new ways to exceed the expectations of your patients.
  • Keep them coming back by treating them like they are special. 

KEY FACTORS

  • Create exceptional memories 
  • Enhance community footprints
  • Strengthen scenography
  • Patient engagement
  • Fulfill the employee promise
  • Drive employee empowerment and innovation 
  • Attract, retain, and develop outstanding employees.
  • Product and service excellence
  • Strengthen the operational standards
  • Embrace product and service benchmarking
  • Financial performance
  • Maximize revenue and profits
  • Increase owner satisfaction
  • Maximize management fees  

Achieving five-star patient experience 

  • Consistently craft the five-star experience
  • Transforming your mindset including your team from patient ‘service’ to patient ‘experience’ will also aid in the execution of your insights, and take your patient to the next level 

FAQs

How should you respond to your patients after business hours? 

Respond to messages until 8:00 pm. Any you received after that can wait until 8:00 am. You should have access to all client communications on your phone, especially emails, so have your mobile on you at all times. 

Assign a member of your team to be responsible for taking on all customer inquiries and for responding to anything that came in the night before. Ensure that this person is flexible and is willing to be paid a flat rate for taking on calls beyond clinical hours. 

A responsive clinic is a reliable clinic. 

What’s the best way to monitor phone calls from patients?

You should listen to live calls and observe how your patient care coordinators do follow-ups. Compare their responses to the script and assess how effective they were at appeasing patient concerns. 

At this point, all employees should have studied the script. If they’re able to stick to this whilst blending in their personality naturally, then you’ll have a team capable of building excellent client relationships. 

How frequent are staff meetings? And what format should they be in?

Having daily huddles every morning for 10 minutes is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Review the schedule for the day, identify all problems regarding patients, and find ways to overcome them. This can simply be a stand-up meeting in the office.

Common issues worth flagging up in the meeting often relate to pay: are patients paying by cash or credit card? Or you might be suffering from last-minute cancellations or patients failing to turn up. In this case, simply implementing a booking fee will likely reduce cancellations.  

How can you justify raising the price of your services to patients?

You provide patients with proof. Illustrate your worth with the amazing results you’ve provided. Demonstrate that you are not ‘just another practice’ and that your procedures guarantee results.

How do you encourage and extract innovative ideas from your employees? 

A positive environment that encourages open communication amongst all members of staff will instill confidence in employees to share their ideas. Have frequent brainstorming sessions where managers and team members can bounce ideas off one another. Provide feedback, critically analyze performance, and problem-solve together. 

When employees invest their ideas into practice, they will feel valued and empowered. This gives them more of an incentive to excel in your business, reducing the need for them to be micromanaged. 

References

Wark, L. M. (2018, May 31). The proven formula for 5-star patient satisfaction [Webinar]. In Advice Media Webinar. Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/9_ZypEldy2U 

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