4 Smart Strategies That Deliver Stronger Patient Experience

patient satisfactionIn any given week I lose track of the number of service feedback requests that come to me. There are many different forms and formats…but it’s troubling that the nation’s health care delivery enterprise seems less consumer-focused than most everyone. You might want to pass this article around to everyone in the office.

These are the personalized “tell us how we’re doing” emails and quick surveys follow routine retail transactions, fast food purchases, travel and traveler exchanges, online shopping and any of a dozen experiences and encounters. It seems that everyone asks about my experience and value my input.

For those of us in marketing, “customer touch” moments reveal valuable comments and reviews, improve customer care and support service quality and satisfaction. Unfortunately, what’s commonplace in everyday living is not as common in healthcare encounters.

Fortunately, marketing savvy hospitals and sophisticated medical systems and groups have become proactive about the pulse of satisfaction. But many times, the everyday patient experience falls short of retail encounters…or even the friendly, quick and convenient McDonald’s visit.

Improving the Patient Experience…

Consider the customer experience that you would expect at a five-star hotel. The key, of course, is hotel guests seldom have to “sign a clipboard sheet” and wait to be shuffled into the office routine. The medical office routine is process-driven. In contrast, hospitality is highly personal and individual-driven.

The patient is not an interruption, and the main objective is not a process step. Instead, teach the staff to use the initial (and every subsequent) encounter to extend a warm welcome, establish and build a positive, bonding relationship. The person (customer, patient, consumer) is the core reason that the business exists. It’s about rapport building with people, and not about impersonal paper processing.

Every impression makes a vital “first impression.” Contrary to the old saying, a relationship more than the “first impression.” Every encounter between the staff and the patient is a building block in the overall experience. It’s easy to create an unwanted and unintended feeling of “being rushed.” And that’s a top objection among patients. Much of this comes from the silent signals of “body language” – which is 70 percent of person-to-person communications. This is when and where patients begin to believe—or doubt—that you truly care.

Account for the many and various “little things.” The patient’s summary experience will include the tiny touches of service and satisfaction…often things that are small, forgotten or considered inconsequential. Do not ignore the convenience of patient parking, access to the office door (for sick or injured people), billing issues, the cordial comfort and appearance of the reception area, your ability to minimize wait times and other small but significant, influences.

Always ask for patient feedback. Offices that proactively solicit patient experience feedback are more likely to gain more accurate and honest insight from patients. One technique is to provide a simple checklist to patients at the beginning of their visit, and to encourage them to make notes and “let us know what you think” before they depart. (They may or may not remember to do this without a timely reminder. And simply being asked is often a positive step.)

It’s important to note that an extremely small percentage of patient complaints relate to the quality of clinical care. And the vast majority of discontent and dissatisfaction—large or small, real or imagined—relate to the front desk, staff interactions and customer service in general.

Research studies show that key patient experience considerations are about communications, long wait times, and the practice staff. We’d like to hear what you think, and how these issues are handled in your office. And, by the way, please consider sharing this article with everyone in the office.

About Kathy Roy Gaughran

Senior Marketing Strategist Kathy Roy Gaughran [Kathy@healthcaresuccess.com] has helped thousands of clients throughout North America achieve their growth goals. An award-winning strategic marketing planner, Kathy is an accomplished writer and speaker, frequently presenting to national, local and state professional associations.

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