The healthcare market has undergone significant changes over the past decade with patients taking a more active role in their healthcare. Quality medical care used to be the primary component that built successful medical practices. Today, medical care is only one piece of the puzzle. A competitive healthcare market coupled with the popularity of online review sites have shifted the tides towards a more patient-centered treatment model.
Patient-centered care has become a necessary part of the treatment process for both medical practices and hospitals. Today’s patients expect a satisfactory treatment experience that attends to their emotional needs as well as their health needs. Add to this the fact that caring, compassionate treatment approaches have a positive impact on health outcomes and there’s really no getting around the need to offer patient-centered care. The good news is it only takes small changes in your day-to-day routines and procedures to create a patient-centered physician office.
Patient Satisfaction Matters
The 2010 Consumer Assessment guidelines put in place by Medicaid and Medicare mark the beginning of a new performance metric for hospitals and private practices alike. Consumer or patient satisfaction ratings on the care they receive are swinging the healthcare pendulum towards more patient-centered treatment approaches. While patient satisfaction has always been an issue, now, it’s becoming an actual standard to follow.
In effect, the patient experience has ripple effects, affecting treatment outcomes, patient retention rates, and profitability. In light of how consumer-driven the healthcare market has become, patients expect genuine and caring customer service as part of the treatment package. For these reasons, taking steps to enhance the patient experience in your practice is the best way to go.
Small Things Every Practice Can Do
Long wait times is one of the top complaints prospective patients see on review sites. Granted, there’s only so much you can do to shorten wait times. You can, however, try to approach the problem from a different angle. For many people, it’s the feeling of having to wait that’s most frustrating rather than the wait itself. While this may seem like a barely discernible difference, providing patients with something to do while they wait can help reduce frustration levels.
Setting up workstations for laptop use makes it possible for patients to get work done, check emails or just surf the web. You can also attach or tether iPads loaded with games and reading materials to the chairs. Anything that keeps patients busy while they wait can help temper patient frustration on days when appointment times run longer than expected.
Increasing the patient experience requires a team effort so it’s important that everyone’s on the same page. It’s easy to assume that coworkers instinctively know how to deliver caring and compassionate support to patients when, in fact, different people view concepts like caring and compassion in different ways. Holding a training is a good way to ensure staff members understand the concept of the patient experience and how to go about providing patient-centered care.
Increase Patient Engagement
Encouraging patients to take active roles in their treatment when away from the physician office is a great way to increase patient experience. With the medical technology advancements, patients can now wear devices that track different types of information, such as heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. These devices help patients better understand how the choices they make from day-to-day affect their health. Wearable medical devices also help improve patient adherence to doctor’s orders.
Be More Accessible
While office-based appointments are a necessary part of patient treatment, certain situations, such as with elderly patients or patients who feel too weak or sick to come into the physician office, may warrant changing the appointment setting. Online communication devices, such as telehealth, allow patients to have video-based, face-to-face appointments with doctors. These devices also provide online messaging and chat capabilities to make you more accessible to your patients.
Provide Tools that Streamline the Treatment Process
Many of the questions patients ask doctors on a regular basis involve basic health information and information about their health records, such as lab results. Small tasks, such as appointment scheduling, can also take up unnecessary time. Incorporating systems that make it easier for patients to work with your medical practice will cut down on some of the back and forth that takes place between doctor’s appointments.
Online patient portals, one of the newer innovations in medical technology, offer a number of tools and features that can make life easier for both patient and doctor, including:
• Patient education articles
• Access test results
• Patient medical histories
• Refill prescriptions
• Appointment scheduling
• Check insurance benefits
Welcome New Ideas from Staff Members
The various roles that staff members fill in a medical practice expose them to different aspects of the treatment process. Whereas intake clinicians see one area of the patient experience, nurses and doctors see other areas where improvements can be made. Encouraging staff members to point out areas in need of improvement helps your practice gain a big-picture perspective on how to increase the patient experience.
Create a Caring Environment
As hectic as a day in a medical practice can be, it can be easy to overlook the emotional needs of patients. Ensuring you and your staff incorporates a warm bedside manner as part of your treatment approach can pay off in dividends when it comes to patient satisfaction, patient retention rates, and positive online reviews. Simple things like remembering patient names, attentive listening and greeting patients with a smile help create a caring treatment environment.
All-in-all, enhancing the patient experience is all about anticipating patient needs in different areas of the treatment process. Small changes that make your practice more accessible and convenient for the patient not only helps with satisfaction levels but encourages patient engagement and better health outcomes. All this bodes well for positive reviews about your medical practice.
Last modified: August 14, 2018