Customer experience in the healthcare industry will make or break your business. Quality of doctors and nurses is essential, but unless your patient needs complicated surgeries and diagnoses, they’re likely going to trust that the staff is educated and sufficiently suited to see them. This leaves open a big window for how the patient is treated. Are they brush by in the waiting room? Left to sit for an hour after the appointment time? Made to feel like a burden to the system? Or are they welcomed with open arms, a smile and a promise that they’ll be in good hands?
As we know in other industries, the consumer wants a lot. They want to feel valued, cared for, prioritized, in good hands, secure and enjoy the experience. That’s a lot to be mindful of! But you’re already in the healthcare industry because you want to take care of others. Making sure the customer is at ease throughout the entire process is part of the job, and it’s nothing you can’t handle.
Hospital systems, primary care centers and ambulatory care centers are all subject to the results of HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems). HCAHPS currently facilitates adult patient surveys, but is possibly expanding into child patient satisfaction. This is a huge opportunity for healthcare providers everywhere to step up their game and make sure that sure feel so great in your care; they want to boast about it.
While some practices will wait to observe HCAHPS results and scores when they come in, we believe in taking proactive steps toward enhancing customer experience before any feedback rolls in.
Here are some of the top ways to boost customer satisfaction:
- Patient safety. You might find this hard to believe, but chances of getting injured once entering an American hospital is between 10 and 20 percent. That risk during a four-five hour visit is greater than anything else we do in our lives. It isn’t that staff is so chaotic or ill trained. There are not safety systems but into practice in most places. When new safety systems are introduced, there’s usually insufficient training on the program, rendering the system counterproductive instead of safety enhancing. Take a look at injuries sustained while in the hospital. Hire a consultant to assess the problem, introduce the right protocol and software, and train employees on the new procedures exceedingly well.
- Integrate tech. Integrating technology into patient care increases efficiency immensely. Adopt tech that is for the patient. Utilizing devices like wearables allow the patient to keep track of their caloric intake, heart rate and blood pressure. Not only can these (and other) numbers make their way seamlessly into your office to track without a patient visit, but it keeps the patient in check with their health. Half, if not more, of the job is getting patients to take care themselves outside of the office and be in charge of their own health. Wearables help stimulate this mentality and practice. Consider also the necessity of coming into the office. How often do patients come in for visits that last moments and could have been solved via photo or info share? If a patient has a blood donation appointment, that’s one thing. But an inspection on a healing wound? Could a photo suffice? Cut down on unnecessary inconveniences for both you and the patient by leaning on technology where it is available.
- Protect health records. Health records are significantly more jeopardizing if stolen than are financial records. Health records come with social security numbers and if hacked at a young age, can go to criminal use long before the subject party gains any awareness of the theft. Additionally, people are private. They want to know that information regarding their health is privileged, and that it’s not floating around for anyone to see. Go a step further than adopting new security measures. Educate patients on the matter to remind them their records are safe.
- Help consumers understand data. As the world evolves more toward digitization, much of healthcare will become electronic and accessible by patients. Time saved and monitoring frequencies will considerably enhance patient and doctor experience, but the patient needs to understand the data at hand. Come up with deconstructed, simple ways to present the medical data to patients. Create a tutorial for navigating your patient portal. Make time at appointments to review data with patients so when they leave, they understand where to find results, how to interpret them and what practices to put into action.
- Deliver on patient schedule. It’s important to be considerate of consumers’ time. Everybody is just as busy as the doctor’s office, and their time should be considered as no less valuable. Consider using appointment scheduling software to limit wait times, overlap and patient frustration. Do you know that when the Mayo Clinic reshaped their scheduling system, they hired engineers who timed the length it took for wheelchairs to exit and enter appointments? Schedule fewer appointments per day if it helps keep the schedule smooth. You will have more returning business if customers are happy. This reward far exceeds the immediate, jam-packed client schedule. Also, be mindful of scheduling next visits and delivering results. If big results are at stake, get them to your patient as soon as they’re available. Bloodworm no longer needs to wait two weeks to see consumers’ eyes. Direct them on how to access their information online.
- Customer waiting experience. If customers do need to wait, make the experience useful. Providing Wi-Fi is essential in our day, allowing patients to continue with their work as they wait for your work that is running behind. Offer refreshments, and possibly food. Get creative with modes of entertainment that are both sanitary and engaging. Most importantly, make sure to be interacting with your consumers! Patients should never feel forgotten about or like just another body in the room. Even asking a few personal questions, like, “what’s new at your job?” “How is your mother?” can alleviate patient-office tension. Be human!
- Customer service. If it isn’t clear yet, customer service is big part of the consumer experience. Time spent with doctors is usually far less than with nurses and front of house staff. Whatever your customer needs, get it to them, even if it’s just a confession that you don’t have the answer. If that’s the case, find the answer and report back in the same time frame. If you can’t find the answer by the appointment’s end, promise you’ll follow up and don’t forget to.
- Educate employees. It’s hard to execute exceptional customer service without exceptional employees. Invest in who your hire. Communication skills should be fluid not just between staff and patients, but also amongst staff. Consumers can pick up on tension behind the front counter- this definitely does not make them feel like they are in good hands. Hire a professional to make sure that the staff is a cohesive group and that they work well together. The energy of your employees will not go unnoticed by patients. Implement educational trainings throughout the year. Teach employees to pick up of non-verbal cues from patients and how to react in all situations. Every employee should be as well-educated, trained and equipped as the best employee on staff.
- Care. Every aspect of every medical appointment Show that you care. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Treat every patient as if you were in their shoes. Coming into the doctor is as human as it gets. We’ve all got this complex body to take care of and only a select few are experts. If something’s malfunctioning, we need an expert. We’re vulnerable. Remember this with every patient interaction, from calling to remind them about appointments to figuring out how to handle a decline from their insurance. Go the extra mile, every time.
- Understand your patient. Get to know them on a personal level, but also on a behavioral level. If you offer a niche service, gather data on your clientele. Are they always ten minutes early or typically running late? Is this group coming from Pilates or showing up over lunch hours with dress shoes on? What habits do you patients have that you can accommodate and find ways in which embed throughout their experience with your office? Collecting data over the course of six months to a year can lead to drastic insight.
- Accept fault. Always accept fault, and never over promise. System oversights and general snags are inevitable in the healthcare industry. There are so many moving pieces and when things fall out of place, we usually observe a little chaos. Do what you can to avoid the chaos. Approach problems and complaints with a patient, open mind. Speak calmly. Let go of defensiveness. Apologize on behalf of your office and source the root of the problem, and find a way to solve it.
- Aims of organization. Develop a clear mission that stretches even further beyond patient care. For what is it that your company strives? To which philanthropic effort are your hearts tied? Is there an agenda to cleanse all patients of processed foods and GMOs? A goal to make sure every client exercises four times a week? Whatever the message is, embed it in every employee so they can better communicate it with patients. When it is clear that the medical practice stands for more than scheduling appointments, patients want to be involved. They want to continue to support an establishment that goes beyond healthcare requirements and pursues a passion that betters the world.
- Employees with purpose. With help from developing a company mission, employees can live out the nature of your office that, in essence, becomes your brand. If your goal is to live a happy, active life, then employees reflect that lifestyle. They’re on their feet, wearing tennis shoe and exuding healthy energy. Organize company outings that involve walking, sports or maybe running a 5K. Post pictures from events around the office. Patients will see that your company lives its mission and feel more inspired to do the same. It’s not just doctor’s orders; it’s a way of life!
- Invest in software. There’s nothing that can help your efficiency like software. Take advantage of the many tools that are available. Determining which best suit your needs takes time and financial commitment, but the investment is worth it. Whether you need donor management software, chiropractic practice software or medical code and billing software (or online scheduling software), a solution is out there waiting for you.
- Extended availability. If you really want to impress patient, offer extended availability for appointments.
- Big Data. Get familiar with big data. All of this technological inclusion is pointless if you don’t learn how to interpret the data it collects. Big data cues you in on clientele insights that you cannot afford to miss. Once you have them, you implement respective action into your strategy and see how the data shifts. Many programs have big data built in, but you can always hire a professional consultant to help you understand the information.
- Affordability. Affordability is not something patients overlook. Although we assume you are providing a thoroughly delightful experience in the office, it’s important to remain competitive in rate. Cut where you can to make sure patients can afford your services. Don’t miss out on business because you didn’t do your research on other office rates or neglected to cut back on luxuries that had little impact on patient satisfaction.
We hope you take these customer experience tips to heart, your business will be better for it. For any software needs or questions, contact Appointment Plus.