How Healthcare Providers Can Improve the Patient Experience

Leaders in the healthcare industry may doubt the benefits of monitoring and enhancing the patient experience in the face of competing healthcare objectives and limited medical resources. Nonetheless, the market and healthcare trends, as well as mounting research associating patient experience to critical clinical and business outcomes, offers a compelling case for enhancing the patient experience. 

The activities taken by healthcare providers to review an organization’s patient experience with treatment and investigate what is driving those experiences will help the quality improvement team identify areas that need upgrading and set the right standards. Here are 13 methods healthcare providers can use to improve patient satisfaction. 

Create an Informative Website

Many businesses have decided to perform the majority of their operations online, and healthcare providers should follow suit. Patients can benefit from an online experience even though a healthcare provider’s role is to give the patient effective medical treatments. Allow patients to arrange their doctor’s appointments online where they can select a specific practitioner based on their precise needs. Patients grow frustrated if they have to wait to be directed to a healthcare facility, and it’s common to not be introduced to the team before the appointment. Patients who can attribute a face to their healthcare provider are more likely to engage with their treatment and display trust. 

A website can be highly advantageous for several other reasons, such as providing an FAQ section for general queries, managing accounts for online payments, insurance coverage details, and the provider’s operating hours. Display high-quality images of the healthcare provider both inside and out, as well as all of the employees the patient may interact with. This way, patients can get a sense of the brand before they make an appointment. It’s also a good idea to add testimonials from current and past patients, as this builds confidence in a healthcare provider’s services.

Employ a Qualified Business Administrator

A qualified employee should be hired to conduct health sector management that concentrates on hospital administration, pharmaceutical management, and the provider’s quality management system (QMS). A healthcare professional with an MBA does not need to be well-versed in all medical procedures; instead, they focus on health policy, healthcare ethics and legislation, health economics, project management, and risk mitigation.

A business administrator is very beneficial to any organization; however, in healthcare, it should be a top priority. For more information on the requirements of a hospital administrator, check out Suffolk University’s online MBA degree program and the health sector management concentration. A person with an MBA can be a wonderful advantage to assist the facility with day-to-day operations as they oversee all administrative functions and ensure the organization is running smoothly and within the confines of the law.

Revamp the Waiting Rooms

Make the waiting area a pleasant location for patients to spend time in before their appointment. Hard furniture and strong lighting should be avoided, because some people may spend hours in the waiting room. Instead, provide comfortable chairs, play soothing music to help patients rest, and install some warm lighting to create a more friendly atmosphere. The waiting room is where patients wait to hear about their loved ones, or for their appointment, and it can be more of a nuisance than anything to have to wait for assistance. 

The waiting room should be welcoming with a serene environment that people can relax in. Giving your patients a peaceful space to decompress will feel less like an inconvenience and more like a welcome break from their busy day. Take a look at the waiting room in your practice and evaluate what it says about the healthcare provider. Try to add offerings such as coffee, cookies, and plenty of reading materials.

Send Reminders and Confirmations

Everyone leads a busy life and patients are no different. Automatic reminders and confirmations for appointments are one way to improve the patient experience and decrease no-shows. Time is money for healthcare providers, and any missed appointments are wasted opportunities for another patient to receive the treatment they need. Assist patients by either calling or messaging them when an appointment is booked, at least three days before the appointment and on the day.

If a patient does not confirm their appointment three days in advance, the healthcare provider should reserve the right to give their appointment booking to another patient.

Train Front Office Staff

Improving a patient’s experience does not need to be a lot of work. A simple hello with a warm smile goes a long way, and it’s always encouraging to see happy and helpful healthcare provider employees. Being a patient is scary, and the last thing they need is to feel more uncomfortable. It’s critical to provide a positive experience for patients throughout their visits to keep them coming back. Advise front-end staff to show basic courtesy by informing patients that if they may need to wait, that they should bring some reading material inside the examination room. 

For new patients, present them to the provider as soon as they are ready to see them. These simple gestures go a long way toward putting the patient at ease and improving their experience. A pleasant receptionist and a kind healthcare provider team can make a patient’s whole day just by smiling and being openly friendly. One way to improve patient satisfaction is to increase employee satisfaction. If employees are visibly happy in their jobs, it will show up in their work and the care they provide to the patient.

Reduce Waiting Times

Most people understand that there is a time limit of when a healthcare provider is available and that they may be too busy to attend to a new patient. Plenty of patients consider waiting times to be the biggest factor that affects their satisfaction with a healthcare provider, so reducing these times will benefit all of those involved. 

Reducing waiting times can be done with a simple scheduling program to avoid overbooking providers. A high-quality system can also assist providers when the practice is busy, and appointments may need to be pushed back. Patients won’t be as frustrated if there is proper communication from their healthcare team and providers explain that they may be running behind. Patients appreciate this type of honesty and transparency, especially when it comes to their healthcare. 

Provider Satisfaction Surveys

Surveys are becoming increasingly popular as a means of gauging customer satisfaction, yet they shouldn’t be used as a driver for healthcare provider outcomes. Satisfaction surveys should act as a balance to measure healthcare providers’ patient satisfaction rates to identify where they can improve. Some patients are under the impression that doctors are rushing them through their appointments, and that they are just another number. Sitting down with patients and allowing them to ask questions is a simple approach you can take to change this attitude. A humble action such as this makes the patient experience more pleasant and gives them the impression that they are being heard.

A happy patient doesn’t necessarily mean that the provider has no room for improvement, rather it becomes an indicator of the overall health system. Patients appreciate when a provider takes initiative to communicate and find out how they are doing. Satisfaction surveys should be done after the patient’s overall experience to evaluate the entire team and ensure the response is not based on one person or provider. 

Start a Blog

Blogs are not there only to share information and experiences with the world, they can also provide valuable insight into an organization or healthcare provider. Particularly with healthcare, social media can be a great way to engage with patients on a broader scale where they can ask questions or communicate with a provider. Blogs should include relevant medical articles and useful guides that educate patients and provide a sure-fire way to get patients to interact with their healthcare provider and increase satisfaction rates. Providers can use blogs as a means of communicating simple, but valuable, information before a patient’s appointment, such as if they need to stay away from food before a procedure. 

Integrate Healthcare Analytics

Healthcare analytics can help providers understand patient satisfaction data and improve expected outcomes by analyzing a database of information. By using enterprise data warehouses (EDW), healthcare providers can load patient demographics, readmission and retention rates, medical history, and treatment plans. Healthcare providers can use this information to identify any shortfalls in the patient experience, as well as allow other providers access to a central location of patient data that can be evaluated. 

Integrate the patient satisfaction surveys into an analytics program for widespread information sharing that can be used by any provider. This ensures that patient information is stored securely and becomes easily accessible to the healthcare team treating the patient.

Employee Engagement with Patients

This extends past training front-end staff in hospitality and friendliness. True employee engagement requires continuous communication with a patient throughout their treatment process. Doctors and nurses are busy, and often don’t have time to spend with the patient other than to discuss their treatment. Employ additional staff that act as go-betweens for the healthcare provider and patient, as this will allow the patient to feel as though they are getting special treatment. 

Patients who engage with their providers are happier and tend to trust the healthcare system more. This is important to also ensure that a patient complies with their medical treatment. Lack of trust or satisfaction in a healthcare provider can lead a patient to ignore their treatment plan if they are not communicated with properly. 

Encourage Patient Questions

Patients don’t want to seem misinformed and some may be too nervous or embarrassed to ask a question. If a patient doesn’t understand their treatment plan it will only do more harm than good. Creating a positive environment and experience encourages a patient to ask questions when they are unsure of something. Advise patients that they don’t have to be shy and that the provider is there to answer any question. It’s equally important to tell the patient that there are no wrong questions. The simplest misunderstanding could mean they won’t take their medicine properly or fail to follow up with an appointment. 

Shared Decision Making

It can be demoralizing for patients to feel that they have no input in their care plan, which can lead to decreased levels of compliance. Failure to follow the doctor’s treatment plan might result in poor outcomes and needless follow-up visits. Providers who use a shared decision-making system, on the other hand, give patients a sense of control over their health and urge them to participate actively in their treatment. This highlights the importance of the physician-patient relationship and assures the patient that their viewpoint is valued and appreciated.

Patients should be allowed to design their treatment plan with the provider, as this permits common ground to be achieved, and the patient will feel more in control of their treatment. If a patient is unhappy with a suggested treatment plan, they should feel free to express as such and be offered an alternative plan.

Reduce Paperwork

Patients often have to fill in more than one form to give their personal information, medical insurance details, and physical history. Hospital administrators need this information for their medical file, but in most cases, the patient will need to give this information to the treating physician again. It becomes increasingly frustrating for patients to rehash the same information over and over again, so consider integrating an online database. Ask the patient to fill a form in digitally, where the information can then be relayed to the rest of the providers. When a patient comes in for return visits they can update the information on the system without administrators needing to retype everything onto the system. 

The experience a patient has with a healthcare professional not only ensures that they are satisfied with their treatment, but also that patient retention rates rise. This is the frequency with which patients return to a healthcare practitioner, whether for a follow-up visit or as long-term patients. And, if patient satisfaction is not a concern for a healthcare provider, that patient will not return. Try to think about the entire process from the patient’s perspective to understand where patient satisfaction can improve. Do the patients constantly ask the same questions or display the same frustrations? These could be clues as to why patient satisfaction rates are not ideal.

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