What does patient service have to do with patient experience? Well, a lot.
Think about the stages a patient goes through to get admitted to your medical practice. At the very beginning, he or she interacts with someone at the front desk, after that a registered nurse and finally a physician. While each of these staff members is trusted for their expertise, they are also a part of the overall patient experience.
This is where customer service comes in. The attitude and training of hospital staff and the comforts offered during a patient’s hospital stay have a significant impact on the patient experience and satisfaction. Even the smallest interaction or gesture matters. If the physician is rude, or if the patient had to wait for hours to see the physician, such instances can negatively influence the patient regardless of whether they received proper care.
Other industries like hospitality, tourism, and food service took stock of the importance of an excellent customer service. While medical facilities are not likely to start placing fresh flowers and bedtime mints, that should not deter medical staff for going above and beyond in providing customer service.
How patient experience impacts hospital revenue?
According to Accenture Consulting, superior patient experiences lead to an almost 50 percent increase in net margins, regardless of the size, type or location of the medical. With today’s patients “shopping” for healthcare services, patient experience plays a key role.
More patients are looking for healthcare providers who can offer them unmatched experience for their money and needs. This is reflected in the industrywide shift toward value-based and patient-centric care. Just think about how many options you have for a local restaurant. Chances are, you will go to the one that has good reviews, extra facilities and a reputation for amazing customer service. If you have a bad experience there, you will probably never return to that restaurant no matter how well they make your morning coffee.
Increasingly, medical practices are being held to the same level of customer service found in other industries. A poor experience risks losing a patient who might have returned for additional healthcare needs, which directly impacts a practice’s revenue. Too many poor patient experiences could lead to a reduced customer base, which, is not just bad news for a hospital’s bottom line, it also fails to support the practice’s goals and mission.
Tips for improving the patient experience and bottom line
We all know it costs more to acquire a new patient than to retain an existing patient, but that does not make it any easier. Gaining a new patient is just the start of a long-lasting relationship. However, these relationships take a lot of time and effort to build and maintain, which means that practices cannot afford to be complacent.
If patients are not getting a good service from your practice, they will very likely find another healthcare provider who can meet or exceed their expectations. If your patients are upset, they may also post their experiences on sites like Healthgrades, which could factor into the decisions of potential patients who could be considering your practice. Patients are less forgiving of providers with whom they have had a negative experience and tend to remember the bad experiences longer. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of the competition by improving patient experience:
- Empathize with your patients: In order to improve patients’ experience, it is critical to experiencing it firsthand. Visit your website to book an online appointment. Park your car where your patients park theirs. Read the direction instructions to your office. Ask questions of your medical staff. Sit in your waiting room. Do you feel comfortable sitting here? Did the front desk person greet you upon arrival? How did your first interaction with the staff go? Perform an audit of every interaction and touch point. Reviewing this data will help you understand the pain points and also provide an opportunity to ensure your practice is represented consistently across all channels.
- Improve processes: One of the biggest complaints most patients have with practices is the time it takes to schedule an appointment. While most patients will excuse occasional delays, but if they are regular delays in their scheduled appointments, they will become upset. Sometimes, administrative factors can run out of your control. For instance, appointments can run a little longer, or you may be called to handle a medical emergency. However, if your staff is regularly running behind schedule, it might be time to streamline the processes. You should not make your patients feel that you are rushing them through appointments.
- Recognize and reward: This should be your mantra. Happy employees will make happy patients. Your employees are one of the most important factors in achieving patient satisfaction. All your efforts to improve patient care and experience will fall flat unless you get employees trained. The employee appreciation programs are a good way to engage employees, improve productivity, and motivate them to provide better customer service. These programs should include basic things like praising and showing gratitude. You can also consider providing excellence awards or rewards in the form of souvenirs, gift cards, etc.
- Hire the right staff: A lot of patient complaints are related to poor experiences with staff, rather than the care itself. Although this has nothing to do with the physician and treatment provided, the practice’s reputation gets affected nonetheless. Therefore, it is critical to hire people that will help your patients feel comfortable and taken care of. You need staff who are trained to put patients’ needs first. Once you have the right team in place, you must train them in order to help patients get the information they need. Training will help you set expectations for your staff and keep them informed so that they are empowered to answer patients’ questions.
How can your staff provide patient-centered care?
According to Statista, healthcare is ranked as one of the industries with the worst customer service. Numerous industries depend on customer service for their survival, such as hospitality, tourism, and retail.
Patients have a choice, and they expect exceptional customer service from your medical staff. Getting a latte, for instance, is more about the comfortable couch at a coffee shop while browsing the Internet or chatting with a friend. While coffee shops are different from medical facilities but do not ignore what these customer-centric industries can teach you.
Regardless of the industry, customers want to be heard and have their needs met. As a healthcare provider, you can look for small opportunities to improve the patient experience. You should aim to make patient-centered service a part of your brand.
Your staff will not be able to improve the patient experience without professional training and a strategic plan in place. You must map the patient journey and try to address and improve the key touch points patients have with your staff. Identify innovative and effective ways to make these touch points more comfortable. If you are thinking of reducing patients’ wait time or increase time with their doctor, you will be miles ahead of the competition. Focus on the overall patient experience. You should not only be concerned with the patient’s healing and recovery but also ensuring the patient has a positive experience.
Staff training can strengthen patient experience and bottom line
It is important to train your staff on how to approach interaction with patients. You must empower your employees to communicate your brand image and values during their interaction with patients. It starts with telling your employees how important they are as part of the patient experience and satisfaction, and how much they contribute to the practice’s growth and success.
Your patients should experience your brand in their interactions with every staff member, right from their first interaction at the front desk to their last interaction with billing. Every person you employ should be trained to represent your brand image with words and actions.
A lot of medical practices focus on patient service as a priority, but their staff lacks professional training. It is critical to train your employees on these patient service benefits in order to see a positive change in your bottom line:
Reputation: Patient service directly impacts your reputation. Unhappy patients will post negative online reviews about a bad experience at a greater rate than patients who have a positive experience. Offering quality service on a consistent basis can limit your chance for negative feedback and increase the number of positive reviews. Positive reviews will lead to an increase in new patients, which will mean more revenue.
Retention: Less time, money and effort are required to retain an existing patient than to gain a new patient. Patients are more likely to return to your practice if they are satisfied with the services received. Take time to train staff on how to deliver a positive experience and create loyal patients. Even by investing less time and money, you will see an increase in profits.
Conversion: Excellent patient service does not begin after the appointment; it starts the moment a patient enters your office. Your front desk person is the first point-of-contact for all patients. Prompt and courteous responses, from the beginning, will show patients they are valued. Patients will hesitate in coming to your practice if the team lacks the ability to fulfill their requests and expectations.
Appointments: Regular appointments are the lifeline to staying in business. Up-selling during a consultation is one way to increase revenue. Train your staff to listen and identify additional patient needs during office visits. Patients are more likely to open up to staff that makes them feel valued.
Referrals: Referrals are worth their weight in gold, and very essential for the growth of your medical practice. This is because referrals are easier to convert and are a cost-effective way for practices to increase revenue and profits. Referrals will increase when you offer an unmatched patient service.
Patient service is the most important element of your practice management, which if ignored, can hurt your return on investment (ROI). Quality patient care ensures not only that patients return to your practice, but they keep recommending your practice to their family and friends. It builds brand ambassadors, making them your biggest advocates when trying to attract potential patients. By focusing on patient care, and training your staff on the value of positive experience, you will see more profit.
Staff training is an investment in your bottom line, especially when you can lose tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. Give us a call today to discover how Practice Builders can provide a customized program for your medical practice with on-site staff training at an affordable rate.