Implementing the mindset that patients are consumers, and focusing on providing top-tier customer service, is essential to provider success in a patient-empowered care environment. Patients are consumers of healthcare, and a positive treatment experience impacts overall satisfaction. They’re ready to voice their opinions, let’s make sure you’re doing everything in your power to ensure their chatter showcases your practice in a positive way.
Value the patient’s time
One of the biggest causes of patient dissatisfaction is the wait time. A patient’s healthcare journey begins with the first call to the provider, to you, so keep in mind that wait time doesn’t only impact patients when their butts are in your waiting room seats, wait times also include call waiting when they’re trying to reach you over the phone.
More traditionally, patient satisfaction can be dramatically impacted when an appointment can’t be scheduled within a reasonable time frame, or when delays occur on the day of an exam or treatment.
Eliminating wait time is difficult, impossible even, but prioritizing time efficiency and promoting transparency between you, your staff, and patients can increase patient satisfaction. Be transparent about delays, regardless of the reason, and demonstrate that you value your patient’s time.
Transparency – it’s all about communication
- Pick up the phone:
Tell the patient when wait times are high, and give them the option to come a few minutes, or hours, later. This proactive approach keeps your waiting room from getting congested and makes the patient feel valued and respected.
- Go virtual:
If it will get your patient seen faster, offer to schedule a virtual visit instead of an in-person one.
- Communicate before they arrive:
Inform patients if there’s any paperwork to complete at the visit, or if they can reduce the visit time by completing it prior.
- Communicate upon arrival:
If you or the doctor is running behind, tell your patient upon check-in so he or she knows the wait will be longer than normal. Even though you can’t do anything about it, the patient will appreciate your honesty and will have appropriate expectations about the wait time.
- Communicate while they wait:
Let patients know if the wait time has increased due to unexpected events and, if possible, give them the authority to reschedule or change their visit to a virtual one.
Do not make your exam room an extension of your waiting room. Once a patient is in an exam room, they should be seen within a reasonable amount of time.
Don’t let administrative tasks distract you and your team from providing great care and service. Eliminate cumbersome administrative steps by using support technology such as CareCloud’s Breeze. An integrated patient experience solution can reduce wait time, decrease paperwork with online pre-registration, and help reduce overall visit time. This enables staff to focus on providing a satisfactory patient experience.
Dust off those bedside manners
Communication is essential in forging meaningful patient relationships and increasing satisfaction. Patients want to feel confident and trust that their physician knows their healthcare needs. Developing a rapport can help you acquire information more efficiently, decrease the need to repeat questions, and increase patient satisfaction. Here are a few tips on effective patient communication:
Practice Active Listening
- Validate the patient’s needs by demonstrating responsiveness
- Be attentive and empathetic
- Keep in mind that exam room technology can act as a barrier between you and the patient. This may make you appear disinterested.
Patient and physician interactions should be comfortable, enjoyable, and open. Be ready to communicate the truth about misinformation and current treatments, and be sure to explain the rationale and methods utilized by your practice to protect your patients from infections and seasonal outbreaks.
How to communicate while wearing PPE (from head to toe)
Although many patients have become desensitized to providers wrapped up in personal protective equipment (PPE) that doesn’t make communicating through all that gear any easier. Some patients may find PPE frightening or intimidating, especially when a face mask is blocking the typical non-verbal cues we all rely on.
Communicating with PPE requires patients to rely on eye contact, gestures, and verbal cues. It can be challenging for hearing impaired patients, who would normally rely on lip reading, to understand verbal communications. A few ways to communicate more effectively while wearing PPE include:
- Articulate your words and speak slowly – a mask may muffle your voice
- Make eye contact as much as possible
- Use nonverbals
Nod, raise eyebrows or use hand gestures to aid verbal communication
- Practice emotional mirroring
Appear more empathetic and interested
Utilizing a patient portal can open other doors for delivering information, save time for patients and staff, and encourage the much-needed shift towards patient-focused care.
Patient Experience Software
Patient Experience Software can be a useful tool for maintaining wellness, removing communication barriers, and addressing concerns before they can grow into more severe healthcare issues. A well-designed engagement program should fill in health information gaps for patients and enable patients to have informed conversations about their care, boost their motivation, address compliance risks, and help with benefit hurdles.
Your patient engagement program should complement your information gathering and communication methods, not act as a replacement.
- Customize patient support:
Put the patient journey in focus and communicate your desire for communication and data barriers.
- Provide a Multi-communication engagement strategy
Determine the right message, time, and method of communication, to provide the most value based on patient preferences.
- Choose a program that provides simple, convenient technology
If it’s not user-friendly, it could become a roadblock.
- Don’t assume patients will use your portal:
Be clear about the availability and benefits of the patient portal but don’t force it onto your patients.
When shopping for patient engagement and experience tools, search for a solution that will communicate seamlessly with your existing PM and EHR solutions. A truly integrated program will provide a payment platform, offer convenient scheduling, send high-risk patients reminders regarding preventative healthcare, and follow up on interventions and medication changes.
Today, patients have more healthcare options and place a higher value on convenience, quality, and trust. Placing confidence in care coordination can increase patient satisfaction, provider loyalty, and better overall healthcare experiences.
Often, patients categorize quality care as empathetic care. If they don’t understand the rationale behind a treatment plan, they may not comply.
Always share appointment expectations with each patient, the availability of virtual or in-person visits, and pertinent healthcare education to foster true transparency. This will help you develop a trusted and valued physician-patient relationship.
Transparency between physicians and patients can be increased by:
- Avoiding confusing jargon
- Defining medical terms
- Offering easy to understand resources to improve health literacy
- Providing accessible resources for later review or reference
- Encouraging ownership of individual health with a patient portal
Transparency regarding the costs of proposed treatment can reduce the risk of wasted time or canceled appointments. Patient experience software can provide clarity in fees with a breakdown of balances and charges. Patients may feel that their physician is less competent if they don’t explain costs and treatment options, which may lead them to be less- or non- compliant.
Shared Decision Making
Increasing patient engagement is beneficial to the patient and the provider. Improved health literacy can allow patients to become more involved in their healthcare decisions. Make patients feel like a valued member of the healthcare team through education and empowerment to become actively involved in their care. An empowered, equipped patient is less likely to leave your practice.
A patient that has the desire, and ability, to access their personal health data can help improve their health outcomes and reduce care costs. It’s a win for their health and a win for your practice. A few ways to increase patient engagement include:
- Consider their preferences, values, and goals
- Decide on a treatment plan together
- Establish specific, achievable, health-related goals
- Inquire about support systems and what information they consent to share
- Engage the support from family and friends to encourage compliance and meeting healthcare goals
- Measure patient satisfaction through surveys and adjust services as needed
The development of a satisfactory physician-patient relationship often entails more than standard care. Patients want to feel that their physician is attentive, and has the confidence to follow their care advice. Implementing measures to make patient visits a more positive experience can help increase engagement and develop a satisfying experience for everyone involved.
Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN, draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership, and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her work has appeared in numerous health system websites and healthcare journals. Her experience as a fiction author helps her craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at CharmedType.com and her fiction books at MaureenBonatch.com