In the last few years, healthcare has endured a series of unprecedented crises that have seemed both dizzying and unending. From incessant waves of COVID crashing down to “The Great Resignation” causing staffing shortages, healthcare practices like yours have had to become more adaptable and resilient to continue to operate successfully and increase revenue.
However, a more subtle but equally transformative trend happening for years that continues to change the nature of the healthcare business is changing patient expectations in the face of more consumer-oriented patients. With unlimited choices for retail, entertainment, restaurants, transportation, etc., available at the click of a smartphone, patients also want that same speed, ease, and convenience when interacting with healthcare practices.
It’s no longer just about the quality of care you provide that determines your success but the degree to which your practice offers modern technology to connect with patients for a better care experience that matters. And patients are signaling they’re ready and willing to jump ship to a modern technology-driven experience. A 2021 HIMSS survey found that 1 in 3 patients of all ages are willing to switch practices to get more modern communications like text messaging.
To keep up with that demand, you’ve got to be flexible and innovative in making improvements to the patient experience that will help you build loyalty and boost retention. Those investments and upgrades in patient communication technology, will help you create the competitive edge you need to keep your patients coming back to you rather than switching to your competitors.
Yet there are a number of things you can do to enhance patient satisfaction that will lead to happier, more satisfied patients. The following are 10 tips to drive greater patient satisfaction that will help you hang on to your patients as well as attract new ones:
1. Offer greater communication options
Interact with patients the way they want to communicate. Nearly 80 percent of patients want to receive text messages from healthcare practices. Ensure that you align patient communications to each patient’s individual preferences, whether that’s by text, email, voice, or a combination of these. You’ll greatly improve your ability to effectively reach patients because you’ll be connecting with them on the same wavelength.
2. Increase appointment availability
Nothing is more frustrating for a patient than a lack of available appointment openings. Many patients today expect online scheduling options and will search Google for a practice that has sooner availability to get in to see a doctor. Evaluate your current practitioner shifts and staffing levels and see if it makes sense to add more appointment slots or to offer online scheduling.
3. Achieve shorter wait times
As you know, patients who frequently experience long wait times typically won’t stay your patients for long. Look to technology solutions to expedite and simplify the check-in and patient intake process. Sending patients automated pre-visit instructions can help them arrive for appointments prepared and on time. A digital intake tool allows you to have patients fill out insurance, health history, and waiver forms electronically prior to the appointment to speed up check-in workflows. These tools can help you reduce wait times while reducing much of the manual clerical workload on your staff so they can focus on your in-office patients.
4. Implement an easier payment process
A complex and onerous billing payment process can aggravate patients and lead to a poor patient experience. Patients prefer the ease and convenience of an online bill pay tool so they can make payments anytime and anywhere from a smartphone or other device. Get paid faster and collect on outstanding balances by texting patients a secure link to make their bill payment experience simple and satisfying.
5. Update and modernize your website and patient portal
Ensure your practice’s website is modern, appealing, and offers great functionality. This will help you win over your established patients while helping you market yourself to prospective patients. Practice contact information and website features should be up to date and patients should be able to easily access your patient portal for individual health metrics and information. If your website isn’t user-friendly or has limited value, patients may leave you negative online reviews that can hamper your ability to attract new patients.
6. Regularly interact with, engage, and educate your patients
Optimize your ability to stay in touch with patients and keep them up to speed on the latest practice news, new practitioners, and relevant health education materials. Sending monthly or weekly automated e-newsletters to patients is a great way to market your practice while offering patients amenities like “Request an Appointment” or “Refer a Friend” links to book more appointments and get more referrals. Patients will appreciate being kept in the loop and having easy ways to make an appointment or refer a friend or family member.
7. Review patient history prior to appointment
One of patients’ biggest pet peeves is practitioners beginning an appointment without having previously checked their health record. It makes for a longer appointment and wastes patients’ time when they have to explain to the practitioner well-established details of their condition or the outcomes of previous appointments.
8. Use wait lists to get patients in sooner, fill in late cancellations
So your appointment schedule is booked several weeks or more out? Implement a wait list system so that you can make canceled appointments available to move patients up to sooner slots. Offering patients the chance to move their visit up days or even weeks will lead to happier patients while helping you more easily fill in late cancellations to increase revenue.
9. Show respect and compassion for your patients
Many of your patients may be having a rough day. Nothing can help you build more appreciation and loyalty than by treating patients with the respect, compassion, and courtesy they deserve. Strengthen relationships and deliver a better patient experience by being friendly and empathetic to your patients.
10. Provide convenient means for patients to share feedback
Make it simple and easy for patients to give you feedback about their patient experience. With an automated patient satisfaction survey tool, you can send each patient a link after the appointment to complete a survey at their convenience. You can also send links to patients who give your practice high marks on surveys to leave you an online review to help build your practice’s online reputation and get more new patients.
To learn more about how patient communication preferences have changed in the last couple of years, download the HIMSS white paper, “Patient Preferences in 2021.”