Attention medical practices. This post is for you! (Psst...everyone else is welcome to listen in.) In order to better understand your issues, Solutionreach recently commissioned a survey to uncover the most pressing issues facing medical practices in 2017 and beyond.
Based on responses from over 500 medical practices, the survey revealed six key challenges.
In this weekly series, we'll dive into each of these trends and how practices can begin to effectively tackle them. Here’s a sneak peek at the list:
- Managing and improving the quality of care
- Saving providers time
- Improving communication with patients
- Improving patient experience
- Increasing revenue
- Attracting new patients
Today we’ll be tackling the issue of managing and improving the quality of care.
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The Hunt for Quality Medical Care
Patients want access to high quality care. Medical practices want to provide it. Great—everyone should be happy, right?
The Solutionreach Patient Provider Relationship study found that a meager 32 percent of patients are completely satisfied with the care they receive at their medical office.
And medical practices agree—86 percent say that they are unable to provide the highest standards of care.
Wait. Back up a minute. What is going on here? Why is such a highly-valued commodity also so elusive?
The High Costs of Poor Care
The rise in healthcare regulations, malpractice litigation, emerging competition, as well as the increased demand for personalized care from patients, have all played a part in creating this disconnect.
Making matters worse, the medical field lags behind every other industry when it comes to updating processes and technology.
This is bad news in an era of retail-oriented medical care.
Patients are used to searching out the best value for their money—whether it’s looking for the latest cell phone or best medical practice. If your practice doesn’t provide the type of care patients want, they will simply move on.
Research bears this out to be true. The 2017 Solutionreach Patient Provider Relationship study found that one in three medical patients say they will probably switch practices in the next couple of years.
So What Do Patients Want?
Let’s cut to the chase. In order to improve the quality of care, you need to really understand what it is that patients deem “quality care.” Here is where our study uncovered some interesting information.
Remarkably, the majority of patients are completely satisfied with their doctor. So if they like the doctor, why are they still switching?
The study found that the area with the lowest rates of satisfaction is practice logistics. Sixty percent of medical patients say they are not satisfied with the way things are being run at their medical practice.
This really makes sense. A retail-oriented patient base is going to be very concerned about the little things. It is the entire experience that can make or break the success of an appointment. So which areas did patients say they were unhappiest with?
- Ease of scheduling
- Lack of texting
- Responsiveness of practice
- General communication
- Wait times
Three Easy Steps to Improve Quality of Care
Patients want to be kept healthy, have rapid access to personalized care, and be charged only what they can afford. This can most effectively be accomplished through technological process improvements within a practice. Patients are fickle however. While they want their practice logistics streamlined, they also want to have an emotional connection with their medical practice. It is important that when using technology, you also continue to keep a personal touch.
Here are three best practices for improving the quality of care at your medical practice.
1. Take advantage of self-scheduling and automated schedule fill
Scheduling in the medical field is different than scheduling in other industries. Because it is related to unexpected illnesses, demand is always slightly uncertain. No one knows for sure when you may be super busy or when things may suddenly slow down.
Technology can help. There are a variety of patient technologies that can streamline scheduling. Start with a technology that allows patients to book their own appointments. Studies have found that not only does this save a tremendous amount of time for the practice, but it is also preferred by patients.
When patients schedule themselves, they can quickly see which doctors are available and when. Since 41 percent of patients would be willing to see another doctor in the practice to reduce their wait, this is a simple solution to reducing wait times to getting into the office. For more information on how to reduce wait times, check out this blog post.
Patients often cancel. When they do so, technology can enable you to send out automatic requests to those on the waiting list. A quick text can automatically be sent to all on the waiting list. The first response to that text will get the spot that has opened up. All of this can be done without the front desk needing to do anything. Your schedule can quickly become streamlined.
2. Leverage automated texting
Texting can have a huge impact on your quality of care in the eyes of your patients. As crazy as it may seem, responsiveness, wait times, communication, and scheduling efforts (the key pieces of practice logistics) can all be dramatically improved through texting. Seventy-six percent of patients think text is more convenient than phone calls.
Texting has been proven to:
- Increase on-time arrivals
- Boost patient satisfaction
- Improve staff efficiency
Take texting to the next level with two-way texting. One surprising note uncovered by the study is that roughly two-thirds (73%) of patients now say that they want to send a text to their medical practice. Technology makes that a reality.
3. Don’t let technology become a crutch
This is a warning that seems to go against everything previous written. It can become easy to think is that all you need to do is set your tasks to “auto” and—BOOM!—your processes are as smooth as butter. Not so fast!
The last thing a patient wants is a receptionist constantly looking at her computer, a doctor glued to a tablet, or only receiving texts that are obviously generic. While technology can absolutely revolutionize the relationship between patient and practice, it must be remembered that the human element is crucial.
Technology gives us the time we need to create the personal experience a patient hopes for. So…greet those patients by name. Send out a happy birthday text. Smile. Remember—it is technology PLUS humanity that will elevate your quality of care.
Join the conversation…how are you handling the quality care challenge? What efforts are you making to improve quality from first contact through post-visit? Leave a comment and let us know.
Or do you want to find out what else the patient-provider study uncovered? Download a synopsis now.