Great Expectations: 5 Crucial Ways to Upgrade Patient Experience

Posted on Aug 22, 2017 by Lori Boyer
We are on post #4 of our medical series on the six key challenges uncovered in a recent study of 500 medical practices. Check out our past posts here:

Today we are talking about the need to improve patient experience. 

A quick scan of recent news articles reveals a concerning trend in the medical industry:

  • “Why Do Doctors’ Offices Have To Be So Darned Rude?” –CNN
  • “My Doctor’s Office Staff Is Horrible” –Times Union
  • “Patient Complaints Rise Over Grumpy Receptionists” —Society News
  • “Receptionists Put People off Seeing Doctor” –BBC News
  • “5 Signs It’s Time to Ditch Your Doctor” –Newsmax

I know, I know. Working with patients isn’t always a ton of fun. A lot of the time they are whining and Expectations for an amazing patient experience are higher than ever beforecomplaining about something. Your office is dealing with a mountain of paperwork. There is an incredible amount of “behind-the-scenes” work going on that patients never even see.  

We have to face the truth, though. Patient expectations are changing. Today’s patients look at their medical care through the lens of the ultimate savvy consumer. They are the ones hiring YOU and expect a stellar experience just as they would anywhere else.

Unfortunately, 85 percent of patients say that there are things about their medical practice that annoy them. And two-thirds of patients believe that, with the amount of money they’re paying, they deserve a better experience at the doctor's office.

Poor Patient Experience Leads to Dramatic Patient Loss

With such high demands for excellent service, it’s not surprising that our recent medical study found that improving patient experience will be one of the most important duties of medical practices in the next decade.

Our 2017 Patient-Provider Study found that an alarming one in three medical patients anticipate switching providers in the next couple of years. A surprisingly large number of these moves are taking place due to service issues, and not due to moving or insurance as we often assume.

As patients increasingly view their medical experience in the same way they look at all other service experiences, it is important to understand which touchpoints are most important to them. According to our study, the following challenges are the biggest irritations for medical patients:

Consider opening more hours for an improved patient experience1. Lack of extended hours – A vast majority (76 percent) of those polled in the study say that they wish their medical office offered extended hours. We are living in the era of 24-hour everything. Want to set yourself apart from your competition? Add some evening hours a few days a week or try opening on Saturday morning.

2. Poor message return time—A measly 32 percent of patients say that their messages are returned promptly. That’s a whole lotta bad service. Use text messages to improve your return time. By texting with a service that includes a HIPAA consent tool, you can quickly shoot off a text message to respond to pretty much any question your patient may have. And since the average text message takes just eight seconds, it’s quick and easy.

3. Unreasonable wait time—One of the things that just really makes for a cranky patient is long wait times. How do you feel about your current wait time? Most practices would say that they’re doing okay. Unfortunately, their patients would disagree. The survey found that 68 percent of medical patients are unhappy with their wait times in the office.

What to do? The key is to increase office efficiency as much as possible. With the right tools, you should be spending 30 minutes or less each day on tasks like appointment reminders and recare efforts, making the process smoother and faster. When all else fails, keeping patients aware of how long the wait may be can significantly reduce frustration.

4. Lack of reminders—Just over 60 percent of patients say that they are dissatisfied with the way their practice reminds them about tests and follow-up treatment. A similar number say that they don’t like the how they are receiving appointment reminders. In our modern era, you shouldn’t have a blanket approach to reminders. Ask which method—email, phone, or text—a patient would prefer and then contact them that way. Small things like this can make a big difference when it comes to an improved patient experience.

5. Ease of scheduling appointments—Let’s face it. Consumers are demanding more control over their lives. We shop online, use the self check-out at the store, and request specific prescriptions. Never before have Americans wanted to take such a proactive role in their healthcare.

One way to give patients a bit more control is by allowing them to schedule their own appointments online. By doing so, they can easily know which doctors are available and when. And since 41 percent of patients say they would be willing to change which doctor they see to better fit their schedule, this is a simple solution to making appointment scheduling easier for patients.

Easy communication makes for a great patient experience

Want to know more about the best practices for communicating with patients? Read “Text your Patients the Right Way.”

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Lori Boyer

Lori Boyer

Lori Boyer has spent over a decade developing content and customer strategy for a wide variety of companies. She especially loves "walking a mile" in the shoes of her target audience. At Solutionreach we focus on relationships - building and maintaining them. She does the same. Lori Boyer is a lover of crisp fall mornings, a good book, and just about anything Beauty and the Beast related.

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