Healthcare is long overdue for an upgrade. Shifting mindsets surrounding health, wellness, and longevity have made many old practices seem archaic. As older doctors reach retirement age and newer professionals enter the healthcare industry, improving the patient experience is quickly becoming a priority.
Prioritizing the patient experience is beneficial to both healthcare practitioners and patients. By advocating for our needs and demanding high-quality care, patients can tip the scales toward a healthcare system that values holistic care and longevity over symptom treatment.
Here are just a few ways healthcare professionals can improve the patient experience.
How healthcare professionals can improve the patient experience
Implement Streamlined Scheduling Systems
One of the biggest opportunities for improvement is for medical practitioners to showcase that they value their patients’ time. The days of accepting long wait times as a necessity for getting medical attention have come and gone. Patients who have the option to leave a practice and pursue an alternative with shorter wait times won’t hesitate to do so.
Unfortunately, not all patients will be in a position to find another practice. Those with certain preferences or rigid insurance terms are often forced to stick it out. Healthcare practitioners who truly care for their patients have a duty to streamline their scheduling as much as possible.
By implementing a streamlined scheduling system, healthcare professionals can offer realistic booking timeframes and stay on schedule during busy periods. Offering an online scheduling portal allows patients to choose the time that works for them and enter triage information to determine how long the appointment will take.
Consider that the waiting room isn’t the only place where patients can bide their time. Waiting on hold to book an appointment, waiting for test results, waiting to book a follow-up appointment, waiting for a prescription – it all adds up. Given that they are waiting for help regarding their health and wellness, the stress can add up.
Implementing a smart scheduling system that lets patients access their records, submit a prescription request, and book an appointment without sitting on hold, allows medical practitioners to retain their patients for longer.
Offer Automated Appointment Confirmation and Reminders
While it goes hand-in-hand with an online booking system, it’s worth mentioning the immeasurable value of implementing an automated appointment confirmation system. Use this system to send texts, emails, or automated phone calls to remind patients of upcoming appointments.
Implementing this feature has numerous benefits for busy patients and clinics. It reminds patients when they’ve booked an appointment, helping them avoid any monetary penalties or delayed treatment from missing their appointments. On the other side of things, the practice will be able to allocate human resources more efficiently, deal with more pressing issues, and streamline scheduling.
Modernize Record-Keeping and Updates
One of the biggest hurdles to the overall patient experience is the ineffectiveness of a practice’s internal systems. By implementing the best EHR system possible, practices and healthcare centers will be able to offer more accurate information, shorter wait times, better communication, and a better patient experience.
Consider the fallibility of paper records in the modern era. Rather than waiting for your doctor to come into the room and flip through your chart, the information they need will be available with the click of a button. Rather than hoping specialist referrals are faxed on time and don’t get lost in the shuffle, there’s an instant notification of important information being transmitted.
Delays in healthcare can cost someone their life. When looking for a new medical practice, don’t hesitate to ask about the systems they use to ensure timely communication and treatment. If your doctor is still using a fax machine, it may be time to look elsewhere.
Offer Telemedicine Services
Telemedicine is the wave of the future. It’s a form of accessible healthcare that’s becoming commonplace around the globe. While telemedicine was already burgeoning in the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked its popularity in many countries.
This service is another time-saving strategy that benefits both the practitioner and the patient. Rather than commuting to a doctor’s office and putting yourself at risk in a waiting room full of sick patients, a patient can often get what they need from the comfort of their home. This service is ideal for almost everyone, from people with children prone to ear infections to seniors with mobility challenges.
Telemedicine is the key to longevity in such uncertain times. Healthcare practitioners can use this offering to see more patients, without compromising their quality of work and attention.
Care for Frontline Staff
Like any business, the way employees are treated will ultimately trickle down to the patients. Practitioners can improve their patient experience by offering care and consideration to the receptionists, assistants, and other frontline workers who act as the face of the business.
Offer training and leadership opportunities to help improve patient touchpoints with better listening, compassion, and by offering personalized care. Building a culture of mutual appreciation and support will resonate outside of the organization, creating a sense of welcome when a patient walks through the door.
Build a Wellness Referral Network
Many modern general practitioners are learning where their skills and expertise fall short. For example, many general practitioners only learn the basics of nutrition science during their studies, leaving gaps in their knowledge when treating patients. Rather than trying to keep everything in-house, healthcare providers should strive to build a wellness referral network.
Networking and taking the time to cultivate relationships with wellness professionals that work adjacent to traditional healthcare is a powerful way to improve the patient experience. Experts in nutrition, massage therapy, sports physiotherapy, etc., are valuable additions to a more comprehensive wellness network. Being able to refer patients with the comfort that they will receive better care will show them that they’re valued.
When looking for a healthcare provider, don’t hesitate to ask about their referral network and partnerships. Look for a healthcare professional who takes pride in offering you a complete wellness team.
Practice Active Listening
While it may seem simple and obvious, the importance of active listening cannot be understated. Healthcare professionals need to practice this skill with patients, family members, coworkers, employees, and peers. A patient who does not feel heard will leave out important information that could be crucial to their care. As such, this simple effort can have a profound impact on someone’s health and longevity.
Patients who feel like their doctor is constantly rushing them out the door or failing to ask exploratory questions should seek help elsewhere.
Share Online Content
The world is constantly moving systems to online platforms. A recent study showed that the average person spends 27% of their year online, and that was before the global pandemic forced everyone indoors.
The internet provides an opportunity for healthcare professionals to connect with their patients on a different level. By sharing informative and interesting content via social media, practitioners can build a rapport with their patients. Email marketing can be utilized to provide essential updates and proactive healthcare tips as well.
Most importantly, having an online presence shows patients that this medical practice has moved out of the dark ages and prioritizes modern communication.
Healthcare practices can dramatically improve the patient experience by making it easier to get in touch. This improvement goes hand-in-hand with centralized systems and online scheduling. If a patient has an important question or concern, they shouldn’t need to wait on hold for hours.
While it’s equally important to maintain boundaries and adhere to privacy compliance regulations, practitioners should consider making themselves more accessible for general inquiries.
Offer a Comfortable Waiting Experience
The waiting room doesn’t have to be such a terrible place. Rather than turning on an old television with daytime talk shows and offering magazines from the 1990s, the waiting room should be a place of comfort.
Consider offering complimentary tea, fresh fruit, and wifi for patients to use while they wait. Replacing cheap overhead lights with warm, ambient lighting and soft background music can make the environment more pleasant and relaxing. Keeping the waiting room clean is important, but making it look like a sterile ward isn’t.
Practice Pricing Transparency
Another way to improve the patient experience is to be transparent about pricing. Patients should know what to expect financially when they visit a healthcare provider. Having this information readily available, either posted online and in the waiting room or having staff navigate billing, is a must.
Pricing transparency goes deeper than what it costs to see a healthcare provider. Doctors should also practice integrity and value their patients’ health and wellness over sponsorships. If there’s a generic drug that works just as well as a costly brand name, that is the one that should get recommended to a patient with limited means. In many cases, being able to afford the prescribed medication is the difference between life and death.
Take a Family Approach
There are many patients who have supportive families to help them navigate their health issues. Healthcare practitioners can improve the patient experience by creating an environment that welcomes families and caregivers into the fold. Taking this approach allows for face-to-face meetings where questions can be asked and answered by everyone at the same time. Additionally, this strategy helps improve the quality of care and ensures needs are being properly communicated.
Practitioners should consider adding a family meeting room to their practice for this type of situation. Creating a more comfortable environment for tough conversations shows empathy and respect for everyone involved.
Ask for Feedback
Finally, the best way to improve the patient experience is to ask for feedback. Posting a quick survey after a patient books an appointment online or uses a telemedicine service will provide valuable insights to improve the overall experience. This simple strategy can outline bottlenecks and service issues while highlighting opportunities for growth.
Some medical providers intentionally do not ask for patient feedback. This logic is based on the idea that patients don’t understand the medical industry’s inner workings. As such, they couldn’t provide valuable information. However, you don’t need a medical degree to know if an online portal is inefficient or if your time isn’t valued.
While it’s true that the feedback provided by patients may not be relevant to the offering or what’s in the practitioner’s control, there’s still value in asking and considering the information.
It’s important to note that in the modern era, feedback is often provided online, whether it’s asked for or not. Healthcare practitioners can improve the patient experience (and external perceptions) by responding to online reviews and critical feedback. By taking a proactive approach, practitioners can guide patients to a more appropriate forum for discussion.
What we can do as patients
A positive patient experience is about more than finding a positive in a potentially stressful situation, it’s about life. Patients can advocate for their care and speak up when they experience an issue, both online and with the practitioner. With enough demand, healthcare professionals will be forced to provide improved quality care to patients from all walks of life.