With medical costs and insurance premiums rising, patients are increasingly shopping around when it comes to healthcare for themselves and their families, making patient satisfaction very important for retaining patients and gaining referrals. According to a recent study, primary care physicians spend an average of 17.5 minutes with each patient. In a hospital setting, patients may even receive less attention. While this limited time for a medical visit was shown to be a source of frustration for patients and doctors, we believe it’s possible to create a positive patient experience in just 1,050 seconds by following a few common practices.
10 Ways to Create a Positive Patient Experience
1. Create an Informative Website
More than 80% of consumers still check out a physician online, even with a referral, so it’s important to have a well-designed, patient-friendly website to let them know about your practice and services, the credentials of the physicians, insurance that’s accepted, FAQs, and your location and hours. Welcoming photos of the staff and the facilities should also be included.
2. Create an Inviting Atmosphere
An appealing, clean, and comfortable office with amenities will help make patients feel welcome. Today, many patients will spend their wait time on their smartphones, however you may consider flat screen televisions on the walls, magazines on the end tables, and children’s books or toys. Warm lighting and relaxing music can also be an option to create a “spa-like” atmosphere rather than a clinical feel. The front office staff should be monitored to ensure they are always offering a warm welcome and positive attitude, because they set the stage for what’s to come the moment a patient comes through the door.
3. Make Appointment Setting and Communication Easy
Unanswered phones and complicated answering machine systems can be very frustrating for callers trying to set an appointment, so try to keep phone lines open at all times, even during lunch hours (this can be achieved by staggering employee breaks), and create an easily understood automated system.
In addition, a 2019 Accenture report reveals that nearly 70% of healthcare consumers are more likely to choose a practice that offers the ability to book, cancel, or change appointments online, so it’s important to offer this feature on your website. You should also consider creating a patient portal. Here, not only can patients book appointments, but they can review their health, visit, and prescription history, receive lab results, and communicate with their physician or their assistants, reducing frustrating games of phone tag.
4. Send Appointment Confirmations and Reminders
This is a no-brainer. Appointment confirmations and reminders via phone, text, or email (find out your patients’ preference) lets patients know you value their time—and spares you from wasteful no-shows.
5. Reduce Wait Times
It’s easier said than done, but streamlining whatever you can in order to see patients quicker (without reducing the time spent with them) is bound to improve patient satisfaction. A recent study of 700 patients reveals that nearly 85% of respondents consider a reasonable wait time very important to their experience, and 30% said they have left appointments if they were kept waiting too long. More troublesome, one in five say they will switch providers when wait times become too long. Across physician specialties and various cities, the average patient wait time is approximately 18 minutes; so, if your practice is significantly higher than this, you may want to consider ways to reduce wait time
6. Make a Good First Impression
You know what they say, “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” You may be having a bad day, or perhaps it’s the last patient of the day and you’re anxious to call it quits. Either way, it’s important to always put aside your frustrations and approach each patient with a friendly smile and a handshake, and maintaining appropriate eye contact. Of course, physicians and surgeons suffering from burnout may deliver less than optimal impressions. If you’re feeling this way, check out our story How To Combat Burnout in the Medical Field.
7. Be Professional—But Personable
Patients don’t like to be treated like a number on a medical file, so be sure to use their preferred name a few times throughout the visit to create a warmer relationship. Ask how things are going, and if they tell you anything personal, from getting engaged to getting a new job, make note of it and wow them by bringing it up on their next visit. A simple, “How’s the wedding planning going?” or “How’s the new job going?” is all it takes to make them feel important and show you care.
8. Encourage Patients to Ask Questions
You’ve probably seen that look before; the one that tells you your patient has a question but is too nervous or embarrassed to ask it. However, to create a positive patient experience, no questions should go unanswered, so always encourage your patient to ask it (it also lets them know you’re not in a rush to get them out the door). Let them know not to be shy, that “there is no bad question” and that it’s probably “something you’ve heard many times.” If they do open up, provide reinforcement to ensure they won’t hesitate the next time they have a question. You can also encourage them to ask questions by discussing findings or test results in detail, rather than just saying “things look good” or pointing out a problem and prescribing a remedy.
9. Set Realistic Goals
Whether you want a patient to quit smoking, improve their diet, or exercise more, be sure to set realistic goals. Simply telling a patient, for example, to lose 50 pounds may seem like a daunting task and can set them up for failure; but asking them to try to lose 5 pounds per month, completing the ultimate goal in under a year, makes it seem much more achievable. Be sure to praise patients when they do meet their milestones; everyone can benefit from encouragement.
10. Send Patient Surveys
Consider sending brief patient surveys following a visit via email. Not only does this show patients that you care about their feedback, it allows you to see what you’re doing well and areas that could use improvement. It can also help you identify staff members that could use some help, and those that deserve a high five.
Positive patient experiences are important to keep them coming back and keep up referrals. But, it also benefits the physician and the practice.
- Positive patient experiences can leave physicians feeling more fulfilled, reducing burnout.
- Positive interaction can improve the effectiveness of treatment (a Stanford University study even says a doctor’s words of encouragement can influence symptom relief).
- Focusing on patient retention is less expensive than patient acquisition.
- Satisfied patients improve your online reputation and drive word-of-mouth marketing.
One final way you can also improve the patient experience? By offering BandGrip Micro-Anchor Skin Closures. BandGrip is a quick and non-invasive closure alternative to sutures, staples, and glues, and offers many benefits to patients, including reduced risk of infection, less scarring, a more pleasing appearance, and better mobility. You can request a sample, or view the video below to learn more.