Whether we like it or not, medicine has become commercialized. Patients have more options in healthcare. As a result, they expect more from practices than good medical care–they expect a positive experience from start to finish.
This commercialization of medicine means that you need to treat your practice as a business if you want to retain current patients and attract new patients. Providing great medical care is still the top priority, but you have to consider the other aspects of the patient experience as well.
Our company president recently had two very different experiences with medical care–one with a general practitioner, and one with an orthodontist. At the general practitioner’s office, the staff seemed disinterested and uninformed, he was seen late, and there was no wifi in the waiting area to use while he had to wait. All of these things seem very small, but add up to a poor experience overall–medical care aside. The practice did not leave the impression that they cared about his experience.
In contrast, when he went to his orthodontist, the doctor saw him on time, and the staff seemed to genuinely care about him. They really put effort into making sure he was well taken care of and had all of the information he needed.
If patients aren’t getting a good experience from your practice, it’s very likely that they will find a practice that can provide the experience they expect. If they’re really upset, they may also post their experiences on review sites like Healthgrades, which could factor into the decisions of potential new patients considering your practice.
All of the following aspects of “customer” service may seem minor on their own, but they all contribute to patients’ perception of your practice. Focus on improving these things in addition to providing good care to keep your patients happy, and your practice will be in much better shape.
1. Improve Efficiency
One big complaint patients often have with practices is the time it takes to be seen for an appointment. Patients may excuse occasional delays, but if they are regularly seen later than their scheduled appointment times, they will become frustrated.
Sometimes, these factors are out of your control. Appointments can run a little longer than expected, a surgical procedure may take longer than usual, or you may be called to attend to a medical emergency. However, if your practice is regularly running behind schedule even without these factors, it might be time to look for ways to streamline the process.
You don’t want your patients to feel that you are rushing them through appointments, but you can make improvements to make your office more efficient. Little things like offering your sign-in forms on your website or patient portal can make a big difference in terms of efficiency.
You can also provide patient education to your patients to help better explain your diagnosis. In addition to appointment requests, your practice probably also receives several calls with questions about particular procedure and conditions. Well-written, comprehensive patient education can help to eliminate some of those calls, freeing up your front desk staff to better focus on the patients in your office.
2. Hire the Right Office Staff
While we’re on the topic of your office staff, it is important to note that they are an integral part of patient satisfaction. If you go online and look negative reviews of physicians, you’ll often find that a lot of the complaints are related to poor experiences with office staff, rather than the medical care itself. This often has nothing to do with the physician and care provided, but the physician’s reputation is affected nonetheless.
For this reason, it’s important to seek out staff that will help your patients feel welcome, comfortable, and well taken care of. You need team members who will work together to put your patients’ needs first. Your staff sees patients before you do—they are the ones who make a first impression and set the tone for the rest of the visit.
Once you have the right team, you need to be able to train them to be able to help patients get the information they need. Training will help you set expectations for your staff members and keep them informed so that they are able to answer patients’ questions.
3. Pay Attention to Details
Efficiency and helpful, friendly staff members are two of the primary ways to improve the patient experience, but don’t forget about the little details, either. Once you’ve got your office running efficiently and are happy with your staff, it’s time to start focusing on some of the smaller details. These are the things that can really make patients feel that your practice is willing to go the extra mile.
This might include something as simple as offering free wifi to the patients in your waiting room. You might also want to work on the appearance of your waiting room. Is it clean and neat? Does it look like an inviting place to sit and wait? Are your chairs comfortable? You’d be surprised at how much impact these small details can have on patients. It’s taking that extra step to make sure that your patients are comfortable and happy the moment they step into your office. It also helps you make a great first impression with new patients.
Those details can also extend to your website. Do you make it easy for patients to find the information they need? Do you provide all of the information patients need to know about your practice and your specialties? Are they able to schedule appointments or contact your office online? We live in a society where people are always on the go, and these little conveniences can make a big difference in a patient’s decision to schedule an appointment.
Providing excellent medical care should, of course, still take priority over everything else. However, it’s no longer enough for practices to simply provide great care in this age of commercialized medicine. Good medical care isn’t always the issue for patients—they have options in that regard. If you want to maintain and grow your practice, you have to start focusing on ways to set yourself apart by providing the experience patients expect.