Every organization in the healthcare industry knows that there is a lot to gain when they improve their patient experience, but achieving this goal is easier said than done.
As with any goal, there are many obstacles and pitfalls that can greet you on the way to success. If you set out immediately with no plan of action, your path will undoubtedly be more difficult. That’s why I always suggest to clients, regardless of their industry, that they prepare heavily and intentionally before they launch their customer experience (CX) program.
A vital part of preparation is identifying which areas to focus on within your company. This can be done by reflecting on areas of concern that are already known to you, but it can also mean reassessing existing customer data for insights that may have yet to be surfaced.
This step can be time consuming, especially for the healthcare industry. In order to help you prepare for any new CX effort you may be launching, I am going to list six areas of patient experience that healthcare organizations and providers can focus on to provide their patients with valuable, meaningful experiences.
1. Quality of Care
This may seem like a given for anyone in the healthcare industry, but quality of care encompasses much more than ensuring a patient’s health. Where patients mostly utilize healthcare services when they are ill, they don’t just want to be treated and steered toward health, they want to be treated with respect and compassion.
As revealed in our latest eBook, research shows nurse and doctor empathy are two of the top three factors that matter most to patients, with procedure outcome coming in fourth place. This proves that when assessing their quality of care, healthcare organizations and providers need to consider not only the patient’s health outcomes, but also if the patient felt genuinely cared for.
2. Availability of Services
Another major area of concern for patient experience is how available healthcare services are for patients. If a patient is sick or otherwise in need of care, the last thing they want to hear is that the next available appointment is in weeks or even months. This is why is it crucial to be intentional when scheduling providers. Customer experience analytics can provide you with insights to help assess what times are most popular for patients to book appointments, making it easier to optimize scheduling to avoid frustration.
3. Environment and Facilities
Having a clean, comfortable environment can make a major difference to patients. Longer waiting times are common when waiting for healthcare appointments, so creating the best environment possible is vital. Something as simple as keeping reading materials or beverages in the waiting area can put them at ease and pave the way for positive experiences.
4. Safety and Infection Issues
This point closely relates to the previous area of focus, but it is important to emphasize cleanliness and adherence to safety precautions in the healthcare industry. Failure to keep surfaces clean and keep certain supplies stored appropriately can have serious consequences. Not only is there a higher risk of infection and other injuries, but the impression of uncleanliness can seriously affect a patient’s confidence in their healthcare provider.
5. Billing Cost
One of a patient’s biggest deterrents from scheduling an appointment with their healthcare provider is price. Even insured patients are afraid of being being over-billed for services rendered, and no matter how much they may need to see a professional, this fear can keep them from coming in at all. This is why it is especially important to be vigilant and purposeful when billing insurance companies. It can also be helpful to take the time to explain the billing to patients so they understand the necessity of each item on their bill, especially because keeping the patient informed is the second most important factor in positive patient experience.
6. Return Visits
Encouraging patients to return after a period of time for a follow-up appointment can help improve patient experience for multiple reasons. Firstly, it is a great way to ensure outcomes improvement and keep a close eye on any condition or recovery process. Secondly, it demonstrates to patients that you are invested in their health. This knowledge alone shows an excellent quality of care and can make a big difference in how the patient feels leaving their appointment.
Planning a CX program can be complicated, but when you have predetermined areas of focus, you are better armed with ideas on how to address each area. That being said, getting leadership to actually commit to improve patient experience is half the battle. If you know any decision makers who are still on the fence, check out our newest eBook, Three Reasons Health Systems Should Invest in Improving Patient Experience.