Today, patient experience encapsulates much more than it used to. Providing optimal healthcare is not enough on its own: it includes satisfaction with the overall service, which includes more than just a treatment.
A satisfactory patient experience has the potential to drive profit and quality improvements in your practice, so it's no wonder that many healthcare providers are looking into improving it.
The technology has reshaped the foundations of healthcare. Tools and software used in healthcare have also become increasingly customer oriented. Manual procedures, such as writing down patient information and booking appointments, will likely be obsolete in the future. The good news? Patients can be reached easier than ever before. Also, measuring patient satisfaction and analyzing related metrics is more accessible now.
In this article, we discuss how you can assess and improve patient experience, and the reasons for investing in it.
What is patient experience, and how to measure it?
Patient experience is the sum of all the interactions a patient has had (or may have) with a healthcare system. Similar to other industries, the spotlight is on the ‘consumer’ or the ‘patient’ experience.
Booking an appointment with a healthcare provider may be digitized, but their experience while searching for the ICU or waiting for a report is offline. Electronic devices are one way of measuring online interactions, while surveys and reports measure them offline.
You can use Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) to measure patient experience. It is a survey comparing patient satisfaction levels and their association with hospital performance measures.
Apart from surveys, bottom-up reports from frontline workers provide a window into employee engagement. According to research, employee satisfaction is a key influential factor for patient engagement and satisfaction. This shows how efficient care team collaboration can be the recipe for analyzing and improving patient satisfaction.
Top 5 ways to optimize the patient experience
For healthcare organizations, optimizing patient experience is no longer an optional task. This has turned into a necessity, owing to current trends and the benefits of providing a patient-centric experience. Here are five ways healthcare organizations can cultivate a positive patient experience:
1. Leverage technology
Traditional facilities leverage minimal technology. Manual processes, including answering telephones or writing long forms, have been the norm. In the digital age, these conventional practices need to be replaced with more advanced telehealth technologies that can enhance the patient experience.
Although the medical field is going digital, the answer to improving patient experience isn't just to digitalize everything. Automating all tasks may lead to bot-like, ineffective patient communication. Rather, automating repetitive tasks such as booking appointments and sending follow-up surveys works best. It allows patient-staff communication through calls, chat, and video messaging. Other tasks, such as providing patient guidance and answering queries at a help desk, can also be done manually.
However, any form of patient messaging or communication from your end to the patient electronically must be through HIPAA-compliant software to comply with data sovereignty laws. Ultimately, with advanced software and performance metrics, one can measure the effectiveness of regular communication on patient experience.
2. Enable staff collaboration
Efficient teamwork between doctors and the support staff not only benefits the work culture, but also impacts patient experience positively. Communication between support staff should go beyond data sharing to provide the highest quality of care for the patient.
Many people are involved at any given time in a patient’s journey, and it can be disastrous if they lack proper coordination. By leveraging digital tools, you can bridge any communication gaps within your team, minimize wait time on reports, reduce the chance of medical errors, and so on.
It is also important to acknowledge that each staff member adds value to the team, and their insights compound to delivering a holistic patient experience.
3. Accounting for cultural dimensions
Better patient engagement starts with the culture within an organization. If the staff fails to engage well among themselves, this lack of cooperation is also reflected in their patient interactions. Hence, it is important for a hospital to have a patient-centric positive culture within the organization.
There are clear differences between low-performing and high-performing cultures in terms of outcomes, such as type of care methodology, leadership & management style of the staff, and patient experience, to name a few. Hence, facilitating positive culture among staff members should be a priority among health organizations.
4. Providing a continuum of care
According to a survey, about 80% of American patients preferred to choose medical providers who used digital channels to communicate. There is a wide range of healthcare communication tools that can enhance patient satisfaction by automating tasks from booking appointments to using chat (that needs to be HIPAA-compliant) for sharing reports, chat, video calls, and push notifications. This makes a patient’s journey with you rather smooth.
Additionally, patient engagement boosts the possibility of a positive patient experience. It’s also important to encourage patients to use HealthTech and resources provided by you. This way, patients feel supported and are more likely to trust their caregivers in the process.
A patient who feels unheard, offended, or dismissed during any part of their journey with you may search for a different healthcare provider. Hence, rather than just implementing and gathering metrics, educating patients on how to leverage HIPAA-compliant software for booking appointments, purchasing medicines, and so on, reflect a strong continuum of care.
5. Staff engagement
The true value of building positive patient experiences, such as better records of safety, length of stay, and quality of care, lies in employee engagement. Driving progress in staff engagement correlates with increased patient satisfaction.
Engaged nurses, doctors, and supporting staff tend to care more about patients. Having a welcoming approach and patience while interacting with patients enhances the patient experience. Research suggests that hospitals with better patient experience have better business performance.
It is extremely important to keep your employees satisfied and ensure they have an appropriate workload. This translates to happier customers, as your frontline workers interact the most with patients.
You may conduct in-house surveys or meetings and listen to what your employees say about their work experience; whenever possible, try to accommodate their requests as well.
Why does patient experience matter?
The expectations of consumers have increased in terms of quality across all domains, and the healthcare industry is no exception.
There is a misconception that patients are not consumers and are only receiving care. This is a myth: patients form opinions and make decisions as consumers.
Similar to consumers, patients are constantly making decisions. These include whether to continue care with the same hospital or look for a new doctor, consider a particular procedure, make a re-appointment, and so on. Hence, positive patient experience, acquisition, retention, and engagement are just as important in healthcare as in any other sector.
Following are some of the reasons to consider investing resources in your patient experience:
1. Better health outcomes
Traditional forms of healthcare mainly focused on passive interactions, where the patient would follow a prescription by the doctor and focus on recovery. People nowadays actively participate in their treatment. Digital tools coupled with human engagement contribute to patients' health journey as the driving force for improved interaction.
Research indicates that patients who are more actively involved in their healthcare procedure experience better health outcomes. The healthcare system is investing in digital tools, patient engagement, and holistic collaboration with healthcare providers to achieve these improved outcomes.
2. Improved reputation
How likely are you to visit the doctor recommended by a family member or friend? It turns out positive referrals are a huge factor in customer acquisition. A survey states that about 50% of people rely on input from friends and family while choosing a new doctor or hospital.
It takes time for practices and hospitals to build positive referrals and an improved reputation. Investing in patient experience (such as secure patient communication software) and having an engaged staff are some ways of building effective healthcare systems, in turn boosting reputation.
3. Higher revenue
A positive patient experience is directly reflected in the hospital’s profitability. The impact of patient satisfaction is seen in customer acquisition, retention, and word-of-mouth marketing, which in turn leads to higher revenue.
So, how does this work? Hospitals that invest in tools and methods for better patient experience tend to see an increase in revenue. With the right open-source healthcare software, communication with patients can be safe and effective.
For example, leaving a simple text reminder for an appointment can lead to more patients showing up on time. Appointment cancellations can be informed prior, and feedback surveys serve as a proactive follow-up method to aid customer retention.
Improving patient experience with HIPAA-compliant communication
Healthcare organizations are adopting the best technology and nurturing a positive patient experience for all their customers. These organizations understand the sensitive information exchange with patients and thus emphasize using safer, up-to-date tools such as HIPAA-compliant software.
Such tools ensure data protection and seamless communication, making patent experience and interaction smoother. Rocket.Chat’s open-source technology helps healthcare organizations connect securely, regardless of the communication channel they use. Beyond patient communication, it makes team communication simple, facilitating easier collaboration.