The journey of potential patients to selecting a quality doctor involves an online search and finding a hospital that meets their expectations. Patients value convenience and quality care more than anything. It all comes down to providing a meaningful and positive patient experience.
Healthcare industry is striving to create a positive patient experience to improve healthcare outcomes by developing new strategies, such as digital tools for better patient engagement and communication.
Creating a positive patient experience is more important than ever. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also leads to better health outcomes. And that’s a win for both healthcare providers and their clients. In fact, as the healthcare industry develops new strategies for optimizing patient communications and engagement, other industries can benefit from the resulting best practices.
What is Patient Experience (and Why It Matters)?
Patient experience refers to all types of interactions that a patient encounters along the entire healthcare journey, including care from their physician, nurses, staff, and health care facilities.
Understanding patient experience is a key step in moving toward patient-centered care. By looking at various aspects of patient experience, one can assess the extent to which patients are receiving care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values. Evaluating patient experience along with other components such as effectiveness and safety of care is essential to providing a complete picture of healthcare quality.
Significance of an elevated patient experience:
Better Health Outcomes: Patients who are truly engaged with the care team are likely to be more confident about their treatment approach. Care experience tailored towards their active participation increases compliance and results in positive health outcomes.
Higher Patient Satisfaction: Patients who receive respect, support and are timely communicated will be eager to follow the plan throughout their continuum of care. It not only builds trust with the providers but elevates their satisfaction.
Boost Your Bottomline: A better patient experience affects other aspects of a hospital such as superior safety records, better technical quality and less readmission rates.
Improve Your Online Reputation: The National Research Corporation identified a strong link between the patient care experience and the organization reputation. Experience of former patients shapes the thoughts and perception of potential patients who may have never been to the clinic.
Patient Experience vs Patient Satisfaction
Patient satisfaction is a term that is often confused with patient experience.
Patient experience is measured by gaining insights from patients as to what is important in a healthcare setting, such as behavior of the provider or communication skills.
On the other hand, patient satisfaction demonstrates to what extent the patient needs and expectations were fulfilled during the healthcare journey. For example, two patients can have different preferences about their care services based on which they will have different satisfaction ratings.
Measures of Patient experience include:
- A holistic approach throughout their continuum of care
- Attention is given to multiple factors associated with care services
- Focus on areas that specifically affect patient
- Questions designed around actual or relevant issues (For example, long waiting time during clinical visits)
Measures of Patient satisfaction include:
- A one-dimensional approach around hospital performance
- Attention is given to only few specific aspects of healthcare services
- Focus is to meet the providers goal or agenda
- Measures patient perspective regarding their health care encounter (For example, a fair or good rating about the staff’s communication skill does not provide clarity what aspect requires improvement)
How to Improve Patient Experience in Your Healthcare Organization (Best Practices & Examples)
The key to improving patient experience depends on the efforts and providers willingness to enhance quality services and make patients their top priority.
These are the main steps to improve patient experience and satisfaction.
1. Map Out Your Patient Journey
Patient experience includes a wide range of interactions that patients have within the healthcare settings, such as with their doctors, nurses, staff, and healthcare facilities. When so many interactions are involved, it is difficult to understand where to start.
Remove the barriers
Understand patients from their point of views. Assess each and every step that a patient encounters when interacting with the hospital. For example,
- How and when did the patient first contact the hospital?
- Did the patient experience any difficulty while booking appointments?
- Did the patient experience long waiting periods?
- Did the patient experience problems during discharge? (Such as billing, filling forms, or understanding the treatment)
Once the challenges and barriers are correctly identified, put efforts to create a smooth and better patient experience
Make efforts to provide a personalized touch
Patient’s healthcare experience is not just limited to the hospital walls. Try to improve care services even when the patient makes the first contact through phone or website. Answering the phone by merely shifting from an automated voice recognition to an actual human can make a drastic shift. Individuals are more likely to be engaged in their care plans if they are given appointments timely, communicated clearly, and have access to information with ease.
2. Streamline Patient Engagement with an Omnichannel Approach
Omnichannel approach has the potential to create a smooth, and simple process. A systematic approach during the pre-visit, clinical visit or post-visit phase of a patient’s journey strengthens the patient’s trust.
Robust technology has become one of the most critical elements for boosting patient engagement channels.
In order to build new digital tools hospitals require an integrated system. Focus on few important components such as:
Patient Engagement Software
Use an omnichannel patient communication solution help to promote a patient centric approach with a high personalization level. For example, if a patient is planning to visit the hospital for a pile problem, then a series of automated messages and services can be sent that inform the patient about lifestyle modifications, and treatment options to keep them engaged. Once the patient visits the clinic they will already have a positive perception about the clinic services.
Integration with Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Inclusion of EHR makes it better to streamline the fragmented medical history. Patients as well as the provider can easily access the information related to the treatment processes.
3. Use AI Virtual Assistants for Customer Support Automation
Healthcare staff receive more than 2 million calls every year, according to a report by Boston’s Children Hospital. Handling so many calls can become painful and unpleasant for an administrative person.
Automated customer support provides solutions to patient problems without requiring human interaction. A dedicated AI virtual assistant tailored to customer support helps patients to contact 24/7. Patients can ask their concerns, raise queries or register their complaints.
However, just including an AI virtual assistant is not enough when a patient requires immediate assistance. For emergency cases patients require human interaction Therefore, the quality assurance team can evaluate where the virtual assistant is getting stuck. Real-time monitoring will help to understand the issues so that AI is equipped in a better way to manage patient interactions.
Patient’s details can be connected to a single, individualized location. AI virtual assistants can extract relevant medical history details, contact details and patient’s preferences to provide information that they are looking for.
4. Offer Online Appointment Bookings
Patients are looking for a convenient booking option. In fact, more than 80% of patients are willing to switch their doctors just to find the easiest option. By offering online bookings patients can select the schedule and method that works best for them.
Send appointment confirmations and reminders
Online scheduling of appointments enables patient complete accessibility across different touchpoints of their treatment journey. The online scheduling system can send appointment reminders and confirm bookings.
It has several benefits such as:
- Appointment confirmation reminders via email or text improve the on-time arrivals.
- Reduces no-shows and cancellations which in turn saves clinician’s time and resources.
- Less inconvenience as more patient follow the appointment schedule
Automated recall and recare
Online scheduling software ensures that patients do not miss out on their routine follow-up appointments. System can regularly track the patients who missed their recall booking, or simply remind them through a text, voice call or email to go for the visit.
5. Automate Your Fragmented Processes across Patient Journey
Patients feel safe and comfortable when they can ask questions without being judged. Virtual assistants provide a safe, discrete environment. AI-powered assistants can conduct surveys to track a patient’s healthcare journey. Monitoring patient feedback will provide information to the hospitals that will guide them to make changes in the existing care services.
AI virtual assistants can reduce the pressure on medical system in various ways:
- Screening of critical patients
- Limiting the number of patients requiring clinical visit
- Providing specialist recommendations
- Scheduling online appointments
- Depending on patient’s symptoms connect to the right specialist
Automate clinical or administrative workflow
For example, robotic process automation (RPA)—software robots that have machine-learning capabilities—can be used to automate functions ranging from admissions to billing. And natural language processing (NLP)—a branch of AI that helps computers understand and process human language—can automate workflows for administrative documentation, including the creation of transcripts and patient-case summaries.
6. Gather and Execute on Data Insights
Evaluate patients experience in real-time
With the introduction of remote patient monitoring tools healthcare systems are able to provide a better patient experience where data is given to the providers in real time. Healthcare settings have quickly adapted to the remote patient monitoring technologies since the pandemic arrived.
Patient data collection has become more efficient, removing the logistical disruptions associated with improved patient experience.
Develop platform that supports EHR integration
Cumbersome and cluttered EHR impairs the systematic workflow, leading to undesirable outcomes (such as loss of patient data). Interoperability is the most important factor when it comes to sharing of patient information between different clinicians.
Building a platform that not only takes care of regular administrative activities, but also prioritizes healthcare needs of patients will strengthen the healthcare system.
7. Create a Patient Centric Workplace Culture
Patient experience is largely influenced by the manner they are treated. Healthcare sector is dependent on human interactions. Doctors and the entire team members can shape patient experience by making it a positive one.
Patients should be treated with respect, empathy and compassion even when they become difficult to manage. Prompt actions centered towards patient needs will develop a strong sense of care in patients. Happy and satisfied patients pass on their positive emotions to their staff, who are willing to go the extra mile to improve patient outcomes
Although changing an organization’s culture is challenging, the team members should be held accountable for their actions. Ensure to expose them to guidelines, procedures and protocols before they are implemented.
Reinforce the tasks and messages in meeting sessions. For example, qualities such as compassion and accountability can be embedded in their job descriptions or linked to their performance reviews.
An Exciting Future for Healthcare Patient Experience
The healthcare industry has seen several transformation in the past decade. With this pace, it is clearly evident that healthcare organizations need to have a sole aim to provide a better patient experience.
A positive patient experience boosts patient satisfaction, patient retention and treatment outcomes. Identification of patient journey, adopting omnichannel approach with automation, and creating a patient-centric environment is essential to enhance healthcare experience of patients.