How Treating Patients as Customers Improves Patient Experience
In the modern landscape of healthcare, "patient experience" is increasingly becoming the key determinant of the quality of care. Patients today, better informed and more aware, desire more than just effective medical treatment, especially with the rise of health consumerism. They aspire for a comprehensive, positive healthcare experience, much like customers in any other service industry.
Understanding the Patient's Journey
So, what exactly is patient experience? It's the sum of all interactions a patient has with the healthcare system, from making an appointment to the follow-up care after treatment. It includes elements such as the quality of medical care, ease of communication with health providers, the comfort and ambiance of the healthcare facility, and the efficiency of administrative processes.
The patient experience isn't confined to the clinical interactions within the walls of a healthcare facility. It's a holistic journey that begins the moment a person considers seeking medical care and continues well beyond the actual treatment.
Let's take a closer look at the stages and some associated touchpoints:
- Recognition & Scheduling: The journey starts when a person realizes they need medical attention, or desire consultation or treatment options on their own personal wellness journey. The ease of finding the right healthcare provider, their trustworthiness, and ease and availability for scheduling an appointment are the initial touchpoints that shape the patient's perception.
- Telemedicine Interaction: The recent shift towards healthcare digitization, especially accelerated by the COVID-era, has led to the emergence of telemedicine as a significant stage in the patient's journey. This advancement enables patients to interact with caregivers through digital platforms, bringing a host of new touchpoints into the patient experience.
The crucial touchpoints in this stage include the relevance and accessibility of digital content, the convenience of scheduling virtual consultations, and the clarity of insurance coverage information for telemedicine services. Furthermore, patients' reviews and ratings play a critical role in shaping the perception of new patients toward a healthcare provider.
Practices that have embraced this digital shift and optimized these touchpoints have seen significant success, attracting new patients and offering a seamless patient experience. On the contrary, those resistant to adopting these digital methods have experienced setbacks, emphasizing the importance of this stage in the modern healthcare journey.
- Clinic or Hospital Experience: This stage includes the physical experience at the healthcare facility. Touchpoints here range from the ambiance and cleanliness of the premises to the courteousness of the staff and the wait times.
- Consultation & Treatment: This is the core stage where the medical procedure or treatment happens. The doctor-patient communication, the patient's involvement in decision-making, and the effectiveness of treatment significantly influence the patient's experience.
- Monitoring: In this stage, the patient's condition is regularly checked post-treatment. Regular updates, accessibility of the healthcare provider for doubts or emergencies, and responsiveness to patient concerns form important touchpoints here.
- Aftercare & Administration: This stage involves post-treatment follow-ups, billing, and administrative tasks. The quality of aftercare, clarity in billing, and efficient handling of paperwork are critical to the overall patient experience.
- Digital Interactions: In today's digital era, online experiences are pivotal touchpoints across all stages. These can include experiences with the provider's website, patient portal, telemedicine services, or digital communication channels.
While we've identified key stages in the patient journey, it's equally essential to realize that these stages are interconnected through numerous touchpoints. These touchpoints are moments of interaction between the patient and the healthcare system, and they have a substantial impact on how the patient perceives their healthcare journey. They are the connecting links that piece together the complete picture of the patient's experience.
Consider a typical scenario: A patient books an appointment online (a digital touchpoint), is greeted warmly at the reception desk (a physical touchpoint), and then communicates with the doctor (a personal touchpoint). They later receive a follow-up email regarding their next appointment (another digital touchpoint).
Throughout this process, a single negative interaction at any touchpoint can affect the entire patient experience. This is why every touchpoint matters. The emphasis should be on seamless, positive experiences at every interaction, no matter how small it seems.
Just as businesses monitor and optimize customer touchpoints, healthcare providers can map out and enhance these patient touchpoints. By doing so, they can ensure a holistic, consistent, and positive patient experience from start to finish. This comprehensive, touchpoint-based approach is the way forward for patient-centered healthcare.
Why Patient Satisfaction & Experience Matter
Patient satisfaction is a measure of how well a healthcare provider meets a patient's needs and expectations. It provides insight into whether a patient is happy with their healthcare experience. Meanwhile, patient experience reflects the impression left on a patient over the entire process or interaction.
To have a high patient satisfaction rating – both internally and outwardly – healthcare providers need to be attentive to the patient's experience. In other words, while patient experience doesn’t necessarily depend on patient satisfaction, patient satisfaction certainly hinges on a positive patient experience.
When one is neglected over the other, it can disrupt the balance for patients. They may not discern between a good or bad experience if their interaction with the healthcare facility fluctuates from visit to visit. In this scenario, patient satisfaction might spike one day, only to plummet the next. Therefore, it's critical to ensure consistency in the patient experience to maintain a high level of satisfaction.
Now, the healthcare industry is undergoing transformative changes. Patients seek value, convenience, and personalized care, making it necessary for healthcare providers to view them as customers and meet their evolving expectations.
So why should it matter whether patients are satisfied as long as good medical care is provided? The answer lies in a recent study published in the Journal of Healthcare Management. Organizations that prioritize patient satisfaction and experience are more likely to achieve better outcomes and financial success.
In practical terms, viewing patients as “consumers” of our services necessitates addressing issues beyond medical care. This perspective illuminates the importance of understanding the patient's journey and ensuring a consistently positive patient experience."
How positive patient experience impacts healthcare organizations?
Building upon the importance of prioritizing patient satisfaction, optimizing the patient experience can deeply influence healthcare organizations. When investments are made to enhance the patient experience and deliver patient-centered care, the impacts can be significant and far-reaching. It's akin to setting off a domino effect that initiates with the patient and permeates the entire system.
- Patient Satisfaction: It all starts here. A positive experience can heighten patient satisfaction. They feel heard, respected, and valued, strengthening their trust in their healthcare providers.
- Loyalty: As in businesses, satisfied patients return for future healthcare needs and are likely to recommend the healthcare provider to others, thereby creating loyalty.
- Financial Performance: This loyalty and increased patronage directly improve financial performance. Additionally, the reputation built on high patient satisfaction can lead to better reimbursement rates from insurance companies, further boosting the financial health of the healthcare practice.
- Retention: Lastly, the process comes full circle. A successful practice, defined by high patient satisfaction and strong financial performance, creates a positive and fulfilling work environment. This atmosphere improves employee satisfaction, reducing staff turnover, and ensuring the continuity of high-quality patient care.
In essence, focusing on the patient experience is like a powerful lever. It's an investment that, when done right, can steer the overall success and sustainability of healthcare systems.
- Power of Positive Rating: The digital era has empowered patients to share their healthcare experiences publicly. While patients satisfied with their healthcare services may not necessarily share their positive experiences, those with even slightly unsatisfactory experiences tend to voice their concerns publicly. Thus, maintaining a high standard of care that prevents dissatisfaction and exceeds expectations becomes crucial.
The impact of consistently positive patient reviews and ratings cannot be overstated. Much like successful brands such as Apple have shown, surprising and delighting customers, or in this case, patients can build a 'Love Brand' in healthcare. This trust and positive public perception not only enhance patient loyalty but can also significantly influence the decision of prospective patients, contributing to an organization's growth and success. Therefore, healthcare providers that embed this mindset into their culture are more likely to see long-lasting economic value.
Patients as Customers: The Road Ahead
Drawing parallels from other industries, healthcare providers need to realize the benefits of treating patients as customers. Prioritizing patient experience can foster a stronger patient-provider relationship, attract new patients, and improve the healthcare practice's financial standing.
For example, a hospital that adopts easy online scheduling of appointments and offers clear, transparent billing is more likely to attract and retain patients, similar to how a retail store with a user-friendly website and clear pricing attracts and retains customers.
A concrete example of this patient-focused approach is the work done by Tech-Azur with a long-term client leading the way in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, BlueSleep. Recognizing the fundamental need to treat patients as customers, Tech-Azur integrated telemedicine delivery, sleep disorders diagnosis and treatment monitoring, convenient digital communications, the industry’s most highly available appointment scheduling processes, and much more into the BlueSleep partnership, increasing patient engagement and satisfaction at every touchpoint.
Tech-Azur also provided many effective innovations to the refinement of patient and provider communication channels, making sure patients could seamlessly interact with healthcare providers and have unfettered yet secure access to all of their own information at will. These strategic deliverables not only simplified the healthcare process for patients but also boosted patient satisfaction and loyalty. The growth in BlueSleep’s operations and successful delivery of relief for tens of thousands of sleep-deprived patients has accrued dramatic value to the business.
Contact Tech-Azur today and let’s begin exploring how we can help your practice to benefit from embracing a digitally-enabaled customer-service mindset in healthcare delivery, which not only enhances your patient’s satisfaction while boosting loyalty, but also improves the financial performance of your firm and promotes a positive work environment to retain great practitioner talent. Of course, these factors will directly contribute to better healthcare outcomes, the ultimate goal of any healthcare system. As healthcare continues to evolve, treating patients as customers is becoming not just an option, but a necessity, so let’s see where Tech-Azur can help today.