Patient experience is essentially the sum of all interactions and communications that a patient has with a healthcare organization, as perceived by the patient. Patient experience affects every point of the care delivery model—including revenue, reputation, patient engagement, and ultimately, even patient outcomes.
Both in and outside of healthcare, consumers expect efficient, well-designed services to be delivered with outstanding customer service. They are looking for companies that are committed to creating an overall pleasant experience.
In healthcare, patient experience should address patient needs—and exceed patient expectations. That’s why we’ve outlined four steps to improving patient experience. Follow our suggestions to refine care experience, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes at your healthcare organization.
Step 1. Make health information easy for patients to access
HIPAA provides Americans the legal right to access their health records at any given time. But if your practice is still storing paper files of patient medical records, it could take days to find everything you need.
As of 2017, as many as 86 percent of office-based physicians had adopted an electronic health records (EHR) system. With so many healthcare technologies available on the market today, there’s no reason to deny your patients digital access to their personal health records.
Why is accessible health information important?
Patient access to health records and appointment information results in streamlined communication and better care. When given access to health information, patients are more engaged and can make well-informed decisions regarding their care and treatment options, and may be more likely to adhere to their treatment plan.
How can I make health information accessible?
Patient portals are an incredible tool for improving patient experience and increasing patient engagement, as they enable quick, convenient, and secure access to health information. Tied to EHRs, these websites are a hub of information for patients to use in between visits and all throughout their care plan.
Other digital health technology, such as Care Management platforms like Welkin Health, help streamline communication and engage patients by making them an integral part of care coordination. These innovative digital health tools strengthen patient-provider relationships and help care teams provide whole-person care tailored to their patients’ specific health needs.
While offering a Patient Relationship Management tool is a great way for care providers to keep up communication with patients and engage them in their care, many patients don’t even realize they have access to all their health information under HIPAA. Providing educational information about patients’ HIPAA rights and teaching them how to utilize the digital health tools offered by your care team is another way to improve overall accessibility.
Step 2. Improve patient communication
According to the Macy Initiative in Health Communication, 65 percent of medical schools actually teach communication skills. Clinicians believe patient-provider communication is a necessary tool to help patients effectively understand and follow their care plans. The majority of this training, however, is still done in preclinical settings and declines post-graduation.
When it comes to improving patient experience and delivering value-based care, it’s vital for clinicians to continue to work on their communication skills long after they leave school.
Why is patient communication important?
A clinician’s relationship with their patient is based on effective communication. Some patients do not have an emotional support system of friends, family members, or partners with whom to discuss the symptoms and difficulties of their condition. They might rely on their care provider to help them foster a therapeutic relationship built on trust and understanding so that they can truly heal.
How can I improve patient communication?
Many patients feel that care providers are not fully present when rushing through the appointment, or multitasking while they are in the exam room. Patients realize that clinicians are busy people, but they also want to feel like their care team genuinely cares about them and their health outcomes. Here are some ways you can improve patient communication:
- Listen actively. On average, it takes eleven seconds for a clinician to interrupt a patient. When care providers don’t give the patient time to fully explain their symptoms and ask questions, they could be missing valuable information that might be affecting the patient’s health.
- Avoid multitasking. Because EHRs are now common health tools for recording patient information, it can be difficult for clinicians to remember to look up from their screens as they are taking notes. If you are using a laptop or tablet to record information during an appointment, be sure to let your patient know you are simply taking notes. Look at your patient as frequently as possible and make eye contact in order to pick up on nonverbal communication, as well.
- Find something in common. It’s important for your patient to see you as a human being with the ability to sympathize and connect so they can learn to trust you. Build rapport by finding commonalities with your patients, whether that means rooting for the same sports team, enjoying the same music, or even realizing your children attend the same school.
A big part of improving patient experience is as simple as maintaining the human element. Clinician-patient communication is all about connecting as people first. Show your compassion for whatever health struggles they are dealing with and make sure you are explaining the process every step of the way, so they never feel ignored or left in the dark.
Step 3. Respect patients and their time
Every patient deserves to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. They should be acknowledged as individuals with unique health needs, and feel as though their care team genuinely understands and cares about them as people.
Why is respecting patients and their time important?
Patients have lives outside of the short visits that they make at your healthcare facility. They likely have jobs, families, or other responsibilities outside of taking care of their own health. Failing to pay attention to their needs—both health-related and otherwise—could lead to feelings of frustration and contempt.
How can I respect patients and their time?
Here are some ways you can show your patients that you respect them and their time:
- Whether in person, on the phone, or over video, show up to appointments on time whenever possible.
- Never leave patients alone for too long, or they might feel forgotten about or ignored.
- If you are running late, make sure the patient gets a digital or verbal message from you or another staff member so they aren’t left waiting and wondering where you are.
- A patient’s care begins the moment they call your office or walk through the door of your facility. Make sure the staff members that interact with patients do so with an attentive, cheery attitude that starts their relationship with your healthcare organization on a positive note.
- Take a critical look at your patient workflows. Are there touchpoints that can be automated or eliminated to save your patients (and employees) time?
Consider each interaction that patients have with your staff and think of ways to make those moments more efficient and enjoyable. Improving patient experience throughout the different phases of the care model will help patients feel respected and valued.
Step 4. Leverage innovative technology
In today’s modern era, technology is an integral part of nearly all aspects of our lives—including healthcare. With the right digital health tools, care providers can work on vastly improving patient experience at their healthcare organizations.
Why is leveraging technology important?
Healthcare technology makes high-quality care more affordable and accessible, which helps healthcare providers reach more patients. Digital health tools can also help clinicians communicate efficiently and share patient information with each other, helping to create a consistent standard of care across care teams. Furthermore, patient satisfaction surveys can be sent automatically to get direct feedback from patients about their experience.
How can I leverage technology?
Telehealth solutions, such as video conferencing appointments, can help patients get the care they need without taking off too much time from work or making the long trek to the nearest big city. This is a great option for older patients or for those that are battling chronic or terminal illnesses, or who cannot take time away from caregiver responsibilities to attend frequent appointments. Providing telehealth solutions helps make your care more accessible to all and shows patients you are flexible, no matter what their circumstances are.
Care Management platforms are great uses of technology, as well. They integrate with your other digital tools to create one centralized location for all of your patient-centered care programs. Care Management platforms also provide streamlined care coordination so that every member of your team can be up-to-speed on the patient’s health status at all times.
Improving patient experience with technology
Now you understand the value of improving patient experience at your healthcare organization—and the steps necessary to get there! To see how the Community Health Center Network (CHCN) used Welkin’s Care Management platform to strengthen patient relationships in their Care Neighborhood program, read this case study: Simplifying Complex Case Management for Community Health Programs.