Acquiring customers is important, but building a successful business means retaining your customers as well. You need to give them a reason to come back over and over to protect your cash flow so your business can grow.
If your care is indistinguishable from the office across the street (like it usually is for healthcare providers), you have to distinguish your business somehow. The best way to do that is by providing an incredible experience for your patients.
The patient experience is the overall interaction your customer has with your business. Everything is included in the patient experience, from the moment they hear your name to the end of their final appointment. The nurse’s attitude, the ease of booking, the magazines in the waiting room… it’s all part of the experience.
According to an Annual Customer Experience Impact Report in 2011, 86% of buyers said they would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience. By 2020, customers are expected to consider their experience “a key differentiator,” even more than the price or the product itself. Clearly people care about their experiences with brands and businesses.
Every business has a patient experience. If you haven’t taken a deliberate approach to yours, it’s probably pretty bad. Use these key methods to improve your patient experience.
Free download: How to Gather Feedback to Improve the Overall Patient Experience
Make that first impression count
If your patient is met with a busy, stressful and disorganized office at their first visit, they probably won’t be back for a second. Referrals are out of the question too.
Your office and staff are part of your service. You need to run a tight ship. You must be prepared and organized. Clutter should be cleared away. The interior should be well-designed, well-maintained and clean. When patients arrive, they should clearly understand where to check-in and where to wait.
Your administrators should be confident and move the patient through your process expeditiously. They should know where to find information without asking too much of the patient.
Exam or consultation rooms should also be clean and well-maintained. You should have all the supplies and tools you need nearby. You shouldn’t have to leave a patient alone to retrieve something. During an appointment, the patient should be your 100% focus.
Most importantly, teach your staff to have a healthy attitude. Don’t expect them to beam smiles every minute, but they should be able to appear happy and polite at all times.
Create a seamless online experience
These days, patients (customers) expect businesses to provide a way to connect online. You don’t necessarily need an active social media account (although you might find that useful), but you should have some type of online portal where patients can learn about your business and manage their appointments.
Make sure your website answers any questions a potential customer may have. Explain your services, your appointment times, the insurance providers you work with, and any fees you can reasonably disclose. Most importantly, give them a way to contact you through your site.
A growing trend for healthcare providers of all types is to allow patients to set appointments on the website. This functionality would have to sync with whatever tool you use in your office, but that’s easy to coordinate. IntakeQ offers a convenient appointment booking widget that can be added to any website.
Provide education and understanding
Many times, patients are seeking solutions from healthcare providers because they are in a bad spot. They’re hurting, ill, or desperate for help. It’s not unusual for a patient to behave in an uncharacteristically dramatic or intense way when dealing with such a sensitive matter.
But just because your patient is upset doesn’t mean you have to do whatever they demand or tell them whatever they want to hear. For instance, don’t prescribe an antibiotic just because the patient asks for it, when you know their problem is viral. Don’t avoid conversations about obesity for diet. Don’t refill pain medications long after it’s appropriate.
Instead, use education and kindness to relate to your patient. Use their name to foster a connection between you. Explain complex medical concepts as best you can to laymen. When they ask a question, answer it politely and honestly, even if you think it’s silly.
Reach out after the appointment
People prefer healthcare providers who don’t treat them like customers to be processed quickly. We want providers who actually care about our health. You can make it clear to your patients that their health is your priority by reaching out after the appointment.
Implement a call-back policy within your office. You can do this in one of these two ways.
- Call 48-72 hours after the appointment. Ask them about their experience, if they were able to pick up their medication or supplies, and if they had any additional questions (sometimes people come up with new questions on the car ride home). Give them an opportunity to set a follow-up appointment if they hadn’t already.
- Call at some point relevant to their condition. For example, if you treated a patient for a rash and expected it to fade in two weeks, you could set a call reminder for two weeks. Ask the patient how the treatment worked, if they need more help, and if they need to make a new appointment. This tactic is an excellent way to reinforce the value of your service.
Reduce the patient’s burden
You can dramatically improve your patients’ experiences by asking as little of them as possible. Remove as many obstacles as you can between scheduling the appointment and receiving treatment.
For instance, before new patients can be seen, you probably ask them to fill out some intake forms. These forms are necessary, but they place a burden on the patient. Instead of being seen right away, they’re forced to fill out paperwork. Even if you supply them with the forms beforehand, they still need to download the documents, print, and bring them to your office.
Instead, reduce the patient’s burden by using online intake forms. They can quickly submit the necessary paperwork online without touching paper or being bothered in your office.
Here are some other ways you can ask less of your patients.
- Provide them with any literature you can about their treatment, illness, or equipment you supply. Don’t make them look it up.
- Don’t make it difficult for them to get in touch with a human being over the phone.
- Have office hours that are available for working people.
- Provide nearby parking if possible. Make house calls if you can.
Maintain standards for quality care
There aren’t any gimmicks in the world that will make people return to your practice if you don’t provide quality care. At the end of the day, patients will ultimately measure you based on your ability to meet their medical needs.
Don’t rush patients through appointments so you can see the next one on time. Don’t overprescribe medication to heal them quicker. Most importantly, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Always err on the side of good healthcare, even if treating the patient means disappointing the customer.
We’ve found that one of the most effective ways to smooth out the patient experience is to streamline your intake forms. Start your free trial of IntakeQ.