When a patient walks into a doctor’s office, they do so with a feeling of apprehension and anxiety. Patients have grown accustomed to a poor patient experience. They expect to be told to wait for a long time after their appointment’s scheduled time. They expect a cold, uncaring doctor and are prepared for a diagnosis that they don’t agree with. As a medical professional, part of your job is to help your patient overcome these feelings and leave feeling like they got the answers they needed.
It’s not often easy to quantify the patient experience. However, there are key performance indicators that can indicate a poor patient experience. Wait times, return rates, and no-show rates potentially point to patient experience issues.
How can we improve the patient experience? Let’s look at a few different ways.
Ways To Improve The Patient Experience
Make it easy to schedule an appointment.
New patient acquisition is a whole other topic in itself, but let’s say a patient finds your website and wants to schedule an appointment. Ideally, they should be able to do so very easily and without much hassle. If your website is difficult to navigate, impossible to load on mobile, or downright confusing, that doesn’t bode well for a patient’s expectations.
You want to have a visible web presence, a quick and easy-to-use website that works well on mobile, and a simple appointment scheduling system that can be used online or easily done over the phone.
Reduce wait times.
Your patients don’t want to be waiting very long. They have things to do. Yet, patients often go into the doctor’s office expecting to wait. Why let this happen?
Reducing wait times is not easy, and many factors outside your control can affect them. However, making sure booking is well managed and that fellow physicians keep to strict schedules will help you reduce overall wait times for patients.
If wait times are unavoidable, have your staff call the patient and let them know how long they should expect to wait. You could even offer to have them reschedule an appointment. This will make the patient feel more comfortable with you and make them believe that you have their best interests in mind.
Encourage them to take an active role in their care.
Let’s be honest: most patients have a low level of health literacy. They need to be told why they need to do what they’re told, otherwise they may not understand the gravity of the situation.
Education should be used as a way to help patients take an active role in their own care, rather than to justify your decisions. Allow them to ask questions and make sure they know that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.