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GuidesPatient experienceWhat is customer experience in healthcare?

What is customer experience in healthcare?

Last updated

19 July 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Knowing what your customers think about their experience with your healthcare organization is an important step in providing the best possible care. 

Here’s an overview of what customer experience is in healthcare, why it matters, and how your organization can evaluate the strength of its experience.

What is customer experience in healthcare? 

Simply put, customer experience (CX) describes how your patients feel about their interactions with your organization, from full treatment to a quick telephone intake questionnaire

It includes in-person conversations, online chats, telephone calls, and other types of communication between a patient and a member of your team. It’s all about what the patient thinks about these interactions and the overall care they receive. 

Why customer experience is important 

Customers with a positive experience are more likely to continue supporting that company, and this concept is even more crucial in healthcare. 

Making medical decisions, dealing with health conditions, and navigating health-related financial concerns can be challenging, even under the best circumstances. If a patient isn’t sure they can trust your practice, this can make the medical experience even more frustrating and worrying. 

If you’re an organization that strives to provide a strong customer experience, you can make a significant difference in increasing your patients' confidence in your ability to meet their needs. 

How to evaluate customer experience 

Frequently evaluating how your patients feel about their experience with your organization is key to ensuring that you meet or exceed expectations. 

Your organization can incorporate a wide range of methods and metrics when gathering patient information. It’s a great way to discover whether you’re performing at the level they expect. 

You can combine this data to form the most complete view of the experience you want your customers to have and determine whether you’re meeting it. 

Some of the most helpful ways to evaluate customer experience include: 

  • Comparing retention and churn rates over time

  • Sending patient surveys that ask basic questions about their satisfaction level

  • Studying various elements of customer engagement to determine whether your patients are as involved as they could be

  • Examining brand advocacy and reputation to determine whether your current patients are providing positive reviews and recommending your organization

  • Using task completion times, surveys, and other metrics to determine whether you’re resolving customer service issues promptly

  • Studying employee engagement to determine whether your team is consistently doing everything it can to provide the best possible customer experience

Evaluating the information you obtain through these methods can give you an idea of where your customer experience is currently meeting your customers' expectations. It’ll also reveal what improvements your customers would most like to see. 

These observations can provide a helpful starting point for determining the changes that are most likely to benefit your customers and your organization. 

Six pillars of customer experience in healthcare 

These six pillars encompass most of the factors that make up the overall experience your patients have visiting your facility and interacting with your team. 

While we can apply these pillars to most types of customer experience, many are especially noteworthy in a healthcare setting. 

Striving to provide a positive experience in these areas is an important step in keeping your patients satisfied enough to choose your practice over a competitor. 

Integrity 

Organizations that act with integrity provide a strong customer experience. Customers do not have to worry about whether the organization is acting in their best interest. 

Your patients need to trust that your team is making the best possible recommendations for their health rather than attempting to push treatments they do not need to increase your revenue. 

Protecting your patients' confidential data is also a must, especially in a field that involves a significant amount of medical, financial, and other sensitive information. 

Resolution 

Customers choose organizations for specific reasons, which typically involve solving some sort of problem. Although these "problems" can be minor for many organizations, the healthcare field typically involves more significant problems that your patients expect you to be able to solve. 

This pillar is not limited to illness, injury, or other reasons for making an appointment. Still, this is generally the most significant type of resolution for healthcare organizations to consider. 

Your organization will also need to be capable of helping your patients solve a wide range of other problems that may come up when managing appointments, such as: 

  • Problems navigating your website or scheduling an appointment online 

  • Long wait times to get an appointment, especially for an urgent condition

  • Long hold times when attempting to call your office to ask a question

  • Insurance problems 

  • Attempting to communicate with unresponsive specialists or other third-party referrals

  • Trust issues, personality differences, or other conflicts between a doctor and patient 

  • Concerns your patients have that are related to other pillars 

Expectations

Organizations that fail to meet customers' overall expectations risk losing them to competitors. 

In the healthcare field, this concept is particularly significant because your patients expect you to be able to improve the quality and length of their lives. 

Healthcare facilities that frequently meet their patients' expectations go above and beyond. They ensure their services positively impact their customers' overall health. 

Time and effort

Planning and attending an appointment can be challenging and take up a significant portion of a patient's day. Your practice should do its best to respect the time and effort your patients put into their interactions with your practice. 

Although appointments can run late and otherwise interfere with your patients' time, it’s necessary to do what you can to limit the impact on your patients. 

Personalization

Personalized healthcare ensures each treatment is as successful as possible. 

While cases can follow general patterns, they rarely look identical. Plus, patients can have very different desires regarding how much they want to treat a particular condition and their treatment throughout the process. 

Knowing how to personalize typical treatments to meet each patient's needs and preferences is important in providing a customer experience that works best for that specific patient. 

Empathy

Most customers prefer to support companies that try to show them they care and understand the challenges they are experiencing. This is particularly vital in healthcare, and medical professionals should consider a patient’s feelings and needs when forming their treatment plan. 

Many of your organization's patients are working through tough circumstances. It’s crucial to use a higher level of empathy to connect with patients on a human level instead of seeing them as a business transaction. 

Common customer experience pitfalls 

Knowing what good customer experience looks like is a must, but so is being aware of signs that indicate that your CX is not as successful as it could be. 

Some of the most common mistakes to avoid include: 

  • Not considering how your patients might react to your word choice or tone

  • Not considering a particular situation from your patient's point of view 

  • Placing too much responsibility for your CX on one person instead of your entire team

  • Ignoring customer feedback instead of using it to make improvements to your practice

  • Not admitting when you’ve made a mistake 

  • Overlooking the importance of your team members’ happiness when determining patient satisfaction

How to improve customer experience in healthcare

Your practice should always strive to improve customer experience, even when surveys and other data indicate that most customers are happy with your services.

These helpful tips can improve specific aspects of your organization's customer experience:

Seamless experience

Scheduling and attending medical appointments can be challenging. Organizations that prioritize a seamless, smooth experience can make a significant difference when it comes to minimizing customer frustration. 

Hyper-personalization

No two cases are the same, so your team needs to provide highly personalized treatment plans. They should consider the typical treatment course for a particular condition alongside each patient's unique needs. 

Although hyper-personalized services may begin with general treatment options, they also include fine-tuned details that suit each patient. 

Live engagement and assistance 

Using a live chat service can make it significantly easier for your patients to get the assistance they need when they need it. 

Your patients may encounter various problems that impact their overall experience with your company, from scheduling questions to billing concerns. 

Providing a streamlined option to handle many issues can boost your customers' convenience and peace of mind. 

Staying on top of trends within your industry is important in creating the best possible experience for your customers. 

We’re not saying you need to keep up with all the healthcare customer experience trends, but innovation is a key part of satisfaction for many patients.  

Here are some trends to be aware of:

Digital transformation

Digital transformation allows you to use many types of technology to improve your organization. 

Many patients expect technology to play a key role in how they interact with your business. Using as many cutting-edge tech tools to your advantage as possible can create a smooth experience for your patient. 

It can also increase their confidence that you prioritize relevant medical trends. 

Telemedicine

Since the pandemic, many practices have integrated certain telemedicine services into their permanent options. This makes it easier and more convenient for patients to attend appointments that do not require significant physical exams. 

Patient-centered care

Although it can be easy to think of healthcare as only a scientific field, it’s crucial to remember the human side of providing patient care. 

Mitigating your patients’ issues is important, but always consider their wishes and address every situation with empathy. 

Data-driven care

Analyzing data can give your practice many options for improving patient care and efficiency. 

Flexible payment options

Many patients struggle to pay for medical care, especially with limited or no insurance. 

Offering flexible payment plans is a critical way to keep services as accessible to your customers as possible. It also increases the likelihood of being paid for your services within a reasonable timeframe. 

Health and wellness programs 

Providing your patients with fun and convenient options for taking control of their health can reduce their likelihood of developing major health concerns. 

FAQs

What is the difference between customer care and customer experience? 

Customer care describes specific interactions between a customer and a member of your customer service team. 

Customer experience includes customer care and how customers feel about their overall interactions with your organization. 

What is the difference between experience and satisfaction? 

Customer satisfaction generally describes how your customers feel about one specific interaction, such as a particular appointment or phone call with a member of your team. 

Customer experience is an ongoing term. It addresses how your patients feel about their interactions with your organization and how those feelings evolve. 

How is patient experience different from customer experience? 

Although patient experience and customer experience have similar outcomes, patients with a specific problem may have fewer options for where their insurance will allow them to go. 

Customers often have a much wider variety of choices regarding where to go or whether they want to get a particular service. 

It’s just as important for both types of organizations to ensure their patients or customers are happy with their experiences.

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