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GuidesUser experience (UX)13 actionable steps for improving patient experience

13 actionable steps for improving patient experience

Last updated

21 June 2023

Author

Claire Bonneau

Is your healthcare organization doing enough to curate an excellent patient experience? 

If not, you’re missing out on valuable patient retention opportunities and shooting yourself in the foot (not quite literally) for expanding your services in the future.

Patient experience starts when they become aware of your healthcare organization and lasts until they no longer remember the services you provided.

Ideally, you want your patients to have such a great experience that they return for future appointments and recommend your services to others. 

But how can you improve the patient experience to tap into this hidden economy of future patients?

Follow our guide of essential, actionable steps for improving the patient experience in healthcare. Your organization can tap into these tips to get the best results for your business and your patients.

What is patient experience?

Patient experience is the combination of every interaction a patient has with your healthcare organization. From the length of wait times in your office to the level of bedside manner your providers offer, each factor influences your patient’s overall experience.

No matter the size of your health organization, your results will improve if you invest time and resources in the patient experience. 

Investment in patient experience ensures two things:

  • It increases the likelihood that your patients will return to your organization for future care, improving the level of care you can provide and increasing patient retention.

  • It encourages existing patients to recommend your services, building a sense of community and improving your chances of sustained long-term growth.

If your organization isn’t plugged into the patient experience, you risk not providing the personalized care your patients need. You may permanently damage your reputation as a competent and compassionate organization within the healthcare industry. 

Improving patient experience makes a difference

After a patient becomes aware of your services, the care they receive from your providers is only part of their overall experience. 

Other factors include: 

  • The appointment booking process

  • Customer service interactions

  • Accessibility of care

These all contribute to the final opinion your patients have of your organization. Investing in improving this experience can benefit many aspects of your business.

Better health outcomes for your patients

As an obvious and always beneficial win, improving patient experience is deeply connected to better patient health outcomes. 

When patients leave your organization, you want them to feel better, respected, heard, and valued. Committing resources to improve patient experience is one easy way to serve your patients better, positively impacting local families and communities.

Saving money and resources on outreach

Marketing your organization can be challenging and costly over time. 

But what if we told you that a sea of patients could be funneled toward your organization free of charge?

Patient referral is one of the most effective types of outreach. When a patient has a good experience with your providers and organization, they are more likely to recommend your services to their friends and family. 

Alternatively, a bad experience can lead to cautionary warnings. 

Paying attention to patient experience allows you to provide better care for your current patients while marketing your organization to future patients in need. 

Building a reputation as a leading healthcare provider

As healthcare providers, your organization must maintain a reputation for high-quality care and leadership in the industry. This ensures your providers can continue to help returning patients and new clients.

Focusing your efforts on improving patient experience will challenge your team to be more innovative and creative when solving common issues within your organization.

As a result, you’re more likely to become leaders within your chosen niche, boosting your reputation. Patients and high-quality medical providers will want to learn more about your offerings, so there are many benefits to improving the patient experience.

13 tips for improving patient experience

Improving patient experience doesn’t have to be complicated, so why aren’t more healthcare organizations making the necessary changes?

It is common to get stuck with “analysis paralysis” when tackling a large concept like patient experience. As daunting as it may seem, we want you to know that even the smallest changes can have a profoundly positive impact on patient experience. 

Getting started now rather than later is essential for long-term success and growth. Here are our top tips for improving the patient experience within your organization:

Offer online scheduling

Accessibility is everything during the early stages of a potential patient researching your organization. As automation has made daily life easier, digital accessibility is now an expectation. 

Allowing patients to book an appointment online is a simple way to alleviate patient stress and get more bookings. That benefits your patients and your business.

Send patient intake forms via email

When your patient first arrives at your office or signs in to your virtual appointment, wouldn’t it be easier if they’d already completed their intake forms?

Intake forms are essential to caring for any new patient, but they can cause patients a lot of stress and overwhelm, especially if they’re a little late to their appointment.

We recommend sending your intake forms to patients in advance through secure email to avoid these negative feelings. This is a simple way to improve the flow of your appointments, ensure accurate data, and keep your office organized. 

Set appointment reminders

We’ve all forgotten about an appointment before, so why not help your patients with preset reminders and calendar integration?

Offering text or email reminders is a super simple way to keep an upcoming appointment at the forefront of your patient’s mind. Paired with the ability to link their appointment to their digital calendar, this improves the patient experience and decreases no-show rates.

Disclaimer with this advice: Don’t overdo it! 

We recommend sending two reminders: One a week before the appointment and one 24 hours before. Any more than this can come across as spammy and will annoy your patients, so keep it simple with a few intentionally timed reminders.

Create helpful online content

Digital content is vital to healthcare marketing. Many patients search for medical advice online before booking appointments with professional providers. This gives you an extra opportunity to reach out to potential patients and stand out as an educated leader in your chosen niche.

Posting patient-facing medical content like blogs, FAQs, and social media content can provide value, build patient trust, and enhance your patient’s early research experience.

Politely respond to online feedback

All businesses receive positive and negative feedback and reviews online, regardless of industry. While having more positive testimonials than the alternative is desirable, it is possible to benefit from less-than-ideal reviews.

Patients often leave negative reviews of a healthcare organization after a poor experience. They want to have their concerns heard and validated. 

If this happens to your team, respond to feedback politely and helpfully. Offering support with a professional but warm response shows you care about your patients and want to improve your organization. 

While you may not win back an unhappy patient, this practice can repair your reputation with others. It’s why we strongly recommend taking the time to address and respond to all public feedback.

Keep patients up to date with a newsletter

Writing and sending a monthly newsletter is a great way to keep existing patients plugged into your services and keep them returning for more. 

It’s an excellent opportunity to highlight the unique things that make your office stand out. Newsletters help to build a sense of community surrounding your practice, enhancing the level of patient care you provide.

Put customer service first

An obvious (but often missed) strategy for improving patient experience is striving for first-rate customer service during every patient interaction. 

You can build a solid patient experience through respect, communication, and kindness during all customer service interactions.

Curating a pleasant, warm check-in experience and training your medical providers to offer empathetic, compassionate bedside care are just two areas you can focus on. 

Integrate open communication into all patient care protocols

Fluid and open communication is an essential cornerstone of high-quality patient care

Your patients want to feel heard, respected, and valued when they receive care from your organization. One way to achieve this goal is by improving communication across all patient care protocols and workflows.

Organizations that offer virtual care options should evaluate their current practices to address potential opportunities for miscommunication. Patients you’re treating through online appointments deserve the same level of care and communication as those who visit the office.

Minimize wait times as much as possible

Wait times for a specific appointment or to see a specialist contribute to patient satisfaction. While we understand that you can’t fix or remove all causes of delays, your organization can reduce the negative emotions involved with waiting. 

Some examples include:

  • Including a 5–10 minute buffer between appointments so your team can catch up if an appointment takes longer than expected

  • Saving room at the end of your daily schedule for walk-ins or emergencies

  • Practicing open communication with your patients and always expressing gratitude and acknowledgment after they have waited through a delay

Make your waiting room inviting

Creating a warm, inviting wait room environment can improve your patients' experience if you offer in-person appointments. 

In many cases, going to a medical provider can be stressful for many patients. Finding ways to create a relaxing environment can reduce their stress.

Simple ways your organization can improve your patient’s waiting room experience include: 

  • Decorating your office with fun art

  • Installing a TV 

  • Offering magazines for entertainment

  • Playing soft but upbeat music

Strive for payment transparency

Payment transparency is key if improving patient financial experience is important to your organization. For many patients, it’s essential for knowing what level of care they can afford to receive.

Payment transparency is crucial for providers who offer aesthetic-based services like cosmetic dentistry or aesthetic injections: Health insurance often doesn’t cover these procedures. 

Sharing pricing estimates on your website is a good way to improve the patient experience and reduce the risk of an awkward conversation for everyone. 

Offer payment plans

Wherever your organization is based, healthcare services can get expensive, even with insurance. 

For most people, paying a large sum of money all at once for care is often not an option. If this is the only option you offer, it can sour an otherwise positive patient experience.

We recommend offering payment plans to offset this negativity and increase the number of patients interested in your services. 

Breaking down large payments into monthly or weekly chunks makes the process more approachable. This reduces patient stress and enhances their overall experience with your organization.

Collect patient experience data after appointments

The best way to give your patients a great experience is to ask them what they want and provide more.

Patient feedback is essential for any team looking to improve their existing systems. Diligently collecting detailed feedback from various patient sources can help your team discover trends to address and improve. 

Treat these insights like gold. They’re an incredibly valuable look at how your business can offer better care and improve your bottom line.

Improve the patient experience with Dovetail

Patient experience is essential to your healthcare organization’s success, but are you doing enough?

Dovetail is a helpful tool for collecting and analyzing your patient’s feedback. Your team can make measurable improvements to your patient experience almost immediately, benefiting your business and your patients.

Get started today

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