Despite the intimacy of the patient-provider relationship, patients do switch providers, and their propensity to do so is underestimated by providers. Nearly sixty percent of patients that responded stated that they would switch providers for quality or service reasons; whereas fewer than one-quarter of the doctor’s that responded felt that a patient would switch providers for those reasons. Altarum Institute’s study
Altarum Institute’s study results showed that there was a disconnect between how satisfied that providers thought their patients were. They estimated that roughly three-fourths of patients were satisfied; whereas, patients themselves, when asked, stated a satisfaction of roughly forty percent.
Meanwhile, Health plan deductibles are going up each year. Cost sharing with patients is going up. Concierge medicine is also increasing – which means, patients are spending more money out of their pockets. Increasingly, patients are behaving like educated consumers. They are looking for more value out of the healthcare $s they spend. If you do not invest in creating, cultivating, patient relationships, you will be out of business pretty soon.
Start by surveying patients’ satisfaction with your healthcare system to uncover the problems they face. I always recommend using a patient relationship management tool to manage a majority of relationships. Add humans for the final mile. That’s it. Start small by making sure you capture each patient’s email address and mobile phone number – then send them a satisfaction survey.
By conducting patient satisfaction surveys, first and foremost you will be letting your patients know that their opinion is very important and their feedback will help you provide quality services. It will help you provide better care and also ensure that the time your patients spend with you is as pleasant as possible. Next, it will help you compete with other healthcare providers and set your standards. It will help measure the overall rating of your medical practice and responsiveness of your staff. It will also help provide rewards and recognition to the staff at practice who are performing well, which in turn will increase the quality of care.
It will improve quality of communication of doctors with patients which is a key to patient satisfaction. Gauging patient satisfaction and using the feedback to implement or build on quality improvement initiatives will help demonstrate a commitment to patient-centered care and improve overall medical service experience.
Treat patients how you would want your parents to be treated. This could include the following (most of which can be done via tools from your EMR):
– Easy access to scheduling / cancelling appointments
– Appointment reminders
– Easy self service (demographics, insurance, medical records etc)
– Easy communications with your healthcare system
– Providing estimated cost of care
– Make it easy for patients to pay their copays, balance dues etc
– Minimal wait times
– Appropriate and good medical care
– Doctor’s bedside manners
– Pleasant check-in and experience in your healthcare facility
– Asking for their experience with you
– Patient eduction / Keeping patients informed
– Care coordination
– Staying in touch with patients
– Easy recall system for patients to self service
This has been the biggest pain point for most patients, for a long time now. You can use free online scheduling software and apps that will empower patients to book and reschedule appointments.
You can even use your EMR’s appointment scheduling abilities. It’s very easy to use ZocDoc, google book now, facebook book now etc. Whatever tool you use, the most important thing is to give the patient a confirmed appointment ASAP. Otherwise, the patient is simply going to move on to the next practice.
The best way to not lose your patients to your competitor is to stay in touch with them. Most patients experience “episodic care” and think of their relationship with you as “transactional”. One solution is to stay in touch with your patients without adding a huge burden to your providers. Another solution is to address Medication / treatment plan adherence. Yet another solution involves providing regular, relevant, seasonal patient education.
Essentially – Move your behavior away from episodic care to “value based continuous care”. Technology allows you to stay in touch (and top of mind) of your patients on a regular basis, at scale.
The easiest way to stay on top of existing patients’ minds is to allow them to get in touch with you securely. Ongoing, proactive treatment and staying in touch with the patient is a secret weapon that most providers do not use. Patients have questions about their health – it’s not every day, but ever so often they do have questions about their health or about the medications they are taking. They have questions that require a simple (even a single sentence) answer from providers or healthcare technicians. You can use the patient portal of your EMR to do so OR you can get one of the patient messaging apps as well. Or, if the patient consents, you can do this via text messaging as well. There are several options in the market – including free software from us as well.
Medication / treatment plan adherence is painfully low. You can affect this change in your patients and improve your own practice’s efficacy (and therefore, patient satisfaction) via use of medication-management apps.
According to research “Typically, adherence rates of 80% or more are needed for optimal therapeutic efficacy. However, it is estimated that adherence to chronic medications is around 50%. Adherence rates can go down as time passes after the initial prescription is written, or as barriers emerge or multiply.”
Enroll in a medication adherence program if you can. Use one of these apps by integrating it with your EMR. This will even reduce the time you spend in medication reconciliation. Give your patients the power to control their health through a mobile app.
Help them and their family keep a track record of their health summary, their test results by using the existing free medical-management apps or use those available in your EMR/EPM.
It increases patient loyalty, improves patient stickiness to your practice, increases recalls, and improves patient satisfaction. Patient education is the practice of informing patients about their health, wellness, treatment plans, potential outcomes, and other information critical to the patient experience. Invest some time, effort and money into patient education. This also has added side benefits of patients being more involved in their own care. Thereby these contribute to additional preventive appointments your existing patients make with your practice.
Patient education can be done by following ways – and none of them are very difficult to do. Start by preparing free teaching tools organized by each clinical topic and upload either to the patient portal or on your website. Next step is to provide access to patients to help find the best possible treatment and gain real knowledge. If you do not have time to create patient education materials, you can leverage online libraries such as ‘iHealthSpot’, ‘Krames online’, that include a library of award-winning patient education related to your specialty. You can license the library for a small setup fee or monthly licensing fee and make it available on your websites. If you end up licensing the content, be aware of the distribution fees / agreement from these content providers as well.
You can also use tools such as informational brochures or other printed materials, Podcasts, YouTube videos, Videos or DVDs, PowerPoint presentations, Posters or charts, models or props, group classes, trained peer educators to achieve the same results as well.
The added benefit of doing these is that not only do they help with patient education, but they directly contribute to your practice’s reputation and credibility as well. This in turn, markets your practice beyond what you can personally do, plus generates new patient appointments from your existing patients (or patients they refer to your practice). You can also send regular newsletters via the patient portal for the patient to stay up to date with their healthcare.
Simple, but effective steps to help you find, service, keep patients forever.