The healthcare landscape is continually changing and there’s increasing pressure for improved patient experience. This has created new opportunities for healthcare systems to identify ways to improve patient experience and adopt tactics designed for improving patient satisfaction scores.
There isn’t just one ideal patient experience. Different organizations and patient populations will have varying preferences, expectations, and understandings. That’s why it’s important to, first, conduct an internal audit, collect patient feedback, and involve your staff. Once you’ve collected your data, you can then use it to develop strategies and implement tactics to improve patient experience.
Conduct an Internal Audit
Whether you’re a small practice or a large healthcare system, you must start with a thorough internal audit of your current state. This includes creating a detailed list of patient experience tactics and initiatives that you currently employ. Some things to include in your audit are:
- Waiting room comfort, cleanliness, and amenities
- Staff and physician engagement and patient interaction
- Patient communication tools
- Patient wait times
- Quality of care
While this is not a complete list, it should help you start identifying areas to evaluate.
Collect Patient Feedback
There’s no one better to ask for ways to improve patient experience and satisfaction than your patients. Getting anonymous, transparent feedback from your patients about their individual patient experiences will provide key insights into areas of improvement. Plus, it shows patients that you care about what they think and you’re interested in your patients as individuals, not just on providing quality care.
Surveys should cover four broad topics: quality, access, health outcomes, and patient satisfaction. Some questions to consider including are:
- How satisfied are you with the level of care you’re receiving from our staff and physicians?
- How attentive, caring, and understanding do you feel our staff and physicians are?
- How soon are you able to be seen when you call to schedule an appointment?
- What is your preferred way for requesting an appointment? (i.e. call in, email or text, social media, portal, etc.)
- How satisfied are you with our level of patient communication?
Also, consider including open ended questions that ask for specific ways to improve their experience: what amenities would you like in the waiting area, what can we do to make your visit better, etc. Asking these types of questions demonstrates that you’re actively looking for ways to improve the patient experience you provide.
Another option for evaluating patient satisfaction is to have a few, key staff members engage in brief, casual conversations with patients during their visit. Have them ask patients about their visit and whether they have any feedback for the physician or staff. Ask these questions at any point after the patient’s visit – like when they’re being walked through the exam room or while checking out.
Involve Your Staff
If you want to improve patient experience, you have to get buy-in from your staff. You also need to identify internal champions to move the effort forward. Meet as a group to talk about what patient experience is and why patient experience matters. Having a shared understanding of the value of patient experience will help motivate and mobilize staff.
It’s also important to have your staff brainstorm their own patient improvement ideas based on their personal experiences. Ask your staff questions that make them think as if they were the patient. Encourage them to think big and event unrealistic. Some brainstorming questions to ask include:
- What does the perfect family planning visit look like?
- What amenities would you like to see in a waiting room?
- How long do you want to wait to see a doctor?
- What type of interaction would you like to have with the staff?
While not an inclusive list, these questions will help your staff think critically and reflect on the patient experience at your facility.
Share the results from your internal audit and customer feedback surveys with your staff. With the open feedback from staff and patients, you should start to see some trends appear that will help guide your patient experience improvements.
Once you identify ways to improve patient experience, you can start developing your patient experience strategy and begin implementing new tactics. Pair your internal insights with external research around patient experience trends and best practices. Doing this will make sure that your insights are also capitalizing on top trends in the healthcare industry. Even more, developing patient experience strategies that align with patient feedback shows that you care about what’s most important to them, not just on providing quality care.