5 Ways to Improve Patient Experience
By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT
Creating a positive patient experience within your rehab therapy practice is more important than ever. Today a patient is not just a patient, they are also a customer. We need to recognize that customers have choices regarding where they receive care. If you want your practice to thrive and grow, it’s important that those customers choose your practice. A positive patient experience will help ensure that happens. In addition to helping your practice be successful, a positive patient experience also leads to improved patient outcomes. That’s a win for you and the patient.
When a patient has a good experience and they are functioning better, they are more likely to post a positive review on social media. In this day and age when so many people turn to social media for recommendations, positive social media reviews are worth their weight in gold. In a 2021 survey, “74% of patients find online reviews very or extremely important.”
We’ve compiled 5 ways you can improve the patient experience within your clinic.
Decrease Patient Wait Times
This starts with your scheduling guidelines. Obviously by increasing your patient volume you increase your revenue. However, you do need to balance the volume with how many patients can realistically be seen during a specific period of time. If you are overscheduled, patients may have to wait to be seen for an extended period of time while other patients are finishing their treatment sessions. Minimal wait times are a key indicator of a positive experience.
You can also decrease wait times, especially at an initial visit, by having the patient fill out their intake information ahead of time and electronically, if possible. Using a patient portal is a great way to accomplish this. With a portal, like the one included with OptimisPT, the need for manual entry and the use of paper decreases. OptimisPT also allows you to send Outcome Measure surveys electronically ahead of the visit. If the patient has already provided the necessary registration information they will not need to sit in the waiting room completing paperwork increasing the time until they’re seen.
Friendly and Attentive Staff
This is important from the first moment a patient has interaction with your staff. This could be the initial phone call to schedule an appointment or the moment they first walk into your clinic. Your team members have a significant impact on whether a patient’s experience is positive or negative. This can be as simple as offering a smile, saying hello and being friendly. This pleasant attitude should not be limited to your front office staff. This should be projected by your clinical staff, as well, even if that patient is not that specific therapist’s patient. The more welcome the patient feels the more likely they are to return and recommend your practice to other potential customers.
Clean and Comfortable Clinic
Although your goal is to keep wait times minimal, if the patient should have to spend more time in the waiting area than expected, you want that room to be a welcoming space. Keep the area neat and clean. Be sure magazines are organized and there are no old coffee cups sitting around from previous patients. Decorate the walls with calming images or informative signs that keep the patient’s interest and may provide some education.
Don’t stop at the waiting room. Your gym area and treatment rooms should also be pleasant. As much as possible, make the space light and bright. If you don’t have a lot of windows, be sure to paint the walls a lighter color to make the space feel more open. Keep the equipment and tables clean and tidy. A clean and comfortable space will make for a better patient experience.
Request Patient Feedback
Another way to improve patient experience is to show them you value their opinion. This can be accomplished by sending customer satisfaction surveys. One such survey is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) which is considered a gold standard. This short, one question survey measures how likely the patient is to recommend your clinic to a family member or friend on a 0-10 scale. It also allows the patient to include a comment, if they wish. You can learn more regarding the NPS in our blog “What is the Net Promoter Score and Why Should I Care?”.
Within OptimisPT this survey is automatically sent at specific intervals during the patient’s episode of care. By sending the survey you are letting your patient’s know that you care how they feel about their experience at your practice. In addition, by monitoring the responses, you can address any negative comments on a real time basis which lets the patient know they are being heard. This simple action can help to improve the patient experience.
Maintain Good Communication with Your Patients
From the first time the patient contacts your facility, make a concerted effort to keep the lines of communication with that patient open and keep them informed. Have a script for your front office staff to follow to be sure each patient receives all the relevant information. This includes to watch their inbox for a link to the patient portal, what items they will need to bring to the first visit, to exactly where your office is located, providing directions, if necessary.
Once the appointment is made, the patient should be kept informed through appointment reminders. The most efficient method is to use automated appointment reminders like those included in OptimisPT. It has been found that 66% of patients prefer to receive an upcoming appointment reminder via text.
Communication with the patient should not stop once their episode of care has ended. Stay in touch with your patients by sending birthday wishes, holiday greetings and newsletters. These can be sent via email and if you use OptimisPT you can create email templates to be sent individually or as a mass email campaign through the system. Sending these types of greetings will keep your practice fresh in the minds of the patients should they require future therapy services.
As the industry continues to move toward value based care, the patient experience becomes even more important. As stated earlier, the more positive the experience, the better the patient outcomes. In addition, when you strive to improve the patient experience at your rehab therapy practice, it also leads to improved employee satisfaction. Happy patients lead to happier employees. Since patients love to post reviews on social media, more positive reviews will lead to increased referrals, patient volume and repeat customers. Improving your patient experience is not only the right thing to do, it will also lead to increased revenue and success of your practice.
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