Strategies for Improving Patient Experience in Healthcare

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For many health care institutions, improving patient experience means acquiring and deploying the latest healthcare technology. This is very true, however, we are evolving into a highly competitive and customer-centric society.

It’s no longer just about what you do because many people can do what you do. It’s about how you do it and why. The “what” is standard to the patient but why should they choose this hospital over the other? Why should they be willing to pay a certain amount of money at one hospital as opposed to one that would be relatively cheaper?

Improving patient experience and finding effective best practices is the number one concern of all healthcare providers but some find it difficult to achieve. Customer service may not be warm, the processes that the patient undertakes may be long and draining, and the staff in the hospital may not be helpful or welcoming in any way.

Here are 5 strategies that health institutions should consider in improving patients experience:

1. What You See Is What You Get

Health care centers have woken up to the fact that good marketing brings in sales. Make sure that what you’re selling is what you actually provide; not just in technical procedures but in a patients’ overall experience. A patient may have been sold the vision, however, the hospital that they do eventually visit is far from what was being advertised.

If the receptionist in your ad is warm and vibrant, ensure that a patient feels welcome the minute they step into the hospital. Many times you’ll find a patient may walk into a hospital but no one seems to be bothered. Even the receptionist may act as though they are doing the patient a favor by being there.

A patient’s healthcare experience goes beyond the doctor’s room. The process leading to the doctor’s office should be as good as you sold it. Operations and marketing/communications should therefore always be in constant alignment. Most hospitals communicate that their processes are fast and yet patients can go hours unattended especially those in emergency departments.

A patient needs to be constantly attended to. If they wait too long, it’s possible for them to be extremely upset by the time they are going into the doctor’s office. Care and concern, as well as its timing and delivery from arrival to discharge, is critical. Once you are able to optimize the patient journey, patient satisfaction is a given.

2. Staff Training

The receptionist may be the face of the institution but each and every stakeholder has a part to play in transforming an ‘ok’ medical practice to being the best medical practice. In a patient-centric environment, all players are key; from the security guard at the entrance to the cleaner in the back rooms.

Staff should be well trained in customer service. Don’t just point a patient in the direction of the X-Ray room; walk with him/her. The entire staff team must be aligned with the facility’s vision and should, therefore, take part in the process.

Get feedback from staff members on the hospital’s practices and find out how best to improve customer satisfaction. This will not only give you an opportunity to effect real change in the facility but it will also boost the staff’s morale by making them feel valued.

Performing regular research to discover more methods and training staff on new practices is key in improving the service offered to the patients. Train the physicians in empathy. Emotional intelligence is especially important for medical staff but it is more often than not looked down upon.

Strong patient relationships greatly affect the eventual health and wellness outcome of the patients.

3. It’s All About the Food

One thing people dread about hospitals is the food they serve. You may have what is considered some of the best practices in healthcare but if your food is subpar, your patient may look for other options the next time around or may not recommend your hospital at all. This doesn’t mean that you should include a serving of chocolate fudge cake with every meal.

The food prepared should be delicious and healthy. Insist on fresh produce and adopt cooking techniques that retain the food’s taste and nutritional value. Test different recipes over time and have members of the staff rate the food.

If members of the staff are on board, chances are that it will resonate well with the patients. Offer variety while always ensuring that health is your top priority. Hospital food doesn’t have to be a drab affair. It can be delicious and still cost effective.

4. Give Your Healthcare Center a Facelift

The staff may be warm and vibrant but the general aesthetic of your facility speaks something else. Invest in an interior designer who understands what your customer’s need and will help you create an environment that encourages warmth and positivity.

The waiting rooms should be relaxing and nerve-easing so as to take the patient’s mind off the issue at hand. The children’s ward should have a homey and encouraging feel to appeal to kids better. The sanitation of the bathrooms speaks volumes about a hospital so they should be clean at all times.

5. Follow up with Your Patients

Your patient’s experience within the health care facility shouldn’t be your only focus. Go beyond the hospital’s walls and into your patients’ heart. Once a patient has been discharged from the hospital, follow up to find out how they’re fairing on.

Not only does the patient feel valued and cared for, but the call also gives them an opportunity to get any clarifications they may require regarding treatment. Through this way, they are able to find out if they’re on track through the recovery process. Such a gesture greatly improves a patient’s health care experience and begins to create a long-term patient relationship.

Improving Patient Experience Does Not Stop Here

These pointers are guidelines on how healthcare centers can work on improving patient experience. As with any business, it is important to learn your customer’s wants and needs and see how best to satisfy them. Find out from your patients what they like about the service offered at your hospital so that you’ll know what to improve on and what you need to stop doing with immediate effect.

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