Patient Experience & Online Reviews / Rankings: Are Yours a Match Made in Heaven or Hell? PART 2
If patient experience and online reviews and rankings go hand-in-hand, as we explored in our first post in this series, then what makes for an excellent patient experience?
Patient experience is multifactorial, and whether you do one thing right and four others wrong or you do four things right and one wrong, the effect will be the same. Your patient experience will be lacking, and your patients will know it.
So what factors impact patient experience?
Each practice is going to provide a different experience, but there are common factors that affect a patient’s overall experience, including:
- Interpersonal skills
Let’s take a look at each of these and their relationship to patient experience in more detail.
Naturally, surroundings affect our experience, and this is no different for a patient in a healthcare office. There are basic elements of your environment that your practice needs to get right. At a minimum, your office needs to be clean and organized. Anything short of that can lead to questioning standards, including standards of care. But is your office comfortable? Is the temperature set at a comfortable level for patients who have to wait in a gown? Is it warmly lit? Are the chairs in good condition and comfortable if a patient or loved one is kept waiting? Do you have a quiet office with soothing or calming music playing in the background, or are there people (staff or patients) making noise and talking loudly? All of these environmental conditions will affect your patient experience, whether you are in a brand-new, modern office or an older office that hasn’t been updated in several years or more. Take note of whether each element is adding to or detracting from your patient experience, and make a plan to improve what needs improving.
Your practice culture is shaped by the attitudes, values, goals, and practices of your organization and those within it. How well are these defined, and how are they affecting your patient experience? If not well defined, monitored, and measured, staff may have the leeway to act, and therefore treat patients, in accordance with their own attitudes, values, goals, and practices – not the collective culture of the practice. Study your practice’s culture and how it affects patient experience. Chances are, spending time in this area, putting guidelines in place, and measuring those will lead to not only greater patient satisfaction, but also greater staff satisfaction.
Interpersonal skills affect relationships, behaviors, dynamics, and communication between two people. Your staff must get this right to provide exceptional patient experience, as well as to be effective internally. First, outline the interpersonal skills that are needed to create or improve overall patient experience and specifically relationships, behaviors, dynamics, and communication. Then you can put personal action plans in place to help each staff member improve their interpersonal skills and measure those gains over time. Some qualities and characteristics to consider include warmth, clarity, friendliness, interest, listening, understanding, and caring, to name several that can have a significant impact on overall patient experience.
Of course, patient outcomes affect patient experience. However, perceived outcomes may actually be more important than actual outcomes. If a patient feels truly cared for and believes that a provider and practice did everything possible to give the best care and get the best possible outcome, the patient will be appreciative even if a complete return to health or previous condition is not possible. Pay attention to both perceived and actual outcomes, and do your best to maximize both.
Is that all?
Not quite. There’s a fifth factor that will super-charge your patient experience. It’s what I call the 4 E’s of Patient Care & Enablement: Engagement, Empathy, Education, and Empowerment. In order to provide a superb patient experience, your providers and staff must deliver in this department.
So what are the 4 E’s of Patient Care & Enablement about?
Engagement entails connecting personally with a patient, leading to a relationship and mutual participation in health and wellness attainment and maintenance. Empathy is about understanding a patient totally, not only concerns, but also values, goals, fears, needs, desires, wishes, and the like, and ensuring those are honored and addressed. Education requires the right level and amount of information to help a patient understand a condition, disease, or treatment and to help make an informed and mutual decision about what is best for the individual. Finally, empowerment will stem from knowledge, but will grow with a provider’s partnership, permission and encouragement to act, and support along the journey.
So there you have it – the elements that form patient experience. In our next blog post, we’ll take a look at whether this is enough to get great reviews and rankings.
Question: How does your practice environment and culture shape your patient experience? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author:
Ashley Libby Diaz, a brand and marketing strategist and patient experience expert, helps physicians start and grow thriving medical practices by getting their ideal patients walking through the door time and again.
Ashley has a deep relationship with healthcare, a profound appreciation for providers, a unique perspective on medicine, and a keen eye for outstanding patient experiences. She is the principal and founder of The Anca Group, a boutique medical consulting firm, with more than 18 years of healthcare provider and marketing experience and her own personal medical trials. Ashley practiced physical therapy in her early career and became a breast cancer