How exciting! The latest marketing buzz hitting the health and medical industry has nothing to do with over-selling or under-selling patients - but instead, it is all about putting patients in the middle of the picture. This is a trend that I fully endorse.
Read on to find out what's involved in establishing a Patient Experience Program (sometimes referred to as a "PX Program"), what's driving the demand, what a good program represents and how and why you should consider adopting some, or ideally all, of this trend in 2019.
Patient experience programs - what's driving demand?
We know that over the past 10 years, consumers have become more assertive with their healthcare. Access to information as well as several reforms (ie. Aged Care, NDIS) have encouraged consumers to exercise control and choice.
Coupled with these factors, has been the trend of Customer Experience Programs (CX Programs) in other industries. The drive to achieve competitive advantage, build customer relationships and gather customer intelligence, has involved a return to popularity of customer service training programs, customer satisfaction measures, tuning in to the "voice of the customer" feedback programs and optimising touch points. It turns out that human relationships are really powerful and can't always be replaced by technology (I'm resisting the urgent to put a facetious emoji here!).
It was only a matter of time before the health industry got on board as well.
Good patient experience program in action - The Ipswich Hospital UK
At The Ipswich Hospital (UK), an emergency respite service has been trialled and successfully established to cater for frail elderly patients seeking alternative care to the limited options of hospital admission or permanent residential aged care.
The service was established through detailed patient consultation and has won numerous patient experience awards. Its key points of difference include:
- Multi-disciplinary team that pools experience
- Consumer choice and control
- Reduced hospital admissions
- Patients get the support they need (within 24 hours) and follow on services and support
- A staged integration to permanent residential aged care - which better matches the person's situation and needs and reduces stress
- 100% of patients surveyed would recommend the service
Patients who are referred by GPs, or identified in the Emergency Department, are brought to the Frailty Assessment Base as a “one-stop shop” where they spend 3-4 hours having their complex needs addressed.
Patients will have a heart tracing, blood tests performed and blood pressure taken lying and standing as part of the assessment. If needed, X-rays and scans may also be performed.
Patients will receive a review from a consultant geriatrician, a therapist, a specialist nurse, a pharmacist and dietitian who will work together and look at them holistically in order to keep clients active, healthy and at home.
These links provide further information on the service:
While I appreciate that this example is large-scale, the beauty of the system that I want to highlight is the "meeting the need of the patient" and addressing a community and patient issue - we all know that moving people from independent living to permanent residential aged care needs transitional steps. Take a look at the services you offer patients and clients and think if there are opportunities to move people towards better choices and outcomes. What is the best way to move your patients / clients forward? Can the current system be improved?
Getting started with a patient experience program - what you can do
1. Ask your patients for their feedback
This can be:
- Face to face
- Via focus groups
- Or by surveying your patients
While it involves more time, the most effective way to gather quality feedback and insights is to talk to your patients face to face. Encourage your clinicians to ask patients (and take notes) regarding what they want and need, what they like / dislike, areas for improvement and other services or amenities they would like your service to offer.
2. Map the buyers' journey
Next you want to break down all the steps that lead a patient to you and identify ways to improve each "touch point" (ie. every time a patient interacts with your business):
- How do they find you - online, walk-by, word of mouth, referrals?
- How is the initial enquiry managed - do you provide the right information in the right way to add value?
- How effective is your team converting enquiries to bookings using ethical selling techniques?
- Prior to the appointment - what reminders are sent? Are instructions provided to help the patient find your practice? Do they need supporting information?
- Waiting room - is your waiting room effective, modern, clean, comfortable and welcoming? How friendly are your reception staff? How are patients checked-in and assisted in the waiting room? How do you manage anxieties/ discomfort? What else could your practice do to improve the waiting room experience?
- The consultation - do you have effective questions that achieve a thorough understanding of the patient's situation? Is the patient listened to, consulted with and supported? Are the next steps taken to analyse the patient's situation and give them a plan to move forward? Do you write this down for them? What follow up is encouraged?
- Appointment follow up - what action is taken after the appointment? How do you stay in touch with your patients and continue to support and add value to them? How do you encourage them to refer your practice to others?
3. What is the ideal experience?
Culture is key when it comes to successful PX Programs. Take the time to talk to your team about what a "five-star" experience looks like at your practice. Build a plan and undertake training so that all members of your team understand the role they play in creating a five-star experience for patients.
You will want to keep the feedback going and measure your success against your practice metrics ie. conversions, patients per practitioner, repeat bookings, lapsed patients and referrals so you can continue to incorporate patient feedback, measure and reward improvements.
Why adopt a patient experience program?
- Patients are expecting greater levels of customer service
- Providing a "good" service is no longer enough to retain patients in your practice
- Practice retention involves building relationships and therapeutic alliances, asking patients for their feedback, listening to their suggestions and adapting to meet patient needs
- The healthcare environment is facing intense and increasing competition
- Patients respond positively to patient-centred environments leading to less fear and greater comfort and confidence with the health care service, regular bookings and positive referrals
- Patient-focussed practices play a role in adding value and building loyalty with their community
There's a lot of moving parts to analyse and bring together to create one repeatable and consistent experience. But regardless of the size of your private practice, improving your overall patient experience is a positive step in the right direction towards business sustainability.
Let's talk further about how we can help build your own tailored Patient Experience Program. Email Megan@marketsavvy.com.au or phone 0417 602 390.