Customer Experience

Calling All Speciality Healthcare Providers: A Guide For The Ultimate Patient Experience

AskNicely Team

Historically, patient feedback has come in the form of long, boring, mandatory surveys that get filled out by reluctant patients and rarely get shared with or acted on by frontline teams. But as patients of specialty healthcare providers such as physios, dentists and dermatologists gain more purchasing power, keeping a finger on the pulse of patient sentiment becomes increasingly important for repeat business and referrals. But what kind of patient feedback should you be collecting? How often should you be asking for it? And how should the feedback be used to create the ultimate patient experience?

Short & Sweet 

The most effective form of patient feedback is short and streamlined. The long, old-school surveys traditionally used in healthcare are not only grueling for patients to fill out but they’re tricky to analyze and act on too. In the UK dentist industry for example, many clinics rely on the Friends & Family Test (FFT) for patient feedback. The survey asks selected patients upwards of 20 questions about their experience, and the results are collected on a monthly or quarterly basis. While the FFT and other traditional patient surveys may provide some interesting insights, it doesn’t provide a way to directly improve the patient experience. Here’s why: 

  • By the time long-form feedback is collected and analyzed, much of the customer sentiment is outdated or obsolete.

  • If patient-facing staff get to see the answers to the surveys (most don’t), there's no practical way for them to follow up on the feedback.

  • If patients have a bad experience, it’s unknown to the clinic until months later. By then, the patient has already left bad online reviews and told at least three friends about their experience.

  • Turnout for long surveys is generally low. “Yeah! I’d love to fill out a 20-minute survey after getting my wisdom teeth removed! Hand it over!” Said no patient, ever.

Instead, use short, streamlined and real-time (we’ll get to that in a sec) feedback that’s collected after each interaction. Short – meaning 1-3 questions and streamlined – meaning based on a framework like Net Promoter Score (NPS) that reveals what experience factor drove their score and why. 

This way: 

  • Feedback is easy to gather: would you rather fill out a 60 minute survey or a 60 second survey? Your patients  think the same. 
  • Feedback is easy to analyze: you gain a clear picture of what clinics , teams and locations are providing the best patient experience based on their NPS scores, and which need help to reach your service standards.

  • Feedback is easy to act on: with small soundbites of actionable feedback, patient-facing staff can understand what they can do that day to improve the patient experience. 

Real-Time & Consistent 

You can’t drive retention and referrals with a part-time patient feedback program. Healthcare providers with the best patient experience have a consistent flow of real-time customer feedback that gets delivered straight to their patient-facing staff. 

Feedback that is real-time and consistent allows you to:

Improve your patient experience every day, not just every quarter: without daily feedback, you can’t make daily improvements. When patient-facing staff can see patient feedback after each interaction, they understand what they can do in the moment to improve.

Have meaningful coaching conversations with patient-facing staff: when gathering consistent feedback, trends emerge quickly. Managers gain a clear picture of what teams and individuals are doing well and what they can do better, which can be used for meaningful, personalized coaching conversations.

Follow up on feedback: real-time feedback empowers teams to follow up before it’s too late. With positive feedback, patient-facing staff can thank the customer and ask for an online review or referral, and with negative feedback, they can make it up to the customer before things turn sour. 

Build a patient-centric culture: If you want to build patient centricity into your company culture, you need to be talking about patient feedback every day. 

User-Friendly (& Fun!) for Both Patients, Staff & the Practice as a Whole

It’s critical that the mechanism you use to collect real-time patient  feedback is simple and easy to use for both patients, patient-facing staff and high level execs. Complicated tech will only create frustration and disengagement for everyone involved. 

There are three key groups you need to consider:

Patients: Are surveys easy to fill out and delivered at the right time? Patients that have trouble providing feedback through long, complicated surveys are less likely to provide accurate feedback or complete it at all. The feedback-giving process for patients should be quick, easy and accessible. E.g a quick message to their phone as they leave the practice.

Patient-Facing Staff: As Julie Gessin, Chief Operating Officer at Schweiger Dermatology Group says: “your feedback is only as good as your ability to act on it”. The feedback collected needs to be easy to access and act upon by frontline teams. It should be available on their desktops, mobile devices and an NPS leaderboard should be displayed where teams can see it. 

Managers & Executives: Frontline managers and operation executives should be able to see at a glance which branches, locations and individuals are nailing it, and which need further coaching to reach their patient experience goals.  

Recognizes & Celebrates Healthcare Workers  

For too long, specialist healthcare providers have associated patient feedback with complaints. And it’s understandable – most of the time they hear patient feedback is because something has gone wrong. While negative feedback presents an opportunity for learning, positive feedback should be used as a regular heartbeat of appreciation for a job well done. When patients  drop positive feedback, patient-facing staff should see it, and be given shoutouts for their awesome work. 

Using positive feedback to recognize success: 

Builds a Happy Team: Most importantly, using positive feedback to recognize and celebrate teams makes them feel GOOD. We know from phycological studies that recognition for good work releases dopamine in the brain, which creates feelings of pride and pleasure. It’s about bringing more appreciation into the day for every frontline worker so they wake up each day knowing that what they do really matters - to their patients, their boss, their peers and the leaders of the clinic.

Improves Employee Retention: When you recognize employees for the work they’re doing, which by the way, can be as simple as saying “Thank you. You’re great at what you do. We can’t possibly do this without you.”, it provides a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose and belonging, means frontline workers are more likely to feel fulfilled in their work and less likely to look elsewhere.

Reinforces Behavior: When patient facing staff are caught doing things right, it reinforces behavior and creates habits that positively impact the patient experience. 

At the end of the day, specialist healthcare providers change lives. They may help someone to walk again, give them a smile they feel confident with or help someone with their fertility journey. When patient-facing staff get connected to their customer stories and recognized for their work, it creates a powerful sense of purpose, belonging and empowerment. 

Effective feedback is key to unlocking the ultimate patient experience. Using feedback that is short, real-time and easy to take action on will accelerate specialist healthcare providers ahead of their competitors. Case in point? Schweiger Dermatology. Learn how they used effective feedback, coaching and recognition to improve their NPS scores across branches and triple their positive Google reviews in just three months!

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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