How to Create the Ultimate Patient Experience
“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity,” - Hippocrates
Patients have never had so much purchasing power. With endless options offering slick booking experiences, zoom appointments from the couch, and 5 star reviews, most people will look for a healthcare provider they not only trust, but one they actually like.
This means specialist providers like dentists, dermatologists and physiotherapists who once had a sole focus on delivering great outcomes for patients, now have to focus on a great customer experience too.
In fact, the terms “patient” and “customer” are no longer mutually exclusive.
Creating the ultimate patient experience
Unlike filling up with gas or buying a new pair of socks, the healthcare ‘customer’ experience is very personal. It’s a relationship that requires immense levels of trust, empathy and personal connection. The stakes are simply much higher. When you order takeout, often the worst that can happen is poor service and extra charges for the sauce. In the healthcare industry, long waits for treatments and poor patient/provider relationships affect people's long term health, personal confidence and livelihoods.
How can you build a level of loyalty where patients return to your healthcare service time and time again, without even considering other options? In the words of Eddie Coyle, Chief Medical Officer at Colosseum Dental Group, “How can we retain customers for life?” There are a few critical steps that can’t be missed.
Understand your patients with regular, well timed feedback
Understanding your patients can seem like an operation in itself. But the first step is simple: just ask. Let them tell you what they love and hate the most about their patient experience, and use that feedback to focus your efforts and inform your team, shaping the patient experience for the better.
Small snippets of patient feedback gathered in real-time, after every interaction, is especially useful. Without that regularity, it’s extremely difficult to gain meaningful insights, and spot trends or issues in time to actually do something about them.
Map out your patient touchpoints and optimize daily
This might sound overwhelming, but it’s actually about micro-improvements. You won’t get speedy results from a large, painful review and overhaul that takes you away from your day-to-day. But mapping out those small touch points, then helping your team make tiny improvements to each interaction, every day? That’s where the magic happens.
After all, patient experience doesn’t refer to a singular moment. It’s the collection of thousands of micro-moments that add up to form a patient feeling, opinion and perception.
As a service provider, it’s your job to understand and optimize each of those micro-moments, from the second a customer first hears of your provider, and every moment thereafter.
Some key patient touch points to consider are:
- Online: websites, reviews, social media, booking systems.
- Pre check-in: frontline receptionists, pre-appointment questionnaires, consultations and appointment reminders.
- Checkin-in: waiting rooms, paperwork, interactions with frontline staff.
- Appointment: experience delivered by clinician.
- Post visit: follow-ups, post appointment care and feedback.
Essentially, the goal of mapping out and optimizing these moments is to reduce the hiccups that make patients second guess their choice, or look elsewhere along the way.
Unlock the talent in your team with effective coaching
You can’t expect your whole team to deliver awesome patient experience based on intuition alone. Yes, they have the medical expertise, but many patient facing clinicians don’t have enough coaching on what a winning patient experience looks like (on top of their medical training), and how to practically deliver one.
A fatal mistake is viewing coaching as a one-off exercise. A workshop on how to create the ultimate patient experience at the start of the year, or a one-off course clinicians are advised to do between appointments. As much as we’d like it to: it doesn’t work.
The most effective form of coaching is regular, personalized, and focused on practical improvements.
Going back to our first and second steps: feedback provided by patients at each specific touch point can help solve this problem for you. Leveraging patient feedback means clinicians can be celebrated for what they are doing well, learn from real life examples, and recieve tips grounded in what actually matters to their patients.
One of our customers, Colosseum Dental, personalizes coaching for each of their dentists, which helped them create a consistently awesome patient experience. 51% of clinics having increased their NPS score by an average of 12 points since implementing the solution.
The New Zealand based skincare brand, Caci Clinic is another example of a service brand using personalized coaching to create the ultimate patient experience. Acting CEO of Caci Clinic, Francis Caliari-Pierce said that many seasoned industry professionals have joined Caci Clinic, ”But regardless, everyone receives training. It’s great that we’re building on a really strong foundation, but training is how we create consistency”.
Consistency means everyone is on the same page and that even as a business expands, all the moving parts can turn in unison.
Harness the power of reviews
You don’t want the first step of a patient’s health journey to be a negative one. Even if you have the best clinicians around, a prospective patient doesn’t know that unless they actually go to an appointment (or see hundreds of raving reviews). A patient’s journey to better health often starts online, and reviews can be the main source of information about a healthcare’s quality of care and services, especially for cosmetic procedures. According to a 2020 survey, 77% of people read online reviews before choosing a new physician. Yet, just one bad review can stick in the mind of a prospective patient and cause them to consider another option.
While occasional bad reviews are inevitable, if you capture direct feedback from unhappy customers straight after their experience you can a) learn exactly what went wrong so you can prevent it from happening again, b) make it up to them in the moment to rebuild trust and keep them as a patient, and c) prevent a bad review from happening in the first place.
Likewise if you gather feedback from a delighted customer in the moment, you can catch them right when they’re feeling buzzed on that excellent experience, and trigger a request for a positive review.
Schweiger Dermatology, used this approach to gain an 800% increase in positive reviews on Google!
While there are many factors involved in creating the ultimate patient experience, the following cannot be missed:
- Get to know your patients inside and out.
- Map out every patient touch point, and optimize each with small, regular improvements.
- Invest in personalized coaching for your frontline teams.
- Make things right in the moment for unhappy patients, and give the happy ones a megaphone.
Want to hear more about Schweiger Dermatology’s success story? Read the real life case study of creating the ultimate patient experience here.