Every industry faces the challenge of providing exceptional patient service. In the ever-evolving healthcare industry, the quality of patient service is more pivotal than ever. In fact, with the advent of value-based care, patient experience tops the list of concerns of healthcare administrators who must balance quality of care and financial health.
To make matters even more complicated, there is no prescription to achieve a perfect patient experience. Patient service in the healthcare industry spans a wide range of roles and patient touch points—from the appointment scheduling experience to the doctor's bedside manner.
The good news is, there are several patient service factors within a healthcare organization's control—and impactful improvements to the patient experience are within reach. In this article, we'll dive into why patient service is so important in healthcare and offer 10 tips for success. From effective communication strategies to embracing technological advancements, these ideas will empower healthcare teams to create a patient-centric environment that fosters trust, engagement, and positive outcomes.
Why is Patient Service Important for Healthcare Facilities?
Patient service in healthcare permeates every aspect of patient care—and plays a huge role in shaping patient experiences, influencing patient outcomes, and ultimately making or breaking the bottom line. Beyond delivering medical expertise, a positive and empathetic patient service experience builds trust, enhances patient satisfaction, and fosters a sense of comfort during often stressful healthcare journeys.
Effective patient service not only ensures that patients receive the necessary medical attention but also addresses their emotional and informational needs, promoting a holistic approach to healthcare. By prioritizing patient service, healthcare facilities can strengthen patient-provider relationships, encourage patient engagement in their own care, and ultimately contribute to improved health results.
Benefits of Improving Patient Service at Your Medical Facility
In the era of value-based care, where the focus is shifting from volume to quality, patient-centered services are integral to achieving positive health outcomes (and an organization's financial health, for that matter). Beyond value-based care initiatives, your patients are now finding your practice through Google—and the online reviews and ratings that appear could be a deciding factor for them.
By prioritizing patient service improvements, you stand to gain new patients, keep the current ones, and generally help your organization thrive. You'll also improve your organization's overall culture—which has a significant trickle-down effect on employee recruiting and retention.
10 Tips to Improve Patient Service in Healthcare
But where to start? As mentioned, there are dozens of touchpoints where patients will experience some patient service aspect of your healthcare organization. It can seem overwhelming, but there are several key areas on which to focus.
Keep Wait Times to a Minimum
Research reveals a strong correlation between patient wait times and healthcare facility ratings—the higher the wait times, the lower the ratings. In fact, a whopping 30% of patients said they have left a doctor's office because of a long wait time and 20% of patients said long wait times made them consider changing providers. Finally, 84% of patients said wait times are at least somewhat (or very) important to their overall experience with a healthcare provider. Knowing this, it's evident that reducing wait times is an impactful place to start. Smart patient flow systems are a great start to help get your wait times under control (more on that later).
Maximize Patient Face Time
On the other side of the long-wait-time coin is more time with healthcare providers. Quality, un-rushed time with doctors and nurses makes patients feel like they are receiving compassionate, thoughtful, and effective care—one of the most vital components of patient service in a healthcare setting.
Mind Your Bedside Manner
In line with the last tip, how providers and administrators interact with patients greatly impacts patient satisfaction. This obviously starts with hiring caring, compassionate, and competent staff, but beyond that, you can foster a happier, stress-free environment by getting a better handle on patient flow. This will help teams feel less rushed or out of control and therefore improve the way they interact with and relate to patients.
When it comes to customer service in any industry, setting realistic expectations and fostering transparent communication can make all the difference. It's no different in a healthcare setting. It starts with helping patients understand what to expect when they come in for an appointment. This could include giving them thorough instructions on how to prepare for a visit, enabling and encouraging patients to fill out paperwork ahead of their visit to reduce wait times, and providing thorough information on the providers they will see and the procedures that will occur.
Pay Attention to Every Step of the Patient Experience
To improve your facility's patient service, it pays to break down their experience step by step. What are the friction points at every touchpoint—from appointment scheduling to post-visit follow-up? Go through the exercise of assessing this and identifying key areas of improvement. It helps to have hard numbers (average wait times, patient satisfaction survey scores, etc.) to get a true picture.
Work as a Team
When your team isn't working harmoniously as one unit, patients will see the cracks immediately. From interpersonal team member tensions to miscommunications between admin and practitioners that affect patient flow—patient service suffers. You can ease tensions by creating a more well-oiled process for getting patients in and out smoothly. Make sure these processes are documented and systemized—with thorough communication and training to get everyone on board.
Track the KPIs
As mentioned above, numbers matter when it comes to assessing and improving your patient service. In fact, you may not even be aware of certain cracks until you see the black-and-white story thanks to thorough analytics. This step requires that you put certain tools, software, and even consulting in place to get a collective view of patient wait times, doctor-patient time, patient feedback (qualitative and quantitative), and more.
Learn From Past Mistakes
Following your KPI tracking, it's time for in-depth analysis. You'll need to dissect the numbers and identify the underlying issues, then prioritize and make plans for continuous improvement. Here, it pays to have expert consultants who can provide outside perspectives and advice.
Get Real-Time Feedback
Taking a step back: Just as important as looking at performance over time is setting up the tools to enable immediate feedback and guidance to improve the patient experience in real-time. Today's patient flow systems can provide immediate visual cues and current patient data (like elapsed wait times) to help healthcare teams make adjustments on the fly.
Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help
Back to the topic of expert consultants—don't hesitate to engage them in your patient service improvement efforts. You'll want a team experienced in analyzing patient flow data to identify and troubleshoot issues, make plans for continuous improvement, and support you through the execution of these strategies.
How Expeditor Can Help Your Medical Facility Improve Patient Experience
Now more than ever, medical practices must focus on improving patient service to protect their financial security. To help achieve this goal, optimized patient flow solutions are critical.
The Expeditor LEAN Patient Flow System and software were created with this in mind. This fully customized, turnkey solution helps decrease patient wait times and increase the time your practitioners can spend with them—all to boost satisfaction and bottom-line results through gained efficiency.