As more people continue to seek medical care, healthcare delivery evolves to meet the rapid changes. AI, SaaS, and the ever-changing EHR already impact patients and practices, and things are not slowing down.

Working to retain not only your patients, but your employees as well, is essential to your practice’s future. In today’s climate, the high demand for good healthcare workers makes an unhappy job easy to leave. What can you do to increase your practice’s stability? The answer seems basic, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Create happiness.

Be Nice

Your team should work toward every patient leaving your practice feeling positive. This care begins from the moment they register online or call for an appointment, continues through their time spent in the waiting room, the physician visit, and check out. Patients make mental notes, and most will gladly tell others about their great experience –and the bad. An added benefit to being nice is that studies show that physicians who make time for their patients and show them compassion are much less likely to be named in a malpractice lawsuit.

Recruit New Patients – and Then Keep Them

Building a larger patient base is what most practices want, but retaining your existing patient base is often more important. As in most professions and businesses, keeping an established happy customer base costs less and reduces risk. Always remember, your patients are the cornerstone of your medical practice, and all the marketing in the world won’t do what a bevy of great reviews from long time patients can do.

Happy Employees Make Happy Patients

Patient-focused cultures don’t have to compromise employee satisfaction. Involving and motivating your staff is crucial to delivering exceptional patient care. 

Healthcare settings can be incredibly stressful. Employees who are well-trained and empowered to perform their jobs to their full potential feel valued, create a positive environment, and usually stay at their job. An experienced staff who knows your patients by name and can deliver attentive, patient-focused service, improves patient satisfaction. Patients’ likelihood of returning to and recommending your practice are strongly correlated with this employee satisfaction and their perceptions of the quality of the care they received. Dissatisfied employees can negatively affect practice profitability and patient loyalty.

Bedside Manners Always Matter

Consider patient comfort. Most of us have waited in a cold examination room, feeling vulnerable in a paper gown. Cold, naked, and nervous is not the optimal way to meet your physician for the first time. Physicians know how to make a diagnosis and provide a treatment strategy for most patient’s medical problems, but how many can make the experience less stressful for the patient? Often, simple things can be easily and inexpensively implemented to make a significant difference. Warm blankets, privacy, water, sanitizer, tissues, even stress balls, and distractions for those who are anxious work wonders and let the patient know that you care.

Look your patients in the eye. Eye contact makes patients feel understood and valuable. Patients’ most common complaint about their doctor is that the doctor didn’t look at them. Make it a point to look your patient in the face and not the computer screen.

Feedback is Golden

Learning your patients’ needs and expectations is crucial today. Consider regular checkups for your patient feedback, and your practice workplace.

Asking your patients their opinions is the best way to discover your practice’s strengths and weaknesses. Digital patient surveys can be used to gather this information. Monitor social media, thank patients who provide great reviews, and try to resolve any negative feedback.

Find out what your patients enjoy and learn what they don’t. A survey after service is often insightful and truthful since patients might write a negative review without the confrontation of bringing it up with the doctor.

Additionally, surveys give patients the opportunity to write down questions they would like answered. By using surveys and answering your messages on your email portals, it shows you are listening to the patient and care about their questions and health.

Keep Up the Pace

Patients’ most common complaint with healthcare appointments is waiting for the doctor. Extra time spent in the waiting area accounts for more patient dissatisfaction than any other part of medical care. In one recent survey, 25% of patients said they wait half an hour or more. When the physician then spends 5 minutes with the patient, it leaves them feeling as if they wasted their time.

Ask patients if they feel they are waiting too long, and consider it a red flag when you are constantly asked, “How much longer will it be?”

The increasing popularity of telehealth visits has already significantly decreased the amount of time that patients spend in waiting rooms and makes effective use of physician time as well. Telehealth also eliminates travel time and removes attendance issues for many patients. 

Patient registration paperwork can contribute to longer wait times. Implement and encourage a secure online program to allow your patients to complete and submit their registration paperwork before their appointment to reduce time spent in the waiting room.

The more patient experience information you gather and analyze, the better you can identify when you are most likely to receive negative feedback. Often time delays result from “working a patient in” to the schedule, perhaps on a Monday morning. Identify those times as well as popular “no-show” times to keep the waiting room moving. Create allocated time slots for urgent appointments; don’t simply instruct the patient to come in. Ask them to arrive at a specific time.

Leave space available for patients who want to be seen immediately and keep a waitlist for days when people cancel. Many patients are happy to fill an earlier empty time slot. Being more sensitive to our patients’ schedules and seeing them as close to on time as possible, eliminates one of the most common complaints with the least effort. Stop making patients wait so long.

Make House Calls- Yes, Really

A few minutes on the phone can have an enormous impact on patient satisfaction. In general, patients are happily surprised when their physician calls them personally to relay test results and answer post-visit questions. The added benefit is fewer patient calls, better care, and a truly loyal patient base.

Happy Patients are Contagious

Word of mouth has always been the best method of attracting new patients and it still works today. However today, word of mouth is now often an online review and plays a large part in building your practice’s reputation. Taking the time to ensure your patients have an outstanding experience during their visit, and asking for a complimentary review when appropriate, is one of the best marketing strategies to promote your practice. Patient satisfaction is here to stay. Fortunately, you can take steps to improve the patient experience that also benefits your employees and practice management processes. Virtual OfficeWare has solutions that help make this happen. Contact us to learn about patient-rated HIPAA compliant software that is accommodating for both patients and physicians and the latest in digital healthcare technology services.