Healthcare competition is fierce.
All health systems are trying to attract and retain patients, not only by providing high-quality care and offering the services their communities need most, but also by building sparkling new facilities, refreshing their visual brand and maintaining a strong presence on social media.
But even with those efforts, standing out is challenging, especially because mergers, acquisitions and consolidations can make it hard for patients to understand which care setting is part of which health system and why they should choose your organization over others.
The solution? Focus with laser-like precision on enhancing the patient experience. Research consistently shows that patients’ impressions of their healthcare provider—especially negative impressions—are heavily influenced by frustrations such as long hold times on the phone to make an appointment, long wait times at an appointment, harried staff and poor communication.
One study that examined nearly 35,000 online reviews of physicians found that 96% of patient complaints were related to customer service issues, not quality of care. And a 2019 study analyzing 12 years of hospital reviews on the Yelp platform found that the most common words used in negative reviews were related to poor communication.
Enhancing the patient experience should be at the top of every healthcare leader’s priority list. Read on to learn why.
Why patient experience should be your differentiator
When healthcare organizations focus on modernizing the patient experience, patients’ favorable memories affect their future decisions. Patients will remember the ease of making an appointment, the seamlessness of their visit and the simplicity of the payment process. They will remember friendly, helpful staff and thoughtful clinicians. They will remember how they felt walking into the building and how they felt when they left. Positive healthcare experiences stick with patients and keep them coming back to you for their care.
Technology can play a key role in making the patient experience your differentiator, particularly in a tight labor market. Digital tools like mobile registration and online self-scheduling can alleviate some of the patient-experience burden for overworked staff. In fact, more than 50% of hospitals plan to invest in digital health solutions to meet the goals of the Quadruple Aim, according to a recent Frost & Sullivan analysis. Especially in this era of growing consumerism in healthcare, technology is an essential part of improving the patient experience.
Adapt to patients’ changing expectations by learning from retail
The retail industry already knows that consumer-centric, tech-driven strategies work, and that’s why retailers have increasingly focused on creating a mobile, personalized shopping experience. According to Adobe’s 2021 Digital Trends report, 79% of retailers say they “Agree” or “Strongly agree” that they will be able to adapt quickly as consumer preferences change—and they are changing. For example, more than 80% of Americans used some form of digital payment in 2021, according to McKinsey & Company.
If healthcare organizations want to become the go-to choice for care in their communities, they need to take a page learning from retail is essential. While patient interactions with healthcare staff are often the focus of patient-experience improvement initiatives, patients also expect modern ways to schedule appointments, check in for visits, communicate with their providers’ offices and pay their bills. Keep up with these evolving consumer preferences without overtaxing your staff by investing in tools that automate administrative tasks and give patients the digital-first experience they have come to expect. Simply allowing patients to schedule routine care right from your website, for example, improves patient access, minimizes the burden on your call center, brings your organization in line with modern consumer expectations—and helps you stand out from the competition.
Tailored communications can also improve the patient experience. As patients become more proactive in caring for their health, personalized outreach can encourage patients to come in for the care they need—and may need to catch up on—as soon as possible. And when you use automated tools to create this messaging, you can give patients a “white-glove” customer service experience without adding to your staff’s workload.
Boost your online reputation and marketing opportunities
Once you’ve implemented these changes and started to receive positive feedback, encourage patients to share that feedback online. Their endorsements can give your organization a major boost when patients are shopping around for care. When you give patients the experience they expect, they’re more likely to become brand advocates on review sites such as Healthgrades, WebMD and Vitals, as well as non-healthcare sites like Facebook.
There’s also tremendous value in surveying your patients about their care experience. Net Promoter Scores measure patient loyalty and satisfaction by determining how likely patients are to recommend your organization to others. However, the key to getting a candid, accurate read on patients’ care experience is to ask them about it immediately after their visit. This gives you a quick turnaround on feedback, so that any necessary changes can be made as soon as possible.
Investing in the patient experience also gives you an edge in marketing. Imagine a billboard on a busy street touting how happy your patients are with their care or announcing that patients can save time in your waiting room by pre-registering for their appointment at home. In addition, a social media campaign that features patients singing the praises of your flexible payment options or your easy communication tools can harness the power of social proof to draw more patients to your organization. In today’s highly competitive, consumer-focused environment, successfully marketing your organization as forward-thinking, innovative and patient-centered ensures that you will capture the attention of your target audience.
As consumers develop new expectations about how they want to interact with healthcare organizations, rising to meet or exceed those expectations can make all the difference in today’s competitive environment. Those healthcare organizations that focus on the patient experience and the technology needed to support it will stand out from their peers and become the “go-to” choice for healthcare consumers.
Learn how Phreesia’s digital tools can help you increase retention, build your brand and deliver the modern, convenient healthcare experience patients expect.