Whether you are a physician, nutritionist, therapist, chiropractor, herbalist, or any other type of practitioner with your own practice, you probably have the same goal: to provide quality care to your patients and to conduct a successful business at the same time.
Today, there is no shortage of options for patients when choosing their healthcare providers. And as a result, providers must compete for business. In order to keep your current patients happy and to continue bringing in a new client base, focusing on patient experience and satisfaction is key.
In this article, we’ll cover why patient experience and satisfaction are so important, along with 9 concrete ways to make sure your patients have positive interactions with your practice.
Patient experience and patient satisfaction defined
In healthcare, both patient experience and patient satisfaction play an important role:
- Patient experience is defined as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”1 The patient experience involves the wide range of interactions a patient may have within a healthcare system from start to finish.2 This may include the phone call to set up an appointment, the time they spend in the waiting room, the process of paying their bill, and the experience of contacting their provider for follow-up questions between appointments.
- Patient satisfaction relates to whether or not the care provided has met the patient’s personal expectations.
Providers usually have a fair amount of control over the patient experience, and they are able to modify factors like the scheduling process or waiting room ambiance. Patient satisfaction, on the other hand, is more subjective, relying heavily on the personal expectations of each unique person. Fortunately, a patient’s experience of the care they receive can have a direct impact on their satisfaction.3
Why focus on positive patient experience?
Improving both satisfaction and experience in your practice is vital to running an effective healthcare business that meets the needs of the patients and allows for quality, patient-centered care.
Beyond the fundamental idea that individuals have a right to be treated well when they are using a healthcare service, there are many specific reasons to provide a positive patient experience.3
Increasing patient experience and patient satisfaction benefits both you and your patients. Here are some examples of the benefits:
- High patient experience and satisfaction are associated with better health outcomes.2 3 4 5
- Patients who have better experiences are more likely to adhere to the medications and treatment plans you prescribe.4
- Patients are more likely to be satisfied and want to come back, increasing repeat visits and decreasing patient turnover.4 5
- The reputation of your practice increases along with word of mouth referrals, allowing you to attract more new patients.
- The higher your patient satisfaction scores, the lower your risk for malpractice suits.4
- You can charge more for better care and end up with better financial results.6
- You can feel more fulfilled by your work and the value you are offering your community.
How to improve patient experience & satisfaction in your practice
Turning your attention towards patient experience and satisfaction will help everyone in the long run. You’ll get more business, your reputation will be for quality service, and your patients themselves will benefit from improved outcomes.
Below are some of the best tips for improving experience and satisfaction based on what patients are actually looking for.
1. Create a mission statement with clear goals
First and foremost, create a mission statement for your practice that serves as a guide for what you hope to achieve. Define what your ideal patient experience looks like, and get clear on your guiding principles, values, and goals. To create this, gather insights from your team members, patients, caregivers, and all relevant parties.
This can serve as your guiding light and keep you on track as you implement changes and experiment along the way.
2. Experience your care from the perspective of your patients
You are probably very used to navigating in and around the office, using your scheduling tools, accessing billing information, etc. All of the interactions you have within your organization are second nature to you, and you most likely never find the need to second guess them. But the experience might look very different from your patients’ perspectives.
So try interacting with your care system the way a patient would. Park in the patient parking lot, enter the building the way they would, use signs to navigate to the office, approach the front desk as if you’ve never been there before… and so on.
Walk through the entire patient experience from start to finish, even going through the process of scheduling an appointment over the phone or paying a bill online. You can even create a practice blueprint that visually displays the process patients go through.7 This might just provide you with very valuable insights and point out critical holes or roadblocks that you might not have noticed before.
3. Focus on being human – kindness, compassion, and empathy go a long way
Treat every patient (and visitor) that walks through your door with kindness and respect. When you are busy and have a constant stream of visitors, it can be hard to remember to keep the human aspect at the forefront. But smiling, being courteous, being helpful, expressing compassion and empathy… those all increase patient experience and satisfaction in a major way.
In fact, it has been suggested that kindness should be at the center of patient experience strategies because it is so influential.8 When a patient leaves feeling heard, supported, understood, and cared about, they are much more likely to leave a happy customer.
4. Communicate and be responsive
Communication is one of the cornerstones of a successful practice, and this is a factor that has a strong influence over patient experience and satisfaction.
Patients want to know that their questions will get answered, that they can expect responses promptly, and that it will be easy for them to communicate with both the office staff and their provider when they need to. They want to know that you’ll be available to them and responsive.
For example, 58% of Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X say responsiveness to follow-up questions outside of an appointment via email or phone are critical to their satisfaction.9 Email is a great tool to use, with 69% of patients saying they would choose a provider based on whether they can communicate with them through a secure email.9
5. Go digital
In this day and age, technology is more important than ever. Digital systems can streamline the process for you and make the whole thing simple and easy for your patients, too. And that can have a direct effect on patient experience outcomes.
Patients are expecting more and more to have access to easy digital processes such as telemedicine and scheduling appointments online. For example, 68% of patients say they are more likely to choose medical providers who allow them to book, change, or cancel appointments online. And 70% of people are more likely to choose a provider that offers reminders for follow-up care via email or text.9
6. Set clear expectations for care and costs
Transparency with care and costs is one of the most important things that patients look for in a provider. They want to know what they’ll owe, what kinds of tests will be conducted and why, how long appointments will be, etc.9
Put simply, patients want to know what to expect from their experience with you.
7. Keep wait times down
It’s pretty safe to say that everybody knows what it is like to wait in a doctor’s office watching the time tick by, waiting for their name to finally be called. It may seem simple, but the time a patient waits in your office has huge repercussions on the way they perceive their experience with you.
In fact, 84% of people report that wait time is either somewhat important or very important to their overall experience in a healthcare office. Thirty percent of patients have walked out of an appointment because the wait time was too long, and 1 in 5 patients say they have changed a doctor because the wait times were long.10
If you want to keep your patients happy and keep them coming back, minimizing wait time is key.
8. Provide personalized care
The last thing people want from their practitioner is a cookie-cutter experience and generic advice. One recent survey found that 88% of patients with chronic conditions felt that the information and advice they receive from their healthcare provider is too generic.11
Things like knowing your patient’s name and history, asking them how they are and carefully listening to their reply, and reaching out to them after their visit provide a more personalized touch. Additionally, tools like ZYTO galvanic skin response scanning enhance personalization by helping you determine the patient’s unique biological coherence for the wellness products and services you offer.
9. Ask for feedback
It may seem incredibly basic, but this one is easy to forget. Getting direct feedback from your patients is one of the best ways to make a difference and implement strategies that address the unique concerns of your clients.
Ask for feedback from your patients formally via surveys (online, old fashioned suggestion box, etc.), or via casual conversation between your staff and your visitors. Get to know what isn’t currently working for them, what they’d like to see different, what the most challenging part of their care experience is, and more so that you know what needs to be changed.
The bottom line…
Most healthcare practitioners care greatly for their patients. They want to give them the best care possible, and they want them to leave feeling completely satisfied with the experience in the office. But how often do you really look at how your office is running, and how often do you investigate the experience your patients are getting or how happy they are with the results?
As Shivan Mehta, MD, reminds us, “If we care about the experience of our patients, why wouldn’t we measure it and strive to improve our performance?”5
Try some of the tips above, and see what a difference they can make in your practice. Changing systems, processes, and the way you serve your patients may take significant energy and effort, but it will be well worth your while and will leave both you and your patients more fulfilled in the time you spend together.
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
1. “Defining Patient Experience.” The Beryl Institute. Theberylinstitute.org.
2. “What is Patient Experience?” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Ahrq.gov.
3. Larson, E., J. Sharma, M.A. Bohren, & O. Tuncalp. “When the patient is the expert: measuring patient experience and satisfaction with care.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 97 (2019): 563-569.
4. “Why Improve Patient Experience?” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Ahrq.gov.
5. Mehta, S.J. “Patient Satisfaction Reporting and Its Implications for Patient Care.” AMA Journal of Ethics 17, no. 7 (2015): 616-621.
6. Torres, A. “The Business of Healthcare: How Patient Satisfaction Plays a Role.” ACOEP-RSO. Acoep-rso.org.
7. Pol, L.G., A.R. Rodie, & B.F. Crabtree. “Improve Quality by Understanding Your Care Process.” Family Practice Management 6, no. 6 (2017): 45-47.
8. Padilla, Tony. “Kindness: At the Center of Patient Experience Strategies.” Journal of Healthcare Management 62, no 4 (2017).
9. “Accenture 2019 Digital Consumer Survey.” Accenture Consulting. Accenture.com.
10. “9th Annual Vitals Wait Time Report Released.” Business Wire, Inc. Businesswire.com.
11. “West Survey Reveals Need for Increased Patient Engagement to Improve Management of Chronic Disease.” Intrado Corporation. Televox.com.