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Tracking Patient Satisfaction Key to a Consumer-Driven Strategy

Healthcare organizations need to gather real-time patient feedback at every touchpoint from appointment scheduling to bill pay in order to execute a consumer-oriented, data-driven patient satisfaction strategy.

Improving patient experiences from registration to bill pay, will positively impact the overall satisfaction level of the entire encounter, leading to revenue cycle optimization. To successfully impact satisfaction though, healthcare organizations need to have a way to track and measure their patient experience initiatives to evaluate their overall strategy.

“What gets measures gets improved,” says Joe McMurray, Senior Vice President of Patient Experience at Zotec Partners.

While research has proven the adage to be true—from data analytics leading to improvements across clinical, financial, and operational processes to quality measures boosting value-based care—healthcare organizations do not always have the resources readily available to measure the very factor that could lead to better patient retention and referrals, higher patient collections, and smoother operations.

Limited capacity to track patient satisfaction and lack of technology to measure it are major barriers to improving the overall patient experience, explains McMurray. At this time, healthcare organizations themselves may also lack the innovation on the patient experience side of care and operations as most organizations are just starting on the path to truly consumer-centric patient care.

Healthcare organizations should be starting the journey to patient satisfaction measurement now, and with the help of the right technology, they can convert patient feedback into useful information to help form and execute strategies that align with consumer needs and the organization’s financial and operational success.

What healthcare organizations need to track

Healthcare organizations should listen to “the voice of the consumer,” according to Jason Mazeika, Director of Patient Experience at Zotec Partners.

“Actively listen to patients—they’ll vocalize the challenges or pain points that exist. Then, take the steps and make the changes to enhance the experience,” says Mazeika. “Ask yourself how to make the financial experience as easy as possible. Once patients overwhelmingly say the billing process is really easy, continue to improve and make it even simpler.”

To answer these questions, healthcare organizations need to gather patient feedback at every touchpoint during a patient’s encounter, whether it be a phone call, chat interaction, or email. Organizations should be opening communication channels to regularly ask patients about their experience so far.

That channel of communication should also be as close to real-time as possible to enact immediate change. With that feedback, organizations can create a data-driven strategy for improving patient satisfaction to meet evolving consumer needs.

A flexible, data-driven patient satisfaction strategy can help organizations make lasting changes, such as implementing payment options their consumers want (e.g., digital bill pay and payment plans) and creating omnichannel avenues for provider-patient communication. These changes will align precisely with what a specific provider’s population wants from their patient experience while also boosting the bottom line. But it can also inform more immediate improvements.

“The feedback practices get enables them to focus on what matters most—patients,” McMurray elaborates. “In the event of a negative interaction, real-time feedback empowers providers to perform service recovery and not let a poor experience potentially make its way to social media. The feedback also provides the necessary data to help drive the process or system improvement.”

“Additionally, when providers get great feedback, they can share it with their entire organization and continue to promote a culture of delivering an excellent patient experience,” McMurray adds.

Acting on negative patient feedback as soon as possible can prevent dings to a provider’s reputation. A recent study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that patients rely on online reviews when selecting a provider and more patients are posting online reviews than before.

Technology key to gathering patient feedback

Gathering real-time patient feedback is not always feasible even with a trained workforce, according to research published in Health Policy and Technology. Researchers from the United Kingdom found that “a near real-time feedback approach, when used in a hospital setting with trained volunteers, benefits from various support structures or systems to minimize the complications or burden placed on both staff and volunteers.”

Technology played a central role in hospital approaches to near real-time patient feedback. Hospitals used a variety of methods to collect feedback during or shortly after a hospital stay. Those methods included bedside tablets, stationary kiosks with tablet computers, and text messages to patients shortly after discharge.

While technology supported the patient feedback strategy, researchers uncovered significant challenges with using the solutions. The challenges included technology failures, such as loss of wireless connectivity and maintenance issues, lack of technical support, and even limited patient engagement with the technology solutions.

Maintaining technology solutions for patient feedback can be a barrier for resource-strapped healthcare organizations. Providers not only need to invest in technology and technical support to keep the solutions running, but also provide educational resources for both staff and patients to use the technology properly for real-time patient feedback.

Healthcare organizations can also tap the very resource they’ve already invested into further consumer-centric healthcare for patient satisfaction: their existing technology vendors.

Within patient financial experience technology, vendors can measure patient satisfaction and they should be at all contact points. By gathering real-time patient feedback, the technology vendor can improve an organization’s portfolio of patient satisfaction and experience initiatives, such as patient financial responsibility communications, digital bill pay options, and other consumer-oriented offerings.

Meanwhile, the provider can focus on clinical care, trusting their technology vendors to enhance the patient experience on the administrative side of healthcare.

Leveraging the capabilities of technology can, therefore, accelerate a healthcare organization’s consumer strategy, enabling real-time patient feedback, data-driven insights, and a flexible approach to evolving consumer needs.

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