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Three-Quarters of Patients Note Patient Experience Pros and Cons

Patients keep a mental checklist of patient experience satisfiers like convenient appointment scheduling, friendly staff, and use of patient engagement technology.

Doctor’s offices have about four chances to meet patient experience expectations before a healthcare consumer picks a new provider to visit, with around three-quarters of patients mentally keeping track of key factors, according to new patient satisfaction survey data collected by OnePoll on behalf of ModMed.

Factors that sway whether a visit meets those patient experience expectations include timeliness, friendliness of staff, and use of patient engagement technologies, the survey of around 2,000 patients found.

Creating a good patient experience is paramount for healthcare providers. In addition to some patient satisfaction measures, like the CAHPS surveys, influencing some reimbursement models, patient satisfaction also plays a big role in healthcare consumerism.

Patients are in charge of their healthcare now more than ever, and if they are dissatisfied with a healthcare encounter they can and will choose to go somewhere else. Healthcare organizations working to keep high patient volumes to maintain a healthy revenue cycle should remain mindful of the factors that make for a good patient experience.

That good patient experience hinges in part on a good patient-provider relationship and friendly staff, the survey showed. One in three respondents said they’ve switched providers because they’ve had an unpleasant encounter with office staff, while around two-thirds (67 percent) said the friendliness of staff is an important factor when picking a provider.

But strong patient-provider communication and a personable front office staff won’t be enough to keep high patient volumes. The survey showed that seamless practice management and patient access tools make it easier for patients to get a foot in the door.

This tracks with overall trends in healthcare consumerism. Patients, increasingly in charge of paying for their own healthcare with the prominence of high-deductible health plans and the high out-of-pocket costs that come with them, are now comparing the medical industry to other service sectors.

The streamlined convenience of an Amazon transaction has set the bar high for healthcare providers. Patients expect the same tech-enabled interactions with their doctor’s offices, and they are frustrated when they don’t get it, the survey indicated.

Six in 10 respondents said they are more likely to pick a provider office if they can make the appointment online, with 48 percent adding that they prefer digital patient outreach over telephone outreach. Particularly, 22 percent want to hear from their provider offices via email, 14 percent using text message patient outreach, and 12 percent over the patient portal.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of respondents said they determine whether they’ll continue with a provider based on the patient financial experience. Those patients indicated it’s important for payments to be simple and easy to make.

Healthcare consumers also said they are more likely to make a payment on time if they receive a text message reminder about the bill and if they have an online payment option. Providing such tools offers benefits to the provider organization, too. Patient collections are key to a healthy revenue cycle, so providers have a stake in making this easy for patients and investing in tools that enable early payments.

But technology isn’t just desirable in the front office, patient respondents added. Forty-six percent of respondents said they prefer their providers use a tablet to review their medical history in the exam room, with 54 percent of respondents agreeing use of digital health records makes the provider seem more attentive.

This comes even as some providers worry that clinician EHR use detracts from the patient experience.

Considering key factors defining a good patient experience—convenient care access, personable staff, and patient engagement technology—will be important for organizations working to keep high patient volumes, especially after two years of a pandemic that dinged clinic finances.

Patients can and will be fickle, the survey added, with 73 percent of patients saying they keep a mental checklist of the things they like and dislike about their doctor’s office. On average, doctor’s offices have around four chances to provide a good patient experience before a patient decides to find a new one.

Healthcare organizations should be judicious about the different tools they deploy to meet patient needs. Having a solid online presence that allows convenient care access and streamlines the patient access and communication process will be critical and is likely to yield a return on investment via higher patient volumes and earlier patient payments.

That doesn’t mean organizations can rely solely on their technology offerings. Good customer service, effective patient-provider communication, and friendly staff are decades-old best practices for a good patient experience that still ring true today.

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