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Does improving patient experiences in your clinic lead to tangible benefits for your business? Well, if you’ve spent any time poking around on our insights page, you know how I would answer that question. Happy patients can become the lifeblood of a thriving practice. Happy patients complete their plans of care, cancel fewer appointments, and are more likely to return to the practice or clinic when another issue arises (clinic retention). This ultimately increases revenue. The more patients complete their plan of care, the more appointments you’re able to bill for.

 

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the folks over at Funding Circle to talk about how improving patient experience can lead to revenue growth. You can read the whole article here.

 

We discussed how patient experience can impact every area of a successful practice, from clinical outcomes to profitability. I’ve written about here, that patient drop-off can cost clinics tens of thousands of dollars a year. Negative or underwhelming patient experiences drive patients to undervalue or under-prioritize treatment participation. So anything you can do to improve patient experience increases the odds that patients will become actively engaged in treatment.

 

Excerpt

 

Improving patient experience comes down to defining — and practicing — your core values. “The process of care, which greatly impacts patient experience,” said Salazar, “is really shaped and defined by the higher purpose and overall culture of an organization.”

 

Consider your practice’s mission and philosophy, then take some time to write down your key values. Think: empathy, engagement, transparency, or empowerment. Defining your core values is the first step to building systems and processes that reflect a patient-centered culture.

 

Figuring out how to improve patient satisfaction is critical to your practice’s reputation, revenue, and longevity. Fortunately, it’s an area you can control. Keep reading for seven strategies on how to improve your patient experience.

 

Read the full article here!

 

Here’s the list of 7 Strategies to Increase Revenue Through Patient Experience:

 

  1. Offer regular staff check-ins and training
  2. Ask patients for feedback
  3. Create customer portals
  4. Follow up
  5. Improve wait times
  6. Offer transparent pricing and facilitating billing
  7. Create a patient-first culture

 

Read the full article here!

 

Questions About Revenue & Experience

 

Here are a few of the questions I was asked about how patient experience impacts revenue. Hopefully you find them valuable.

 

1) What do you think is one of the most effective ways to ensure new patients have a positive experience at their first appointment? 

The first appointment is the most critical. Clinics and clinicians need to understand what it represents: the patient has made the leap of faith necessary to see you or your clinic. These days, patients have options and tend to shop around for their care. Unless you are the only clinician in a narrow specialty in your area, odds are that your patient had at least a few different options and decided to go with you and your clinic. You have to validate their decision by making sure that patient has an outstanding first experience. There are a few simple strategies that can make this possible:
 
  • Have any paperwork required sent to the patient to have them fill out before they show up, if possible. How frustrating is it to show up at 10:25 for a 10:30 appointment only to be handed a stack of papers 5-10 deep that need to be filled out before you get seen? This does 2 things:
    • It allows the patient to get seen quicker
    • It allows the clinician to review any pertinent information before they sit down with the patient
  • Clearly communicate expectations with the clients. This includes expectations about finances/costs, treatment requirements, their level of engagement etc.
  • Instruct clinicians to spend at least 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each patient’s first appointment to simply listen. Patients want to feel heard, understood, and be able to tell their story to their clinician. Too often, they’ve been seen by countless medical professionals who bring them in to their appointment, read over their chart (if they had all the pertinent info before the appointment), and then prescribe some treatment options. It greatly improves a patient’s experience and engagement in treatment when they are allowed to share their concerns, goals, feelings and are allowed to have those guide treatment.

 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a good start.

 

2) Do you think the hours of operation or range of services offered at a clinic affect a patient’s experience? 

At some level, yes. Hours of operation do have some impact of a patient’s experience. If a patient has to take off work to frequently, or has to schedule appointments an inconvenient times, it may have a negative affect. However, I think that hours of operation are pretty low on the priority list for most patients. For example, I had a knee issue a while back when I was starting to run longer distances. I’m in the healthcare field, so I know which local providers have the best reputations for ability and skill. I called the office of my first choice provider. They told me that the only appointment I could get was going to be during the work day, because they closed around 5p. I took the appointment and didn’t think twice. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to see that specific provider and it didn’t matter. I think it’s the same with other professions and providers as well. If patients have heard about the kind of experience you provide, or the skill/expertise you posses, they’re willing to take appointments at inconvenient times to see you.

 

3) Do you think an easier billing system can help improve the patient experience? If so, do you have any tips for how to make the process better?

Billing systems may play a role in patient experience, however I think the bigger piece is the idea of pricing transparency. Most patients really have no idea what to expect as far as their personal costs for receiving treatment. Their insurance company has told them about deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses, but most patients rarely read that information over. And even if they do, they don’t necessarily understand how it will work for a given treatment or provider. One of the best ways to handle this is to take care of this for the patient before they even show up.

 

Try this when a patient calls to schedule their first appointment:

  1. Go ahead and take their insurance info like you normally do.
  2. Personally call/validate their insurance and determine the actual costs for the patient for treatment/evaluation.
  3. Give the patient a call back, ideally 24-48 hours before they come in for their appointment. Tell the patient that you have gone ahead and contacted their insurance company and, in an effort to be transparent and upfront about costs, are able to provide them the actual and total costs they can expect to pay for their appointment. Tell them how much to expect for co-pay/coinsurance and -more importantly- how much you expect the after-insurance balance that the patient will be expected to pay. 

 

Almost nothing is as disheartening to a patient as receiving care, paying their co-pay or out-of-pocket costs at a clinic, thinking they’re good to go, and then receiving a fat bill 2-3 months after the appointment.

 

4) Do you have any tips for training your staff to be more accommodating to patients?  

Ultimately, staff (both support and clinical) need to understand that healthcare is a human experience. These patients coming in the door aren’t just more patients to be seen, serviced, etc. They’re unique individual human beings, each coming from different places in life, and each with different expectations, goals, and concerns. Staff should be trained and encouraged to actively listen to patients’ needs, concerns, and frustrations and then make decisions that show those patients that they’ve been heard and understood. I’ve written here about some interesting findings about this aspect of patient care and how it affects patient experience.

 

5) Any other tips for improving patient care?

I think an often overlooked piece of the patient care equation is the general culture and purpose of the organization or clinic providing care. As I’ve written about here, the process of care -which greatly impacts patient experience- is really shaped and defined by the higher purpose and overall culture of an organization. If the executive leadership focus on the mission of the organization, why they do what they do, instead of prioritizing financial and revenue goals, that gets communicated to the patient through the actions taken by staff and clinicians. If clinicians feel that they’ve got to get X number of billable treatment units at every appointment, that comes across in the way they treat and communicate with their patients. If, on the other hand, the clinician understands that the organization is truly focused on helping people recover from back pain as an example, they’re more likely to take a little bit of extra time to understand a patient’s wants, needs, and expectations. All it takes is a little change in this area to have large impacts on a patient’s experience of a clinic or clinician.

 

Read the full article here!

 

Do you consider patient experience when looking at your clinic’s financials?  Share any additional resources that you found helpful in the comments below!

For more informational reads, check out our Insights Page to see all the articles we’ve published to date. Click here to head over to our resources section and check out our variety of clinical and professional resources aimed at increasing your knowledge and skills. If you’d like to make some changes in your clinic or health center, and would like some help, check out our consulting and advisement services or contact us to see how we can help you break out of the norm and provide a truly impactful patient experience.

Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L is the president and CEO of Rehab U Practice Solutions. He has experience in a variety of rehab settings, working with patients recovering from a variety of injuries and surgeries. He worked as the lead clinician in an outpatient specialty clinic at his local VA Medical center. He also has experience as an adjunct faculty instructor at Augusta University’s Occupational Therapy Program, as a Licensed Board Member on the GA State OT Board, has served on several committees for the national OT Board (NBCOT), and as a consultant working for the State of Georgia’s DBHDD. He is also on the Board of Directors for NBCOT. He works to help healthcare clinics and organizations deliver uniquely impactful patient experiences by improving service delivery through training & advisement.

Read his full bio Here. Read about Rehab U Here.

Schedule a call with him Here.

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