Bad habits are hard to break. This is especially true when it comes to running your healthcare practice. For many private practice owners and practice managers, enacting effective change can be challenging. Resources are stretched thin. Change management requires team buy-in, time, and the ability to know what to prioritize.
Looking to 2021, though, transforming even just a few components of your practice operation can really pay off in improving productivity and efficiency, and connecting with more patients. Implementing change doesn’t have to strain your staff. For savvy healthcare practices, change often means adopting new, easy-to-use technologies or software platforms to help streamline and automate your office workflow.
Today’s healthcare practices are “going virtual” in a variety of ways, beyond just telehealth. Across the practice workflow, forward-thinking practices are swapping out old habits for newer solutions.
The process by which patients choose, connect, and stay in contact with practices is quickly becoming more digital, less manual, and much easier for all. The digital transformation leap that many practices have been hesitant to take is now the future for independent practices to truly thrive.
Whether it’s the introduction of online scheduling, digital patient registration, automated appointment reminders, or telehealth services, patients are demanding the convenience of a world they already experience from Amazon to Zappos.The good news? Technology serves more than just patients. The right practice growth platform is designed to help busy practices improve operational workflow, get patients coming in and coming back, prevent lost revenue, and improve staff and physician satisfaction.
How do you know where to focus first? Begin by identifying the conventional practice habits that are best left in 2020.
PatientPop recently hosted a learning session webinar outlining five frequent mistakes that could cost practices time, money, and patients. Survey research conducted this year reveals that 7 out of 10 patients would switch doctors for a better or more convenient experience.
Watch the learning session webinar now: 5 practice habits to leave behind in 2020
Five common missteps that could be hurting your practice growth
If your office has been guilty of these five habits, you are likely hindering your ability to grow and scale.
Bad habit #1: Ignoring the complete patient experience
Some people believe the patient experience begins when the patient calls for an appointment and ends when they pay their bill. Savvy practice owners know the patient journey is far more than a single episodic care encounter and we agree.
The real experience begins when the patient searches for a provider or care, and continues into the long term, with a relationship that could last 10+ years. Understanding that each patient’s lifetime value (LTV) can be worth thousands of dollars (if not tens of thousands, depending on your specialty and the services you offer), nurturing the patient-provider relationship can have a real impact on your ability to retain patients and thrive.
Establish a proactive communication strategy to develop a year-round connection with patients. Use patient satisfaction surveys and targeted email campaigns to share education and maintain a healthy loop of feedback. Develop a consistent schedule that includes topical content and relevant calls to action, all designed to get appointments booked and keep your practice top of mind.
Bad habit #2: Hanging on to manual office processes
Doing things “the way they’ve always been done” is the kiss of death when it comes to efficient practice management. It’s time to trash those clipboards, pens, old-school fax machines, and Post-it notes. Trade up for digital tools that can streamline your workflow, save your staff time, and reduce errors and frustration.
Using a healthcare practice platform to automate manual functions can save you time and cut administrative tasks, while improving patient and staff satisfaction. Even more, automation makes these processes scalable, so they help as your practice grows, regardless of the size of your patient base.
In this digital environment, staff won’t waste time on repetitive tasks or frustrating patients with scheduling phone tag. Patients won’t get payment reminders via snail mail, or receive voicemail appointment reminders they’ll probably never listen to.
Virtual practice management offers the combination of convenience, productivity, and patient safety. Today’s tech-savvy practices employ seamless payment collection, and text or email message reminders for appointments and overdue bills. Digital fax services help prevent lost paperwork and help you stay organized.
Bad habit #3: Leaving no-show money on the table
If you’re like most practices, missed appointments and no-shows are costing you up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in lost revenue. In today’s competitive landscape, independent practices can’t afford to leave money on the table. More important for the long term, it’s harder to maintain a positive patient-provider relationship with those patients you’re not actually seeing.
In fact, research from athenahealth tells us that patients who miss an appointment are 70 percent more likely to leave your practice, with 1 in 3 no-show patients not returning over the next 18 months.
The best way to reduce the incidence of no-shows is to maintain pre-appointment communication. Using automated appointment reminders, and inviting patients to pre-register and fill out paperwork ahead of time, can reduce no-shows. Throughout the pandemic, it’s also been important to reassure your patients that your office is safe by reiterating your safety protocols prior to their appointment. If you don’t inspire that confidence in more hesitant patients, you may risk them opting not to show at the last minute. Finally, consider collecting payment up front from any repeat offenders (if you don’t already) to minimize your financial risk.
Bad habit #4: Overlooking patient preference
People work best in different ways. In today’s multichannel, multi-generational world, it can be hard to know how to best connect with your patients. That’s why it’s so important to understand and fulfill patient preferences when it comes to communication.
With regular survey research, PatientPop keeps a finger on the pulse of what patients want. We know that 2 out of 3 patients prefer the use of text messaging for appointment reminders, but they prefer using the phone when they have questions for your practice. Having a set process for incoming phone inquiries that respect patients’ request to talk to a real person can go a long way in building trust and a long-term relationship.
Offering telehealth options is also a strategic move that will accommodate your patients’ preferences. While our survey data tells us 54 percent of patients have had a telehealth visit so far in 2020, an even larger number, 65.7 percent, say they’d prefer a telehealth visit in the future.
Bad habit #5: Not focusing on feedback
Patient feedback can be a goldmine of useful information for your business, contributing to patient retention, patient acquisition, and staff satisfaction. In the exam room, healthcare providers do a great job listening to their patients; too often, outside the exam room, patient feedback is overlooked or ignored.
Paying attention and making that feedback work for you begins by asking your patients about their experience with their practice and providers. Then, listen to what they say, and always respond to any issues or criticism.
Monitoring online reviews is critical to identifying those concerns and staying in tune with patient feedback. Because negative reviews can impact others’ decisions to choose your practice, respond to each one, but do so carefully. Here are some simple, expert tips on how to respond to negative feedback from patients.
While the majority of patients who’ve posted online reviews have only expressed positive opinions, negative reviews do happen. As you respond and remedy any issues you can, remember that regular feedback from your patients is a gift. It’s like having well-informed consultants telling you how to improve your business — for free. The information and ideas your patients provide can help you improve your operations, and maintain and grow your practice in the years to come.
Watch this learning session on demand: 5 practice habits to leave behind in 2020
The risks and potential rewards of negative patient reviews