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From first impression to post-visit: The doctor’s guide to improving each touchpoint for better patient experience

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From small independent practices to large hospital systems to ever-increasing urgent care centers (and even online clinics and mobile apps!), patients have more options than ever for their healthcare.

For independent doctors, it’s important to emphasize a positive patient experience to ensure current patients keep coming back. Not only does it make business sense to focus on patient retention — as the cost of retaining a patient is less than that of acquiring a new one — but developing a long relationship with your patients over time can also enhance how fulfilled you feel at work.1 Plus, your satisfied patients can help elevate your marketing efforts by becoming champions for your practice.

To build patient satisfaction and retention, you need to pay careful attention to the entire patient experience, which extends beyond the office visit. In this whitepaper, we share what doctors can do to ensure their patients have a positive experience throughout their entire patient journey — before their visit, during, and after.

Before the visit

Most doctors understand that the patient experience goes beyond the exam room. But did you know the patient experience actually begins the moment a patient searches for you online?

Almost three out of every four patients use online reviews as the very first step to finding a new doctor.2

Thus, your patients often meet you before you get to meet them.

Read on to discover how you can make sure they have a positive experience before they come in for their appointment.

Create a helpful online presence

Your online presence is often how you make your first impression to your patients. When they’re searching for a doctor online, patients want a sense of what their experience at your practice might be like, and will look at your online profiles and website to find out.

To give prospective patients the best idea of what to expect, you should include photos of both the exterior and interior of your practice on your online profiles and your website. Images of the exterior will help new patients find your practice if they have never visited before, while photos of the interior will help them get a sense of your brand and your practice as a whole.

In addition, a helpful online presence is one that provides patients with clear and consistent information. Patients can’t make appointments if they can’t reach you, and you don’t want to turn any patients away by confusing them with inconsistencies.

Claim and update your profiles on important online business and healthcare directories to include photos, location information, and hours. Make sure your profiles link to your website. 

Your website is your home base for your online presence and serves as a reflection of your practice’s overall brand. Unlike with your online profiles, you decide what information to include and how it is organized on your website.

You can use your website to build trust with people who have never visited your practice before. To build trust, your website should be professional and modern in design and include the following pages:

  • An about page: Use your About Page to share the reasons a patient should visit your practice, which might include mention of your credentials and experience as well as your approach to healthcare. You might also consider including a thoughtful bio, so patients can get a sense of your personality and bedside manner.
  • Location pages: Create a separate page for each of your locations with unique content and clear information about that location, including its name, address, phone number, a map, and other contact details.
  • A people page: This page should include photos of your staff as well as information about their experience and qualifications. You can even consider adding a personal note about each person to encourage a connection with patients.
  • Services pages: The services you specialize in provide an excellent opportunity to build multiple pages on your website, with each page focused on a particular service. These help patients find you for the services you offer.
  • A testimonials page: Including testimonials on your website provides social proof, which helps generate trust. Patients want to see that other people have had positive experiences with your practice.

Offer online scheduling

Take your website up a notch by giving new and returning patients the ability to conveniently schedule appointments online on their own time. Online scheduling can help you attract new patients: In fact … 

In fact, 68 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a doctor who offers the ability to book, cancel, or change appointments online.3

It can also help you keep your current patients: 47 percent of patients would consider switching doctors for a practice that offered the ability to communicate and complete important health care tasks online, such as appointment scheduling.4

Patients want to be able to do things on their own time. With online scheduling, they no longer have to worry about calling during business hours.

Send appointment confirmations

When a patient schedules an appointment, they want to feel confident that their appointment is set. Put your patients at ease by sending them appointment confirmations via email or SMS/text soon after they’ve booked.

Send strategically timed appointment reminders

Busy patients view reminders as you being respectful of their time — and money, if your practice charges fees for cancellations or missed appointments. Send a reminder three days before a scheduled appointment asking patients to confirm. If a patient does not confirm, send another reminder the day before. Still no answer? Try again one hour before their appointment.

Make paperwork available on your website or via a patient portal

Filling out paperwork can be a tedious task for patients. Give your patients the option to view, print, and fill out patient forms before their visit. They will appreciate having the ability to fill them out when it is most convenient for them. They’ll also have the benefit of filling out the forms at their leisure instead of a time sensitive environment, such as your waiting room.

During the visit

Now that you’ve made the right first impression, it’s time to deliver on the expectations you’ve set with your patients. A great experience during the patient visit is crucial for patient retention.

Try the following steps to ensure your patients’ visits go as smoothly as possible.

Instruct front office and intake staff to be friendly and helpful

Your front office and intake staff are the first people patients see when they walk into your practice, and so they can set the tone for the overall experience. A kind and welcoming attitude can go a long way.

Ensure the waiting room is clean and comfortable

No one really enjoys spending time in a doctor’s waiting room, particularly if it’s outfitted with uncomfortable furniture and fluorescent lighting. You can really impact your patients’ impression of your practice by transforming your waiting room into a cozy, relaxing spot that’s truly enjoyable — one they don’t mind waiting in.

Invest in comfortable couches and chairs, use warm lighting to create a more welcoming environment, and stream spa-like music through the sound system to give patients a sense of relaxation. Giving your patients a soothing area to unwind will feel more like a break from their hectic day and less like an inconvenience.

Keep wait times to a minimum

Forty-three percent of patients say wait time is the most frustrating part of visiting the doctor, ahead of waiting for results and cost.5 Although a bit of a wait is acceptable, patients expect to be seen in reasonable amount of time. Eighty-four percent of people believe wait time is either somewhat or very important to the overall experience at a doctor’s office, and …

1 in every 5 people have switched doctors due to long wait times.6

The average wait time for a doctor in the United States is about 18 minutes.7 Do an internal audit of how long most patients are waiting at your practice. The national average could be a good benchmark for how well you may be doing in this area.

Remember that communication is key. Delays can and will happen. If you know you’re running a bit behind, make sure you tell your patients how long they can expect to wait. They will appreciate your transparency.

Display excellent bedside manner

The most important thing a patient is looking for during their in-office experience is a positive interaction with the doctor. Patients want to see someone they feel comfortable with and a doctor who will be engaged in their wellbeing. In fact …

48 percent of Americans say “a friendly and caring attitude” is the most important factor when it comes to patient care.

And 45 percent of Americans say “thoroughness of the examination” is the most important factor.8

Your patients want to feel like you took the time to address their concerns — even if it’s just a routine checkup. Make sure your patients leave with a full understanding of their care plans or treatments.

After the visit

You’ve put in the effort to get a new patient into the office and ensure they were satisfied during their appointment, but the experience with your practice shouldn’t stop after the appointment ends.

Focus on making the post-visit experience helpful and seamless as a part of your patient retention strategy. Use thoughtful touchpoints, appointment reminders, and patient satisfaction surveys to keep your practice top of mind.

Follow up appointments with a survey

Send an automated feedback survey to patients to gather input on your practice. Delivering a survey directly via text or email will yield higher engagement, since patients aren’t as likely to submit a survey on their own. 

PatientPop data show that 71.3 percent of doctors receive reviews from 5 percent or fewer of their patients.9

A survey post-visit is the best time to get feedback, as the experience is still top of mind. Be prepared for both affirmative and critical feedback, and share it with your staff. You may discover some reasonable requests — such as scheduling appointments online or understanding insurance policies upfront — are worth addressing to improve patient satisfaction. Even negative feedback can help improve the quality of your services and lead to happier patients (and better reviews) over time.

More engagement means more reviews to build trust with new patients. Some 78 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.10 Ensuring satisfied patients share testimonials on social media or on review websites will be essential for practice growth.

Promptly respond to online feedback

When you start to see more patients leaving reviews about your practice, you’ll want to be prepared to respond to feedback. Think of spaces like Google Questions & Answers, Facebook, and Instagram as an extension of your online presence. 

Thank patients who leave positive reviews, and let them know their feedback influences your approach to patient satisfaction. Encounter a negative review? Don’t panic. Be prompt with a reply. Encourage the reviewer to contact you directly to discuss their experience in private. Responding to feedback, both good and bad, will foster trust with patients and shows you care about their experience with your healthcare practice.

Reminder: Be compliant with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, when responding to reviews or comments online. This means you should never confirm that a reviewer is a patient or mention any Protected Health Information (PHI) such as their name, geographical location, dates, and social media handle.

Share helpful content on social media and a website blog

Patients turn to you for your healthcare expertise, so why not make it available between appointments? Create and share content that provides valuable healthcare information to promote patient satisfaction.

Focus on content that will address a patient’s desire for information about the treatments and services you provide. When creating content, think about whether it’s timely, educational, or offers expert healthcare advice. Maintaining a blog is a great way to publish original content that provides value to patients.

When you want to share your content, social media channels like Facebook and Instagram are a great way to reach patients, since 69 percent of U.S. adults use at least one social media site.11

Ideally, you’d share a mix of your own original content and other medical blogs or news articles. Sharing your original blog posts on social media is a great way to drive patients to your practice website to learn more.

Engage patients through their inbox

Patients want thoughtful, helpful communication from their doctors. Email is a great way to create touch points with patients, likely through a regular newsletter or promotional offers. A whopping 91 percent of adults like to receive promotional emails from businesses they patron.12

Email is a great way for doctors to:

  • Send patients appointment reminders. This is a great tactic for practices in specialties that require regular appointments, such as OB/GYNs, dentists, and dermatologists. 
  • Alert patients to a new service that might be of interest to them.
  • Offer patients a discount on services. For example, this would be a great way to draw patients back for a weeknight Botox party.
  • Provide tips related to your specialty. For example, an email from a primary care physician before flu season sharing tips on how to protect yourself from getting sick. 
  • Share original blog content and links to your social media channels, so patients know where to learn more.

As a best practice, 90 percent of an email newsletter should offer information, and only 10 percent should be promotional.13

Enhancing patient satisfaction is about enhancing your relationship with your patients. Use this whitepaper to engage with patients — current and new — at every step of their healthcare journey, from pre- to post-visit.

From helping establish a helpful online web presence to automating office tasks and sending feedback surveys, PatientPop helps practices improve each patient touchpoint in one complete solution. Visit patientpop.com to learn more about how we can help you improve patient experience without adding to your workload.

Download the free whitepaper

From first impression to post-visit: The doctor’s guide to improving each touchpoint for better patient experience

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