Immediately improve the outpatient customer experience at your doctor's office, medical practice, or healthcare facility by following these simple steps.
1. Provide a warm welcome to the office. First impressions start right away, so make your patients feel welcome from the minute they walk in your door. Greet them by name if possible and welcome them to the office. Offer them water and help them with their intake process.
2. Tell patients what to expect. While welcoming patients, give them insight into how the appointment will take place. Advise them on which doctor they will meet with and how long their wait will be. Knowing what to expect can help decrease both patient stress and perceived wait time.
3. Make it easy for patients to find your office. When patients walk into a facility or office building, make it easy for them to find your office. Providing digital wayfinding maps with directory listings and directions allows you to create a positive outpatient customer experience even before you make the first in-person contact.
4. Create a special process for first-time patients. New patients will immediately judge your office and use their first experience to decide if they want to return or not. So don’t process first-time patients the same way you process long-time patients. Create a special first-time experience that helps patients get to know the office better. Build an immediate connection by offering extra time with the physician, staff introductions, additional welcome information, office tours, etc.
5. Have a system for reminding patients about appointments. Serve your patients even before they make it to your office by offering appointment reminders. This helps patients show up for their appointments and avoid no-show fees, and it helps your office stay on schedule.
6. Improve the atmosphere of your waiting room. You must provide a comfortable, modern waiting room if you want to provide a positive outpatient customer experience. Consider how you can improve your waiting room by focusing on the five senses. Give patients an experience that provides satisfying smells, sights, touches, sounds, and even tastes.
7. Decrease perceived wait times. Improve the waiting room experience for your patients by making their wait time feel shorter. Decrease perceived patient wait time by providing engaging and educational content that can make a wait feel up to 33% shorter.
8. Establish communication guidelines. We have multiple communication methods (from phone to email to texting), and each person uses those communication tools differently. So don’t assume that patients want to be contacted in a certain way. Instead, ask them which communication method they prefer so you can stay in better contact with them.
9. Encourage use of patient engagement portals. You can improve the outpatient customer experience and improve healthcare outcomes by increasing patient portal adoption. When patients are more involved with their healthcare, they are often healthier and take better care of themselves. So encourage patients to use patient engagement portals and get involved with their healthcare.
10. Provide patient forms online. Even if you don’t have a patient portal, make it easy for your patients to access their intake forms before they get to your office. Provide online versions of forms that patients can print out and complete at home.
11. Never leave patients on the phone in silence. Even with multiple communication methods, patients are still calling offices. Patient portals don't decrease the number of incoming calls to healthcare practices. So you must continue to provide a positive customer calling experience that never leaves a caller on-hold in silence. Callers left in silence are far more likely to hang up and have a bad outpatient customer experience.
12. Don’t talk to patients like they are medical professionals. Remember that patients don’t have the same knowledge base of medical staff and professionals. You can’t use the same terminology to communicate with them. Talk to your patients in terms they understand and avoid using acronyms and jargon they aren’t familiar with.
13. Use a variety of content forms to inform and educate. Improve patient engagement and help patients understand their health care by providing useful content in a variety of ways. Provide pocket-sized resource cards, video libraries, printed guides, and digital signage content about medication information, healthcare literacy, procedural processes, and other medical issues that directly relate to your patients.
14. Give your staff name tags. When your staff is friendly and accessible, it creates a better outpatient customer experience. So help patients connect with your staff by having your entire team where name tags that make them more approachable and available.
15. Provide your entire staff with business cards. Give each member of your team business cards with their contact information. That way, if a staff member offers support or resources to a patient, the staff member can provide their contact information so the patient can follow up or ask a question at a later time.
16. Give away useful SWAG. Provide something for your patients to remember you by. Offer them a fun, promotional item that is also useful like a thermometer, sports bottle, or hand sanitizer. The SWAG (stuff we give away) will remind them of your office and offer them something they can actually use.
17. Ask for feedback. The best way to get an idea about the type of outpatient customer experience you are providing is to ask. Use anonymous surveys and feedback forms to collect information from patients about their experience.
18. Treat patients like customers. To provide an exceptional experience, think about your patients as though they are customers who have many choices and options in the marketplace. The healthcare field may be very different from the retail or hospitality industry, but the core principles of how they treat their customers should be the same. Always aim to provide the best customer experience possible.
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Our “2017 Guide to Outpatient Customer Experience” helps you create a marketing and communication plan to drastically improve customer experience and patient satisfaction at your outpatient medical practice.