When it comes to selecting a medical center, patients now have the tools at their disposal to search for and compare the ones that best meet their needs. Medical centers are now expected to offer a positive Patient Experience (PX) that is critical to attracting and retaining patients.
In fact, a study by Advisory Board projects that negative word-of-mouth, resulting from patients sharing their negative patient experiences with others via online or offline channels, could result in approximately $700K in lost revenue.
The Beryl Institute defines the Patient Experience as "the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care”, which can encompass every interaction a patient has with a medical center on any of their touchpoints, going as far back as the first website visit:
Source: YouTube (The Beryl Institute)
There are several ways that medical centers can monitor the health of their PX at critical moments of the patient journey. However, the most direct view of the positives and negatives of the patients’ experiences at each touchpoint is through feedback provided by the patients themselves.
In this post, I look at how medical centers can leverage the Voice of the Patient to keep a finger on the pulse of the Patient Experience on both their online and offline properties, as well as better understand how patients perceive their experiences across three key moments of their journey (Pre-Visit, In-Visit and Post-Visit), with the end goal of continuously improving the experience.
Pre-Visit: Simplify the website research experience
For many patients, the journey starts with looking into the symptoms and conditions they may be experiencing and researching different medical centers to identify one(s) that will best address their health situation. Nowadays, a lot of this research can be performed online via a simple search or by directly accessing a medical center’s website. As such, the website experience at this stage of the patient journey is crucial.
Two key goals of a medical center website include: 1) providing patients with the information they need to select the right medical center for them, and 2) giving patients the tools to easily obtain the information they need to move further along in their journey:
Interactive tool-powered queries
Seeing how visitors are interacting with these particular aspects of the site can tell you a lot. However, without asking them directly, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether the visitors obtained what they wanted based on the purpose of their visit, or the impact of their website visit on what they will do next.
By asking patients to tell you about their website experience as it happens, Voice of the Patient research presents an opportunity to remove this guesswork and provide insights to better understand the behaviors of key visitor groups through more accurate segmentation, such as:
- Are they a current patient, prospective patient or family member / caregiver?
- What were they looking to accomplish during their session, and were they successful? If not, why not?
- How likely are they to select this medical center over others?
- What is their opinion of the medical center, and how trustworthy do they perceive it to be?
By using a combination of general and targeted Pre-Post surveys that invite website visitors at the beginning of their session to participate in a survey at the end of their session, Voice of the Patient provides the ability to collect a representative sample of website visitors, delve deeper to diagnose any potential pain points with the website experience, and better determine how to guide prospective patients towards selecting the medical center.
In-Visit: Monitor the health of the experience at your medical center
The patient interactions with the services and staff at your medical center (the “in-visit experience”) is maybe the most important part of the Patient Experience.
The waiting room, the perceived cleanliness of the premises, food quality, bedside manners – many experiential elements can play a significant role in shaping a patient’s perception of your medical center, and potentially impact their decision to return for any of their future healthcare needs.
Voice of the Patient provides a few ways for PX professionals to gauge this experience, as well as identify potential improvements that could boost the in-visit experience.
Many hospitals already leverage HCAHPS (the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), a standardized survey that asks patients to rate various aspects of the in-hospital experience. In addition to these surveys, medical centers can leverage Voice of the Patient to go even deeper into the in-visit experience and personalize surveys to reflect their own organization-specific research goals.
For example, using an online channel such as email to send a follow-up survey, while of course incorporating data collection safeguards to ensure patient anonymity, can enable PX professionals to collect additional feedback, including open-ended feedback, on in-hospital experiences. In addition, the same survey could also identify the specific aspects of the in-visit experience that are key drivers to overall patient satisfaction.
Similar research approaches could be applied if the medical center also offers services that allow patients to visit with a healthcare professional online rather than in-person.
Another more passive approach to collecting the Voice of the Patient is installing feedback terminals at strategic locations throughout the medical center campus that allow passers-by to select a button to answer a single, standard question: for example, asking them to rate their level of satisfaction with their experience at the medical center. These terminals can not only help PX professionals get a feel for how medical center visitors generally perceive their in-visit experience, but also help to track potential shifts in visitor perceptions as changes to the in-visit experience are gradually implemented over time.
Post-Visit: Ensure a positive and productive in-portal experience
Once a patient has visited a medical center, a large part of their post-visit experience may involve following up on any number of tasks or suggestions provided by their healthcare professional, such as managing prescriptions and viewing lab results. Patients may also want to monitor their health information over time, have an easy way to schedule a follow-up appointment or speak to a healthcare professional if required.
Many medical centers provide patients with these capabilities all in one place via an online portal, so it is important to offer a seamless and simple portal experience as part of a strong post-visit Patient Experience.
Using any number of Voice of the Patient sampling methods, such as a post-login email survey or an in-session pre-post survey that is triggered once a user accesses the login page, you can open the door to knowing more about your in-portal users, whether your portal provides them with the ability to accomplish what they are looking to do, and if there are any particular aspects of the portal that are hindering their post-visit Patient Experience.
Having the tools in place to empower patients to perform follow-up tasks is important – ensuring these tools make it easy for patients to successfully perform these tasks is even more important in providing a continuous and positive Patient Experience that keeps your medical center top of mind for your patients.
Note: I also examine measuring the in-portal experience in an earlier blog post, 3 Ways Voice of the Customer Can Help Health Insurance Providers Manage the Customer Experience.
Understand the Patient Experience from your patients' point-of-view
Depending on where they reside, patients may have a few options to consider when it comes to selecting a medical center. From their first point of contact with you to following-up on their visit to your medical center, ensuring that you provide a positive Patient Experience throughout the journey presents an opportunity to stand out from the rest.
The key to unlocking this potential lies in embedding feedback mechanisms at critical touchpoints along the patient journey so that you can continuously inform your PX and website management teams about how your Patient Experience is being perceived. The insights derived from these Voice of the Patient efforts can allow you to move quickly, align internally, and execute faster than your peers.
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