Patients Spoke and We Listened: Five Ways to Improve the Patient Experience

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This article was originally published on Sept. 7, 2022. 

​Do your patients leave happy after a visit to your practice? Are they impressed with your staff? Do they feel seen, heard and properly cared for? And if they don’t, how do you know, and what can you do to fix it?

In a digital, increasingly connected and consumerized healthcare environment, patient satisfaction has risen in importance when it comes to success drivers for medical practices. Patients feel more empowered, and therefore more vocal in their demand for topnotch care, and thanks to the information age we live in, those vocalizations are reaching a larger audience than ever before.

Keeping your patients happy could even help your practice succeed.

But achieving patient satisfaction is about more than just protecting your image. It’s about providing your patients with the care they deserve – and not just because they could damage your reputation if you don’t.

We wanted to know exactly what today’s patients are looking for when they head to the doctor. How much importance do they place on things like having the latest technology in the office, navigating a modern-looking website and interacting with friendly staff, when it comes to deciding whether to stay with a doctor? How long are they willing to wait in the waiting room? What are their preferred methods of communication with their doctor’s office?

So we asked. We polled 2,000 patients, asking questions like these and more, and compiled their (sometimes surprising) responses in our data-rich ModMed 2022 Patient Experience Report: What Patients Really Think.†† It turns out, 73% of patients surveyed agree they keep a “mental scorecard” of all the things they like and dislike about a new doctor’s office2*. What does that mean for your practice? Well, it could mean that your patients just might be diagnosing you every bit as much as you are them.

Based on the answers we received, we’ve put together a short list of 5 things you can do to help provide your patients the kind of experience they’re looking for.

After all, if your patients aren’t happy, they probably won’t come back. And they may stop others from coming too.

1. Be open

Listen to your patients. And that goes beyond hearing their list of symptoms in the exam room. It starts before they ever walk through the door, and it continues long after they’ve walked out.

The first step is to look for ways to anticipate and meet patients’ needs before they even have to ask. You’re here, reading this now, so you’re already off to the right start! Utilize tools like our “What Patients Really Think” report, and other available resources, benefit from the research that’s already been done, and then zero in on potential areas for improvement in your practice – whether that’s as simple as updating your website to have a more modern look and feel or offering additional customer service training sessions for your clinic staff.

Encourage your patients to give you feedback. Ask them what they’d like to experience when they come for a visit and what they’d like to see improved. Listen to their answers. Do they match what the research showed?

Empower patients to have a voice – and not just while they’re in the office. Offer an online platform for your patients to provide feedback on their experience. Our research revealed that 74% of patients place importance on online reviews when selecting a new doctor1*, and 59% of patients said they’re likely to provide feedback about a doctor’s office experience through online reviews26* or through surveys sent via email or mobile app36*. These numbers indicate that patients are not only placing importance on existing reviews, but they may be likely to share them as well.

2. Be available

With patients as connected as they are today, you may find that their expectations are higher when it comes to their ability to get in touch with their doctor’s office. Not only is it draining and time-consuming for your staff, but 68% of polled patients agree that it’s frustrating to leave a voicemail and wait to be called back8*.

Offering additional options for communication can help to alleviate that frustration. We learned from our survey that 48% of patients prefer using email, text or an online portal over a phone call to make appointments7**, and 67% are more likely to use chat over calling to make appointments or request lab results45*.

Being available also means being in tune with your patients in the exam room and outside of it. Consider a software vendor that allows you to access your patient’s charts on the go – whether that’s via an iPad in the exam room or through a mobile EHR app.

Want even more ways to be available to your patients? Offer Telehealth services for patients who can’t make it into the office.

3. Be memorable

You know the old saying, “You never have a second chance to make a first impression”? Well it turns out, that may not always be the case! At least, not when it comes to patients and their doctors. Our survey found that patients can be quite forgiving when it comes to giving their doctor’s office additional chances.

On average, patients are willing to give a doctor an average of four chances before deciding to find a new one3†.

That number may surprise you. But it doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make the first impression the very best it can be. And the first chance you have to impress your patients when they walk through the door is in the waiting room. Patients may be a bit more forgiving when it comes to giving doctors a second – or even third or fourth – chance to impress them, but our report revealed that they are quite clear about their expectations for the waiting room experience.

Our surveyed patients said they’re willing to wait an average of 31 minutes in the waiting room before they start to feel frustrated5, and 42% of patients say they’ve left a doctor’s office before being seen, simply because they had to wait too long6.

Nowadays, it seems we only remember the bad experiences we have. Being remembered for all the right reasons can do wonders to help your practice succeed. Not to mention, if patients remember all the reasons they felt comfortable, in control and cared for at their doctor’s office, not only is it more likely that they’ll come back, but they just might be inclined to spread the word.

4. Be empowering

Today’s patient is connected, informed and involved. Smartphones have put the power in the hands of patients, quite literally, and doctors should know that patients are not just willing to do their part – they’re expecting to.

One in three patients (37%) said they prefer scheduling their appointments online or via mobile12 and nearly half (46%) prefer to request prescription refills through an app14. With technology and the availability of resources like online patient portals, why shouldn’t patients be involved in every aspect of their own healthcare experience?

5. Be tech-savvy

This is a piggy-back off of the previous four we’ve mentioned. If your practice is falling behind on the latest tech trends, maybe it’s time to consider upping your tech game.

90% of patients feel it’s important that their doctor uses the latest technology16* and 92% of patients agreed that their doctor seemed more attentive to them after introducing new technology to their office17*.

Conversely, having outdated or slow software can be a distraction and frustration for you, and, in turn, can detract from the patient experience. A clunky EHR that doesn’t sync with your practice management and patient engagement tools creates additional navigational steps that are tiresome and redundant. If this is what your day-to-day looks like, consider switching to an all-in-one software suite that can seamlessly integrate all these features and more, so everything you need is in one place, under one login.

Offering additional tools like text-to-pay billing and pre-appointment check-in can also prove to your patients that you’re in-the-know and up on the latest tech trends.

What patients really want is a personalized healthcare experience.

Technology certainly plays a big role in a patient’s experience, and physicians should be open to change in order to keep up with patients’ changing demands. But if there’s one thing we learned from conducting our patient survey, it’s that patients want to be heard. They want to be listened to and have their needs acknowledged, and now it’s up to us to show them that they’re our number one priority…after all, they are!

Want even more insight into what our patient survey revealed? Check out this webinar with our panel of experts!

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards.

2, 1, 26, 36, 8, 7, 45, 3, 5, 6, 12, 14, 16, 17 : See survey question 2, 1, 26, 36, 8, 7, 45, 3, 5, 6, 12, 14, 16, 17 in the Appendix of The ModMed 2022 Patient Experience Report: What Patients Really Think
*Data reflected is a combined stat of ‘very important’ and ‘somewhat important’, ‘very likely’ and ‘somewhat likely’, or ‘strongly agree’ and ‘somewhat agree’ as applicable.
**Data reflected is a combined stat of 22% email, 14% text, and 12% online portal.
†Stat based on the average (4.3) from respondents choosing between 1-2 (15%), 3-4 (36%), 5-6 (28%), 7-8 (8%) and more than 8 (3%).

††These two random double-opt-in surveys, both of which used a panel of 1,500 insured and 500 uninsured Americans, were commissioned by ModMed between Feb. 2 and Feb. 4, 2022. They were conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR). Unless otherwise stated, the term “patients” refers to the respondents of this survey.

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