Improving the patient experience can build up your practice

September 10, 2012

What can you do to keep patients happy? Medical Economics asked the practice management experts for their advice.

Key Points

What makes a patient experience great? The attitude of a practice's staff members plays a large role, according to 70% of the participants in a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute. (For more information on that study, see http://www.MedicalEconomics.com/patientretention.) So, what can you do to improve the patient experience in your practice? Medical Economics asked practice management experts for tips. Here's what they said.

Hire the right people.

When you're hiring, screen candidates by phone first to get a sense of their personality before you meet them. "Then, when you actually see their faces, see whether they brighten up the room," Zetter says.

Quiz a prospective employee about the last time he or she got upset, and ask for details, he advises. "Previous performance is a very accurate predictor of future performance, so get specifics about exactly how that candidate performed under certain situations," Zetter says. Don't ask how the candidate would handle a specific situation, because he or she simply will tell you what you want to hear, he adds.

If your practice is fully staffed, it's not too late to improve your current employees' attitudes. "Measure your staff members' performance based on what's important to you and what's important to your patients," Zetter says.

If you receive complaints, quit giving raises. Instead, offer rewards for improving the practice or patient experience, he says. "Everybody should be measured on [his or her] performance, from the front-desk person to the billers."

To accomplish this task, ask staff members about the issues that affect your practice. They know what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong.

"Listen to your employees," Zetter says. "Find out what they like, what they don't like, and what's going to make their jobs better. Reward the staff for making your practice better, too."

Train staff on patient relations. Offer scripts of what you want them to say and how to say it. Also, consider requiring staff members to acknowledge patients, even if they are busy with other tasks.