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It takes just one problem or inconvenience to affect the patient’s experience at your practice.
Imagine going to the doctor for your annual checkup, and he or she pulls out files for a different patient, references medications you’re not taking, and starts discussing tests you’ve never had. A clinical mix-up like that would hurt your confidence in your physician and potentially even prompt you to find a new one.
Like the clinical experience, it takes just one problem or inconvenience to affect the patient financial experience. Frustrated patients often feel that any issue is their providers’ fault — even if it’s not. From a patient’s perspective, every part of the healthcare experience, from payments to scheduling to billing, is run by the provider. The behind-the-scenes reality of external partners and third-party technology stays behind the scenes, and patients base their experience on what they can see.
Further complicating things is the fact that outdated routines and procedures can hinder efforts to streamline the patient experience, resulting in more frustrations, lower quality of care, and potentially a loss of patient loyalty. Because of this, cultivating the patient experience is a commitment. Healthcare providers have to ensure the process is as seamless, accurate, and pleasant as possible — as consistently as possible.
Cultivation is key to improving healthcare
While negative experiences can drive patients away, positive experiences can engage lifelong patients who refer their friends, family members, and neighbors. For healthcare providers, that means communicating with patients even when they’re not in the office for an issue or checkup.
According to SDL, it takes up to two years to build customer loyalty — that’s two years of positive, strong experiences. To keep yourself ahead of this curve, you have to find ways to proactively provide best-in-class experiences that keep patients coming back.
The easiest way to start? Identify outdated routines and procedures that could be detracting from the patient experience. Below are four common problems that can be proactively addressed:
Problem No. 1: Sending cookie-cutter communications
Nothing is more personal than health, so it’s important to provide patients with personalized information that addresses their unique needs. Generalized, templated mail or email statements don’t suffice. Patients will lose, delete, or ignore these blanket communications.
Instead, providers should identify specific segments of their patient base and develop communications for each. A good omnichannel approach provides an integrated customer experience through various channels, including text and chat. This approach to improving healthcare empowers customers to choose how they interact with the people in charge of their patient bill care.
Problem No. 2: Using convoluted pricing
As healthcare bills become increasingly difficult to understand, patients progressively demand price transparency. More patients are using high-deductible health plans, which means they’re the payers rather than their insurance companies. With the rise of unemployment, this percentage will only increase.
Because they are now responsible for payment, patients need to know before their appointments how much services will cost. This enables them to be better informed when making important decisions. Price transparency creates trust, and we all know trust creates a great experience and increased patient loyalty in healthcare.
Problem No. 3: Replacing human interaction with technology
In general, the impact of technology in healthcare has been positive. With automation, machine learning, and cutting-edge technologies, many providers have made tremendous advancements in the level of service they’re able to provide patients. But that dependence on technology can also cause providers to rely too heavily on machines at the expense of human connection.
A successful patient interaction must have a healthy balance of both. Take advantage of automation, but make sure patients can also communicate with a member of their patient bill care team when they need help. That way, technology becomes an asset to augment the patient experience — not a distraction from it.
Problem No. 4: Relying on separate back-office systems
Many healthcare providers still use separate systems for most components of the patient experience. Unfortunately, those technology systems don’t always “talk” to each other. If there’s a glitch in one, it can cause undetected problems throughout the operation. Patients tend to see all of these separate components as one overall experience, so using a single integrated system will help create a seamless solution for both patients and providers.
Providers that prefer not to completely centralize their systems should take the time to research systems and providers that sync up well with native integrations and built-in data-transferring capabilities. This can help them mitigate the risk of technological mix-ups that could detract from the patient experience.
It takes a long time to garner customer loyalty, and it can all vanish based on just one bad patient experience. Conversely, an excellent experience can reengage patients and increase their overall satisfaction levels. For this reason, it’s vital to carefully vet any third-party platforms you might use. The entire care continuum must be flawless to ensure patients always feel cared for, heard, and secure.
T. Scott Law Sr., CPA, is the founder and CEO of Zotec Partners. His mission is to partner with healthcare providers and their patients across the country to simplify the business of healthcare and continually innovate the patient financial experience. Scott is a member of the Radiology Business Management Association, the Medical Group Management Association, and the American College of Radiology’s Radiology Leadership Institute.