Modern healthcare demands patient services that are digital, easy-to-use, and engaging. From the moment your patients register at your practice or hospital to post-treatment, there are a number of interchange points along the way that are key to delivering a positive patient experience. These range from arrival and check-in to engagement during treatment and post-care.
Most healthcare organisations understand the importance of these touchpoints; patients who feel engaged and positive about their care generally experience superior outcomes. However, strategies for ensuring that this happens differ wildly – both in terms of success and delivery.
With this in mind, let’s examine 3 key aspects of the patient journey and how to approach maximising patient engagement and experience in each.
Arrival and Check-in
One of the most common pain points for patients – and a great opportunity for healthcare organisations to improve patient experience – is arrival and check-in. Upon arrival at your organisation, what are you patients greeted with? Are they met with long queues, uncertainty as to where they’re supposed to be going and when they’ll be seen, and a lack of privacy when providing sensitive personal details?
If so, it’s likely that patient experience – and in turn, engagement – are suffering as a result. The days of overcrowded waiting rooms, jammed with dog-eared healthcare leaflets, and indefinite waits have passed, and your patients increasingly expect a seamless arrival and check-in experience.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to not only reduce waiting room congestion but also transform your waiting area into a space which actively engages your patients while they wait.
Firstly, implementing patient self-check-in is perhaps the single most effective thing you can do to cut congestion at your practice. A great patient check-in system is about so much more than just cutting down queues, however. As well as dramatically reducing the time it takes patients to check in, digital check-in kiosks can offer your patients improved privacy as sensitive information is entered rather than spoken.
What’s more, it can even make healthcare more accessible to your patients. The best digital kiosks will include language functions, allowing patients for whom English is not their first language to check-in just as easily as native speakers. And it’s not just language barriers digital self-check-in can break down; some systems incorporate functions to help with visual or aural impairment – making your practice truly accessible to all.
The second aspect of arrival and check-in that can potentially worsen patient experience is the waiting period. We’ve all experienced this to some degree: you arrive for your appointment in good time and – due to the delays that are part and parcel of healthcare – you’re still waiting when your slot has passed.
Unfortunately, waiting will always be as much a part of healthcare as bright lighting and the smell of disinfectant – the highly unpredictable nature of patient-doctor interactions sees to that. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to lessen its impact.
It may sound obvious, but simply better-communicating waiting times and managing patient expectations can drastically improve the experience. Research suggests that an uncertain wait can feel up to 35% longer than a finite wait, so providing a regularly updated digital display of the likely time-to-appointment for your waiting area can transform the way your patients feel about the delay.
Alongside this, providing patients with something to do while they wait is key to improving the overall experience. Traditionally this has meant tired back issues of National Geographic or lacklustre healthcare leaflets, but modern technology makes it possible to do better. Digital displays can give you the means to display content that engages patients while they wait. Whether that’s live TV, news and weather RSS feeds, or educational healthcare content.
Appointment Booking and Repeat Prescription Requests
Booking appointments or requesting repeat prescriptions can often be a frustrating experience for patients. We live ever-busier lives and the old healthcare model of ringing a healthcare provider or even turning up in person, simply to arrange an appointment or top-up a prescription, just doesn’t fit with this – particularly when we’re used to on-demand services in almost every other area of our existence.
Indeed, research by NTT Data Services released last year, revealed that 59% of healthcare users want to see their healthcare experiences reflect those they have in the retail space.
Offering your patients online appointment booking and prescription requests is a great way to tackle this. It gives your patients a healthcare service more in-line with what modern consumer preferences have conditioned them to expect. Instead of an arduous process that involves waiting on-hold or physically attending the surgery, managing routine healthcare tasks become as easy as logging onto a patient portal.
It sounds simple, but removing what’s a relatively minor gripe can have a substantial effect on improving patient experience and, as a result, patient satisfaction.
We’ve covered the relationship between patient engagement and positive healthcare outcomes elsewhere, but engagement is also vital to patient satisfaction and experience. A routine complaint for many patients is that healthcare feels like something that happens to them, rather than something they have agency over.
Addressing this can take many forms, but making your patients feel more involved with managing their own health should be at the heart of whatever method(s) you choose. Methods for boosting engagement include:
Healthcare has always been relatively good at exposing patients to essential healthcare information when patients are physically present – even if the medium has often been a little fusty – but less so at keeping patients engaged beyond the practice doors.
This is where modern technology has an important role to play. A good healthcare campaign management app can help you deliver custom healthcare information straight to patients’ devices. Or, in other words, right to the place patients are most likely to consume it in their own time.
This doesn’t just boost awareness of vital healthcare campaigns; it also gives your patients the chance to take a more active role in their own health. For example, it could be seasonal campaigns about the risks of cold weather for elderly patients, healthy eating advice, or information on the importance of smear testing for young women. The content of the campaigns will depend upon your patients and the dominant health concerns of the time but improving their delivery can only be positive.
We all forget appointments from time to time. And while the issue affects the NHS far more than patients – costing £216m a year – it can also be a significant inconvenience to service users who may miss out on treatment or medication as a result.
Again, this is a relatively easy pain point to counter. SMS communication can drastically cut the frequency of missed appointments at your practice or hospital. A simple reminder on the day can be all it takes to ensure the patient turns up, producing a better outcome for everybody involved.
And the technology isn’t limited to appointment reminders. It can just as easily be applied to reminding patients to take medication or request more as they near the end of the month. This can go a long way towards building a better patient-provider relationship as well as giving patients more agency over their care.
Finally, giving your patients a chance to reflect on their care and outline anything they think could be improved is a crucial part of improving the experience. Patient surveys have two principle benefits for improving the patient experience. One, it makes patients feel as though their view counts and, as a result, cultivates improved engagement. Two, the feedback gleaned from them can inform all other aspects of the patient experience and can help identify common pain points you may not have been aware of.
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Jayex Connect is a patient engagement platform created with transforming the patient experience in mind. With a module dedicated to each stage in the patient journey, from check-in through to post-care surveys, it’s the complete platform for transforming your patient’s interactions with their healthcare. To see it for yourself, book a demo today.