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Tag Archives: Patient

Mednax, HCA feel the sting of managed-care patient management

The first-quarter earnings season for hospital companies hasn’t officially begun and already a second large provider has previewed a net earnings drop for the quarter.
Modern Healthcare Breaking News

MDLive sued over patient privacy concerns

MDLive has been hit with a class-action lawsuit accusing the telehealth provider of violating patients’ privacy rights and sharing confidential information with third-party contractors.
Modern Healthcare Breaking News

A Deep Dive Into Patient Journey

A Deep Dive Into Patient Journey

Today’s patients are more unified and have a louder voice than ever before. They are demanding to be a part of their healthcare processes by asking more questions and demanding copies of their medical records.

However, despite this growing confidence, we must not ignore their primary reason for visiting us –something in their body is causing them problems. Making that first call to your medical practice would have taken courage and should not be taken lightly. Throughout their experience, most patients may feel outside of their comfort zone, and we must keep this in mind at every step of their journey and carefully craft our responses to their questions.

Healthcare is steadily becoming a top-of-mind priority for millions across the country. In a survey early this year, more than 60 percent of patients said waiting to see the doctor was an awful part of their visit. Patients have started paying closer attention to the experience they receive when interacting with healthcare providers and their staff.

According to research, medical practices with “excellent” HCAHPS patient ratings had a net margin of 4.6 percent, as compared to just 1.7 percent for those with “low” ratings. Moreover, this is one of the compelling reasons why mapping the patient journey is steadily gaining momentum.

What is a patient journey?

By now everyone in the healthcare community has probably heard of the term ‘patient journey.’ It can be described as the quality of experience delivered to people who engage with a medical practice either as a first-timer or as a regular patient. It includes everything from the first time they hear about your medical practice from a friend or Google search to the time they post an online review of your practice.

Analyzing the patient journey and identifying any obstacles or roadblocks is essential to the diagnostic process.

In order to deliver an unmatched patient experience at every stage of the patient journey, medical practices must understand what patients need and what they might appreciate. It is essential to create trust among patients and convince them that medical staff is focused on helping them stay healthy. Medical practices need to focus on improving the patient experience through effective communication.

Journey mapping

Numerous factors and considerations influence the decision process of the potential patient. As a medical practitioner, your role is to identify and remove any potential barriers and ensure that the patient’s health remains the focal point of everything you do. Your objective must be to make each step of the patient journey as pleasant as possible, allowing the patient access to all of the information needed to help them make an informed decision.

Typically, the patient journey begins with the patient identifying his or her health issues and taking the decision to address them. This is where your journey should start, too.

Mapping your patient’s journey will help you identify his or her needs and fears. It will provide you insights on how to help the potential patient take the next step. In order to understand where your potential patient is on his or her journey, you must try to make things as easy as possible and consider asking a few simple but relevant questions. These questions can help you build your patient’s journey map.

Question: How much does your patient know about his or her health situation?

Tip: This question will help you decide your potential patients’ level of knowledge about their health situation. Is your patient well-researched?

Question: What should your prospective patients know about their situation?

Tip: You can make your patients learn about their health issues by providing resources or educational material. Your patients must get a basic understanding of their illness, symptoms and ways to address them. This process will also be helpful in establishing you as a trusted source.

Question: How severe is the illness? Is the patient feeling comfortable or in distress?

Tip: Your patient may expect immediate answers or resolution if he or she is in distress. This conversation will allow you to understand the stages of illness, symptoms, emotional needs, if any, and points of pain.

Question: Is your patient scared, or in pain?

Tip: Your patient could be feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, uncertain, urgent or hopeful. Your patient may want to know specifically how his or her health concern will be addressed.

Question: What is your patient expecting from the treatment plan?

Tip: Most patients will expect an explanation or an understanding of their health issue. The most common expectation is relief or control of persisting symptoms or discomfort, and the most common disappointing outcome is being told not much can be done. Many patients expect further medical investigations and changes to the existing medication.

This conversation may make your patient feel hopeful and confident. You can help him or her get back to normal life by reducing pain and worry.

These five questions can play a significant role in bringing your potential patient to life. By asking these questions, you can gauge your patient’s heart and mind. These questions may also help you make thoughtful decisions about the channels, touchpoints and milestones that are most relevant to your patient’s current state and future outcome.

Essential steps in a patient’s journey

Do you know that 73 percent of patients think healthcare practitioners are responsible for providing patient support services?

No doubt the journey toward a patient-centered approach is on the fast track today. However, the challenge is to transition from the existing brand-centric model toward delivering services that allow patients to participate in their own healthcare.

Here are the seven steps in the patient journey, and how medical practitioners can offer patient support services at each step along the way.

  • Pre-diagnosis: The patient journey begins well before the official diagnosis. During this stage, patients feel anxious and nervous while going through multiple rounds of tests and examinations, in addition to consulting physicians.

    How can you make it better? As a medical practitioner, you can provide educational content through your practice website, or popular third-party sites, to help the patient gain knowledge about his or her illness.

  • Diagnosis: After an official diagnosis from the physician, patients often feel anxious, shocked and scared. Most of the time they have no clear understanding of their illness and treatment options. Also, patients do not know how to discuss their illness and symptoms with their doctor, family or friends.

    How can you make it better? You can help the patient by providing online and offline discussion guides with proper support resources. You can also encourage the patient to start interacting with friends and family in order to seek emotional support.

  • Obtaining insurance coverage: Sorting out insurance matters can be confusing and frustrating for patients. There are instances where the treatment is not covered, or the patient is underinsured or not insured at all. Insurance companies can help patients obtain the right insurance coverage for counseling, online support and reimbursement support.

    How can you make it better? You can act as a consultant for offering support services.

  • Access to therapy: There are cases where a patient decides to stop taking his medication because he or she does not want to put any financial burden on the family. Some therapies can be very expensive and may prohibit patients from starting or continuing the treatment.

    How can you make it better? You can offer patient assistance programs and discount programs to pay for part of or the entire treatment. This may encourage patients to start and continue the patient journey.

  • Treatment: During treatment, most patients experience tremendous impacts on their physical, emotional and financial state. It becomes difficult to manage time constraints, family obligations, social pressure and work balance.

    How can you make it better? You can offer disease management tools, peer-to-peer support, attendant services and social media support. You can even try to partner with pharmaceutical manufacturers in order to help patients feel at ease with their illnesses and treatments.

  • Adherence: One of the most common roadblocks in the patient journey is a failure in adhering to treatment guidelines. Unexpected side effects, medication mishandling and the emotional rollercoaster may cause patients to quit therapy, resulting in failed outcomes.

    How can you make it better? You can deploy traditional and modern techniques for providing medication reminders, refill instructions, nursing support for drug administration and emotional counseling. You can even attempt to provide transportation services to patients who live in far-flung areas.

  • Continued support for healthy living: Staying healthy requires the patient to fully commit to a new lifestyle as well as form productive relationships with healthcare providers.

    How can you make it better? You can seize the opportunity to partner with patients for developing innovative approaches to keeping them healthy.

Make every step count

Patient journey mapping is a strategic process of capturing and communicating patient interactions. When done correctly, this activity builds knowledge and consensus across your medical practice, which are the foundation to creating seamless patient experiences. The experience is empowering for both the patient and physician, enabling insights to help make informed decisions.

As you walk along the patient journey, keep these tips in mind to help you build fruitful interactions:

  • Create a patient persona: Your patients are human beings first, and you must get to know them before treating them. A potential patient experiences illness within the context of a complete life – in the middle of fears, hopes, dreams, children to raise and bills to pay each day. That is why it helps to create a persona to visualize the patient journey. You can start with basic factors such as gender, age, ethnicity and lifestyle.

  • Respect but don’t judge: We all tend to judge people who are not our loved ones or close to us. It is advisable to confirm your assumptions. According to Pew Research, 64 percent of Americans above the age of 65 use the Internet. Moreover, while millennials may not feel convinced about the idea of a primary-care physician, older adults are willing to engage online with healthcare practitioners.

  • Caregivers are important, too: Almost 40 million Americans adults provide unpaid, necessary support to another adult. These people feel additional stress and concern about their loved ones. The influence and importance of such caregivers are often ignored in healthcare marketing. You must consider how you can help them on their caregiving journey.

  • Avoid technical jargon: The biggest roadblock in healthcare marketing is to convert professional medical information into useful and engaging content for the patient. For instance, health literacy is a big concern as most of the Americans are unable to understand instructions from healthcare providers. Even the most educated person may get confused when searching for health information online.

  • Encourage patients to take the next step: At each step on the journey, the patient has different needs. Those needs can be as simple as making an appointment or connecting patients with others on a similar path to share information. You may want to make the next step as clear and straightforward as possible. You must link to patient stories and offer multiple ways to contact you.

    Practice Builders’ prides itself on helping our clients boost outcomes and improve the patient experience. We promote the best practices in healthcare innovation along the patient journey. The result is more leads, increased sales and continuous improvement. Contact us to get a free demo today.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Patient Referral Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Patient Referral Marketing

Developing a strong referral network is critical to ensuring the success of your medical practice. In order to grow your medical practice’s revenue, it is important to attract new patients consistently. In addition to advertising and connecting with insurance agencies, establishing a reliable referral network is an excellent way to bring in new business.

However, as healthcare practices merge and consolidate, it can be tough for small practices to build and nurture referral relationships. Moreover, even if a referral channel is set up, sustaining it becomes a challenge. While you may be playing your role well by referring patients to specialists, you need to make sure other doctors are returning the favor by referring their patients to you. This is where networking plays an integral part as other doctors will only feel comfortable referring patients to your practice if they trust you. The more well-known your practice is, the more likely other doctors will refer patients to you.

What drives physician referrals?

In the last decade or so, the rate at which doctors have referred patients to a specialist has more than doubled. Professional referrals have not grown just because doctors want to expand their practice, but for a multitude of various factors that drive physicians’ decisions. The following are some of the points that are contributing to the increased referral rate:

1. Too few doctors: There is a shortage of primary-care physicians in the United States, which means they lack the time and resources to pay attention to patients with complex illness. So rather than decreasing the quality of patient care in order to maximize revenue to balance expenses, these patients are referred to specialists who have sufficient resources for handling their complex symptoms. According to published reports, the availability of primary-care physicians is not going to improve for the next few years at least. Therefore, in the years to come, the rate of professional referrals will grow as physician availability declines.

2. Fear of malpractice: Recent studies have revealed physicians’ constant worry over malpractice. This concern is one of the strongest drivers behind requesting lab tests and referrals. According to a study, physicians’ fears of being sued for malpractice are disproportionate to the risk of being sued. But as long as malpractice remains a concern for physicians, it will influence their referral patterns. Also, patients often demand to be referred to a specialist. In the past, a patient with shoulder pain might be told to take a Motrin and wait for a few days. However, now the patient demands to be referred to a neurologist. So, a larger portion of referrals is coming from patient requests as well.

3. Keeping the patient satisfied: Patients are more informed today than they were a decade ago. Healthcare websites, online reviews and heaps of online information have increased patients’ role in their healthcare decisions. Some patients even walk in to the physician’s office determined what specialist they want to be referred to. In such cases, in order to make the patients happy, the physician usually refers them to the desired specialist.

Why do you need professional referrals?

Studies show that referral marketing can trigger the growth of your medical practice. Moreover, that is what doctors want. Industry experts believe that referred patients tend to be more loyal and profitable than regular patients. This means that getting including a referral program in your marketing strategy toolbox is essential for every medical practice.

While there are many more reasons to consider a physician referral program for growing your practice, here are three primary ones:

1. Attract new patients: The most significant benefit of a physician referral program is that it creates a continuous stream of new patients. Your patients will come looking for you rather than you having to find them.

2. Increase brand recognition: Once your referral sources start referring patients to your practice, brand recognition is an apparent benefit. The more happy patients you will have, the more personal referrals you will get. This will result in increased traffic through your practice website and social media profiles. All of this is bound to boost your brand’s image.

3. Higher ROI: Online networking, eNewsletters, online discussion groups and social media groups have made it easier for smaller practices to promote themselves and become a trusted source. These referrals programs have considerably higher ROI than traditional marketing methods.

Some valuable tips to get you started

Physician referrals are a critical component in growing your practice and attracting new patients. However, just waiting for patients and other doctors to refer to you might not be sufficient for filling your appointment book. You will have to go after them.

Here are some expert tips for small medical practices that are looking to establish, maintain and strengthen their referral relationships:

Create a plan and adhere to it: You will need to create a plan or work in close collaboration with a healthcare marketing expert to help you design a referral marketing plan and then execute it. It is critical that you have perseverance, discipline and trust in the plan. Many practices expect instant results from such plans. You must understand that developing a referral network is a process and not an event. An effective referral marketing plan requires time and effort. Too often, practices change their priorities or suspend their referral-building plans before they have time to yield results.

Adopt technology: In the healthcare business, you must be technologically savvy in order to share electronic information with networking doctors for improving efficiencies and delivering better patient care. The ideal solution for hosting and sharing patient-related information is cloud-based. This solution will not only allow the physician to receive referrals electronically but will also streamline the referral process and eliminate paperwork.

Communicate often: You will need to keep communication channels open for your referrers to discuss any patient-related issues. This will improve the quality of patient care and support your relationship with the referring doctors.

Know your target audience: The most important criteria for building patient volume is your practice’s specialty. For instance, growing a primary-care practice requires a patient-friendly approach, while creating a dermatology practice requires a targeted approach to physician referrers.

Welcome new physicians: You must have a plan to contact and welcome any new doctors in your area. You can call, write a personal letter of introduction and provide your contact details. You can also offer to serve as a resource and a friend, whether for professional or family needs.

Meet your referrers: When you are looking to increase your referrals, a face-to-face meeting with the referring physician can make a huge difference in enhancing your relationship. Also, networking and maintaining cordial relationships with the referring physician’s staff is a good way to increase the number of referrals.

Advertise your practice: You must advertise and promote your practice locally and make yourself available. Join your local medical societies and chambers of commerce, and become known. In order to determine your largest resource pool, keep track of where your maximum ROI comes from and invest efforts in enhancing it accordingly. Network with other medical practitioners as they may turn out to be sources of referrals.

Keep the referring doctor informed: Usually, referral doctors want to work with specialists who do not require constant follow-up on paperwork or the patient’s treatment. Also, providing excellent patient care makes the referral doctor’s life easier because they will not need to see the same patient again.

Re-evaluate and revamp relationships: This is the most important part – to regularly evaluate and update your relationships with referral sources. To be successful in a referral marketing programs, you have to be aware of the changes occurring around you. For instance, what may have been a good referral plan in dermatology three years ago may not be suitable today as facilities and equipment change.

Avoid these mistakes

The quality of your referral network can impact your income, patient experience, information security and your medical career. That is why it is critical to building a strong referral network from the very beginning. Moreover, once you have established your referral network, you must maintain and upgrade it regularly. Just a few mistakes can damage the reputation of your medical practice. Here are some of those mistakes:

1. Not monitoring patient satisfaction: While there are various ways to control the health of your referral network, patient satisfaction is one of the most important ones. Just because your patients are interacting with other healthcare providers as well, you should not stop monitoring their satisfaction. The more satisfied your patients are, the less chance of you being involved in a lawsuit.

2. Choosing challenging referral partners: This is an easy mistake to make. If you are not careful and selective while choosing your referral partners, you could find yourself neck deep in a sea of unhappy patients and bad partner relationships. It may seem tempting to sign on with any provider with good reviews, but you must spend some time getting to know them and their practice. If you are looking to form long-term partnerships, find partners who have similar goals and target audiences.

3. Poor communication: Communication is the foundation of the patient experience. Patients want to feel cared for and welcome, and not that they are being shuffled from one office to another. Therefore, it is critical to have rules around your communications. Your staff should be trained to communicate effectively, and they should be regularly evaluated.

4. Listen to your patients: You must manage their expectations around the referral process right from the beginning and make sure their doubts and questions are resolved. Patients expect smooth and flawless communication from their providers, and you must make the effort to live up to this expectation.

Even if you think your medical practice is doing well and that a physician referral program is a waste of time, think again! Your medical practice is a business, and it is critical that you think of the future. You must implement a systematic method to identify, create and maintain healthy relationships with prospective referrals.

At Practice Builders, our referral development experts will ensure your referral network is giving you the best-quality patients rather than an office full of low-quality patients. You can call us to take advantage a free referral marketing evaluation for your medical practice.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

A Complete Guide to Patient Retention at Your Medical Practice

A Complete Guide to Patient Retention at Your Medical Practice

There is a lot of information available about how to attract new patients to your medical practice, but not much thought is given to patient retention. What most medical professionals do not seem to realize is that retaining a patient requires less time and money than acquiring a new one.

In a recent patient case study, increasing the retention rate from 86 percent to 89 percent lead to over $ 150,000 in revenue. Also, retaining an existing patient is five times more cost-effective than to acquire a new one; yet only 15 percent of medical practices focus on patient retention.

Whether you have recently set up your practice or have a successful 20-year career, patient retention will always be critical to your success. As a medical professional, have you ever wondered why patients do not return to some practices? What do patients expect? When some of the patients were asked reasons for their dissatisfaction, this is what they reported:

1. Feeling of being neglected or left out

2. Poor communication or misinformation

3. Feeling rushed

4. Lack of description for tests and procedures

The real issue is: Medical practitioners do not have enough time to ensure patients’ needs are met. As a result, medical practices are always facing situations where patients drop out of treatments before their completion. Here are four main components of patient retention, which if implemented correctly, will help your practice:

1. Educate: Make sure you educate your patients on all the treatments you offer. Create a brochure to leave with your patients and tell them the URL to your website. Always keep your website and printed literature updated. You can play informational videos about your practice and services in your waiting area for your patients to watch.

2. Ask: You can ask your patients about their experience with your practice, and to return to your practice for any further needs. Your patients must know that you value them and the trust they have in you. You can request your loyal patients to recommend your practice to their friends and families.

3. Measure: In case the patient leaves your practice despite all efforts, you must learn the reasons behind this decision. Do not let such incidents go unnoticed or it will hurt your reputation and business. It is critical for you to measure patient satisfaction. However, measuring satisfaction is one thing, but implementing changes based on patient feedback is what will eventually matter.

4. Communicate: Always look for innovative and efficient ways to communicate with your patients while they are at your office. Keep communication lines open at all times. You can use patients’ email ids for sending out satisfaction surveys, monthly newsletters, discount coupons, etc. For a more personalized touch, you can call your patient after a procedure to check if they are recovering well. These gestures will make a pleasing impact on the way a patient perceives your practice. According to published reports, email marketing is the most effective tactic for patient retention, yet most medical practices lack an automated platform for providing the right information to the right patient at the right time.

So, do you have any strategies in place for retaining patients? Not every suggestion or plan that you read online will be tailored for your medical practice. Standard methods such as an active referral system, online visibility, SEO tactics, supportive staff and your commitment will ensure your success at retaining patients. Here are some of the basic, but effective, patient retention strategies to consider:

1. Inform patients about their next appointment: Make sure your patients are told the date and time of their next appointment and encouraged to return. While this may not seem vital, it is one of the most common causes of patients not coming back for further treatment. When your patients come for their first appointment, show them a personalized calendar with a treatment schedule that is tailored just for them. A customized calendar will convince your patients of your commitment and the importance of their next visit. Before they leave your office, your staff should give them a schedule that shows their next appointment date. You must train your employees to emphasize the next appointment when the patients are leaving your office.

2. Make the appointment process easy: Never play hard to get, especially for your patients. If your patients are having a difficult time scheduling an appointment, they will be upset before they even come to your office, or they may choose a competitor over you. Ideally, it should not take more than a couple of minutes for your patients to schedule their appointment on your calendar.

3. Send appointment reminders: Your patients may forget or miss their scheduled appointments. It is important to ensure that they are regularly informed of upcoming appointments to make sure they do not compromise their health. You can consider automating your appointment reminders via emails and texts. In some practices, automated appointment reminders have reduced ‘no-shows’ by more than half.

4. Follow up after the appointment: After the patient leaves your office, make sure to send an email or call them to ensure they are following all the instructions. It is a good idea to show them you are interested in their well-being and recovery. You can also consider keeping patients up-to-date on the progress of their treatment.

5. Gather patient information: Be sure to collect key data points, such as patient’s name, birthday, contact number and email, from every patient. There still are some practices that don’t collect and save this information. This data helps in locking necessary patient retention tools. Using patient contact numbers and email, you can easily automate appointment reminders, important updates, birthday wishes and more.

6. Keep the patients updated: You can send out newsletters carrying practice updates to your patients. In the newsletters, you can also include a call to action to refer someone or schedule an appointment. Newsletters can also be used to remind patients of all of your service lines and treatments. Be sure to include website and social media links.

7. Strong referral system: Your first step should be to look at the people in your practice, as they are your cheerleaders. You can get referrals from patients, staff members and other professionals. To build a strong referral system, consider setting up a team of professionals and loyal patients who will act as your brand ambassadors.

8. Focus on each patient: Be respectful and tolerant while listening to patients’ concerns and myths about their illness. Your patients will only feel connected to you if you are listening to their worries. During an appointment, ask about their lifestyle, habits, sleep patterns, etc. Sometimes patients do not realize what may be affecting their health and how to fix it. As you guide them through the rough spots, they become more confident and encouraged.

9. Send out satisfaction surveys: Sending satisfaction surveys to your patients will help you to see whether or not your treatment is having a positive impact on their well-being. Through these surveys, you patients may express their positive and negative experiences. Such surveys give you the opportunity to re-examine your strategy and change the aspects that aren’t yielding positive results. According to the Medical Group Management Association, nearly 80 percent of “better-performing” practices are using patient satisfaction surveys.

10. Simplify billing process: Simplifying the payment process is another way to increase patient retention. This is because patients will be more likely to come back to your practice if the billing process is transparent and straightforward. You do not have to overhaul the entire process. To begin with, you can ensure bills are written in clear and easy-to-understand language, minimize medical jargon, outline multiple payment options, have easy-to-locate contact information and provide maximum transparency in itemized statements.

11. Gift card promotions: You can increase patient retention by introducing gift card promotions. These initiatives will act as an incentive for your patients to make appointments at your practice. Each month, you should randomly give away a few gift cards to patients who booked appointments with you.

12. Build personal relationships: You should try to develop and maintain positive relationships with your patients. Simple gestures, such as ensuring that your staff is courteous, patients were offered water when they arrived at your practice, go a long way in building a lifelong bond. You should train your employees to walk each patient through their appointment with helpful instructions, preparing for a lab test or checking out.

13. Develop a marketing campaign: Satisfying and retaining patients is a crucial part of a successful marketing program. You can start by contributing to a blog, posting on social media and sending emails to your patients informing them about appointments, general health tips, surveys, industry news, testing results and much more. If the patient is not a regular one at your practice, your social media posts will play a critical role in maintaining a connection.

14. Get your systems up-to-date: It is advisable to invest in the right tools and to run your practice. With the increasing popularity of electronic medical record software, you should have a fully automated system for maintaining customer data, scheduling appointments, sending reminders, improving billing processes and other information management.

15. Promote patient engagement: Patients are important stakeholders in their healthcare and can provide valuable input for improving the quality of your service. Therefore, you must encourage them to make choices about their treatment plans and keep them informed of the latest healthcare options.

16. Be polite: Your staff should be trained to interact politely and professionally with patients. You must take some time to listen to how they answer patients’ questions and if they are courteous enough to help patients. The behavior of your staff will significantly impact your patient retention rate.

17. Educate patients: Educated and informed patients are usually the most satisfied ones. If your patients are happy with the quality of your service, they will return to complete their treatment. Many patients derive satisfaction from learning about their illness. They want you to tell them all you know about their illness and the further course of action.

18. Adopt flexible working hours: To attract more patients to your practice, you may have to make a few adjustments to your work schedule. If you listen to the reasons why your patients miss their follow-up appointments, you will know that the biggest reason is their inability to arrive at your office at the set time for their treatment.

19. Manage your reputation: Reputation marketing produces steady results, whether online or offline. The majority of patients who search online for local physicians are more likely to see a directory review rather than your practice website. Also, most patients who want to come to your office will trust online reviews about your practice more than a referral from a satisfied patient. Therefore, promoting your reputation will make the community see you as a trusted medical practitioner.

20. Be empathetic: This is a very effective way to improve patient retention. Try to put yourself in your patient’s shoes and think like one, from the first contact on the phone until the patient leaves your office after treatment. During this role-playing exercise, be as critical and as observant as possible. Your role playing should cover welcome greetings from your front desk, experiences in the waiting room, interactions in the exam room and billing department.

21. Motivate your staff: The secret behind a winning team is a mix of people working hard toward one common goal. Patient retention has a lot to do with your staff and their attitude. When hiring, pay attention to the best combination of polite, efficient, professional, pleasant and optimistic staff.

22. Provide unmatched customer care: You must strive to go above and beyond to enhance the patient experience. Always use patient’s first name in all communications, take steps to lessen boredom in the waiting room, and train your staff to be warm and friendly – these are small gestures that will boost your patient retention efforts.

23. Tactfully handle upset patients: When you notice an angry patient at your office, try to be calm, polite and empathetic. It might be a good idea to ask how their day is going and if there is you can do to make them feel better. A little sympathy can make someone’s day.

24. Handle negative reviews calmly: Even the best medical practices receive negative feedback. If your practice receives negative feedback, it is best to handle it promptly and professionally. Thank the reviewer for the feedback and address their concerns. Even if you cannot resolve the issue, make them feel heard and apologize for their unpleasant experience at your office.

25. Don’t lose heart: Even if a long-time patient leaves your practice, don’t despair. The first step is to contact the patient and find out the reasons they left. Try to address and resolve their concerns, if possible. However, if the issues are not fixable, thank them for the input, make the suggested changes, and let them know. By maintaining a constant touch, they may eventually come back to you.

Comfort leads to satisfaction, and patient satisfaction leads to retention. Learn how Practice Builders can help your practice improve patient satisfaction and retention. We have the knowledge and expertise you need to take patient retention to the next level. Contact us to learn more about our patient retention strategies.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

Focus on These Crucial Elements to Ensure An Exceptional Patient Experience

Focus on These Crucial Elements to Ensure An Exceptional Patient Experience

Patient experience is a critical portion of your healthcare practice’s success in 2017. If you aren’t scoring high on patient satisfaction surveys (that payers distribute to patients) you won’t get reimbursed. Because your patients’ full experience is comprised of many elements, there is no one way to guarantee good ratings. You need to focus on their full experience which starts long before they even walk through your door.

Consider these seven elements of an exceptional patient experience when crafting your surveys and serving your patients:

1. Online reputation. Yesterday’s word-of-mouth is today’s social media, and customers are using sites like Healthgrades and Yelp to rate and review your practice. What your patients say about you – positive or negative – has a big impact on the success of your practice. Before patients initiate contact with you, they are looking into your online reputation.

2. Responsive (mobile) website. Once patients find you online, they are already forming opinions about your practice. If your site doesn’t load properly on their mobile devices, you’re already down a few points. If patients can’t access your website easily, they’ll go to your competition.

3. Internal branding. Your brand is your identity solidified by how patients perceive and experience your services. It’s what comes to mind when patients hear your name. Going beyond a good website and logo, your practice’s internal branding is the environment and atmosphere within your practice. Is your staff friendly and caring? Are your waiting and clinical rooms clean and fresh? All of these factors affect patients’ experience with your practice. Not only that, but a positive internal brand will fuel word-of-mouth referrals, boost your reputation and establish trust and credibility before new patients even walk through your door.

4. Communication. Electronic medical records are supposed to streamline patient information. Are your patients benefiting from this or are you asking them to re iterate the same information multiple times? Are you communicating clearly during their appointments so they understand their diagnosis and treatment options? Have you implemented a process to remind patients of upcoming appointments with clear policies about cancellations or no-shows? Communication greatly affects how patients perceive your practice, and lack of communication will negatively affect your patient satisfaction scores.

5. Staff training. How’s your customer service? A recent study published in a 2016 issue of the Journal of Medical Practice Management revealed, after reviewing approximately 35,000 doctors nationwide, that 96 percent of patient complaints are a result of customer service, and only 4 percent are due to patient care. Which means that everyone who interacts with your patients needs to be trained in customer service, and your patients need to be treated like the paying customers they are. Consider that many of your patients may have high deductibles that require them to pay premiums plus a lot out of pocket before their insurance kicks in. They expect great service from your practice.

6. Clinical experience. Your patients’ clinical experience is all the time they spend at your practice receiving care. Are you and your staff caring, friendly, empathetic and compassionate or rude, pushy, annoyed and rushed? Are you thorough with your diagnosis and treatments? These are all elements that will affect your reimbursement.

7. Follow-up and discharge. When you send patients home with instructions for post-visit care, are your discharge instructions comprehensive and easy to understand? Make sure patients are informed of any medications, procedures or follow-up appointments, and provide a number (including after-hours) to call if they have any questions or concerns. Also, make sure they understand how to identify an emergency situation and what to do in case of an emergency.

Practice Builders can help you create a plan of action to evaluate and improve your patient experience! Contact us at info@practicebuilders.com or 800.679.1262 to sign up for a free healthcare marketing consultation.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

8 Ways to Handle Patient Complaints and Defuse Their Frustrations

8 Ways to Handle Patient Complaints and Defuse Their Frustrations

2017 will see healthcare’s full transition to value-based reimbursement, so scoring low on the patient satisfaction surveys that payers send to patients will cost you. But how do you handle those patients who, no matter how nice you are, you just can’t please? Whether it’s a patient unhappy with your fee, course of treatment or long wait time, you have to train your staff – especially the front desk, who’s on the front lines – to diffuse those difficult situations and promote peace in your practice.

Here are 8 ways you can manage patient complaints and diffuse their frustrations:

1. Be proactive. Don’t wait for patients to come whining to you – or their insurance companies – ask them how you’re doing, and ask them frequently. Ask directly, at checkout. Ask with surveys, both online and by mail. Have the tending physician ask during the appointment. Let your patients know their grievances matter, and you want to resolve them quickly and amicably.

2. Address concerns. Pay attention to what your patients are telling you, and address their concerns. For example, if your patients frequently complain that they have an unusually long wait time, re-evaluate if you have enough staff to handle your patient flow.

3. Listen attentively. A frustrated patient wants to be heard, not interrupted or told to calm down, which will only make things worse. Listen attentively until your patient is finished speaking before you interject anything into the conversation. And by all means, don’t roll your eyes, tap your pen or sigh deeply while you listen. That will only send the message that you’re annoyed and impatient.

4. Speak cautiously. After listening, pause and then speak in a calm tone. Make sure you understand what is bothering your patient by restating her concerns. Don’t tell your patient she is totally wrong; that will just agitate and alienate her further.

5. Thicken your skin. Don’t take your angry or irritable patient’s grievance personally. Is your patient facing an uncertain health challenge? Oftentimes anger is an outward manifestation of fear.

6. Trade places. Put yourself in your patient’s position so you can understand him better. Is he in a lot of physical pain? Has he been ill for a while? Patients who suffer chronic pain are apt to get agitated. Is your patient responding to a large bill while he’s out of work? Trying to understand how your patient feels will help you respond in a more positive manner.

7. Apologize. Apologizing to your patient will validate that you accept her concern. Don’t confuse this with accepting responsibility or blame, but instead see it as offering an empathetic way to connect with your patient. Saying something like, “I’m so sorry you felt rushed at your appointment today. Can I take some of your questions and have a nurse or the doctor call you back by the end of the day?” will offer empathy plus a solution, which could be all it takes to defuse a frustrated patient.

8. Document complaints. Make sure your staff is trained to document all complaints no matter how small. One complaint today could lead to a second next month or next year. Documenting the issue and how you resolve it will leave a paper trail should you need to prove anything under litigation.

At Practice Builders, we understand that it’s not easy dealing with frustrated patients. We can create scripts specifically for your practice that you can use to address patient complaints and provide customized training for your staff to handle difficult patients. Call us at 855.898.2710 or email us at info@practicebuilders.com and sign up for a free marketing consult to discuss how we can help!

Medical Healthcare Marketing

Patient APM notifications could mean lots of money lost for hospitals

Hospitals say a proposal to have them notify patients that their coverage may have changed as a result of an alternative payment model would result in high penalties and be costly to administer.
Modern Healthcare Breaking News

Digital connections are essential to patient care

Digital patient-provider connections are a must for value-based care. Still, a significant amount of health data collected by physicians is collecting cyber-dust somewhere on a network.

A post from Ubicare.com says communicators and hospitals must efficiently form meaningful relationships with patients. The result? Value-based health care.

This infographic says:

· Some 30 percent of patients who emailed their clinicians called and visited physician offices less frequently.

· More than 80 percent of patients forget what they have heard in the doctor’s office.

· Digital patient education improves patient experience and cost of care for hospitals, staff and consumers.

Take a look:

(View a larger image)

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(Image via) 

HealthCareCommunication.com

How addressing values helps personalize the patient experience

Few decisions are more emotional than ensuring the well-being of one’s self or family.

A growing number of patients are taking control of where and how they receive medical care and services. Savvy communicators are looking to resonate with these folks where it matters most—their values.

Close to the heart

Values serve as guiding principles that influence thoughts, emotions and behaviors. They speak to the heart of our identity and drive our decisions. In health care, patient values can determine:

  • Which messages resonate in selecting and receiving care

  • Where individuals go to find a provider

  • How they choose a clinician or facility

Consider the six primary value drivers that are evident in all industries and are especially important in health care:

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What most motivates your patients? Are they focused on obtaining pleasure in their lives, exploring unknown territory or ensuring the security of their families? Marketers can glean valuable insights on how to connect with patients by understanding their inner motivations. 

[RELATED: 7 Steps to a Strategic Communications Plan.]

Here are three examples of how promoters of health care brands are reaching consumers by emphasizing shared values:

1. GE Healthcare

Value: Freedom

Which adventure would you choose when it comes to your child’s MRI? That’s just one question GE Healthcare is posing as is looks to connect with customers who prioritize freedom over other value types.

Freedom seekers tend to be free-spirited, innovative problem-solvers. They are often creative, curious and entrepreneurial in nature. Although they enjoy the company of others, they find peace in solitude. Freedom seekers care about quality and practicality, perform self-guided research before making purchases and aren’t likely to be swayed by advertising.

GE uses themes of adventure to connect with freedom seekers. Social media posts focus on creativity and possibility. For instance, one post describes the first “brain selfie” as scientist John Schenck rests on a makeshift platform with a magnet, 30,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. That was the first documented MRI.

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2. Kaiser Permanente

Value: Pleasure

“Life is amazing.” That’s Kaiser Permanente’s declaration alongside an image of a father gazing into his newborn daughter’s eyes. The post then encourages audiences to “Choose love,” focus on relationships and laugh more. It’s all about pleasure.

Pleasure seekers prioritize fun, excitement and opportunities to make memories. They tend to listen to their gut when making decisions and are independent thinkers. Generally, they appreciate science and diversity over spirituality and familiarity.

Kaiser’s ad, “Grow Old with Me,” builds on the themes of enjoying life. It captures the journey of a baby’s first steps, becoming the homecoming queen, spending time with family and simply having fun.

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3. Novartis

Value: Purpose

In its “Stories of Hope,” the drug manufacturer illustrates its commitment to caring and helping others by bringing modern medicine to rural Vietnam. The purpose is to combat a rise in chronic diseases. Novartis also posts on social media about the emotional toll of caregiving:

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Purpose seekers are dedicated to giving back; they like to support others. They tend to be compassionate and empathetic, placing the health and safety of others before themselves. Research shows purpose-driven people are often eco-conscious and cooperative. They prefer to purchase
experiences versus material goods. 

[Free download: The Mayo Clinic, Piedmont Healthcare and Nebraska Medicine share best practices in health care internal communications.]

Novartis looks to connect with purpose-seekers on a shared mission “to care and cure”: “We want to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to prevent and cure diseases, to ease suffering and to enhance the quality of life.”
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What do your patients and community value most? Can you do a better job of connecting with them on shared values?

Health care marketers who can tap into the values of their patients and can evoke emotional responses are likely to build loyalty and lasting brand awareness.

Sarah Hardwick is founder and CEO of Zenzi Communications , a San Diego-based marketing firm that works with hospitals and private physician practices.



HealthCareCommunication.com