3 Tips for Improving the Patient Experience

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Before we get into improving the patient experience, let’s take a minute to talk about what it is. Patient experience encompasses the entire journey a patient goes through to receive care. This includes (but is not limited to) scheduling appointments, waiting in a waiting room, receiving medical care, having tests or labs done, picking up medications, follow-ups, and paying bills. During this experience, patients interact with a lot of different people: physicians, nurses, therapists, front desk workers, administrative staff, pharmacists, insurance personnel, and more. 

Improving the patient experience has the potential to bring better care. Patient experience has been shown to correlate with greater adherence to treatment plans and better health outcomes. Continuously evaluating and improving how patients interact with the healthcare system can help patients have better outcomes. Learn about tips for improving the patient experience below. 

Improve Communication

Communication is a big factor of the patient experience, and poor communication can lead to a lot of problems, such as poor adherence to a treatment plan. A study found that while over 90% of patients were confident they understood their treatment plan, closer to 50% actually understood the plan. If patients don’t know what their treatment plan is, they aren’t going to be able to follow it. 

Jargon can also contribute to poor communication between patients and providers. One study looked at how well people understood medical jargon and found mixed results, with some jargon phrases being understood frequently and others rarely being understood. And jargon is used frequently in conversations with patients. A study of primary care visits found that jargon was used over four times on average per visit. This jargon can cause a disconnect between what the provider is saying and what the patient understands. 

Improving communication between patients and providers takes work, but it can be beneficial. One suggestion is to reduce jargon. A study found that when pairing jargon phrases with colloquial ones that meant the same thing, the non-jargon phrase was understood significantly better. Another suggestion is to use frameworks to help guide communication, such as the REDE model, which focuses on relationship-centered healthcare communication, or the teach-back method, which helps clinicians see what the patients understood from conversations.  

Improve the Digital Experience

Technology is becoming increasingly more important to the patient experience. A good digital health experience can help organizations retain current patients and attract new ones. However, a poor digital experience can have the opposite effect, with one study finding that 28% of patients have left a provider because of their poor digital experience in the previous year.

Part of the digital experience is how an organization utilizes technology to improve the patient experience, such as having technology that allows patients to schedule appointments online, chat with their providers, view their notes and test results, update information from wearable devices, and more. But another part of improving the digital experience for patients is to have more guidance and support from the healthcare team. A survey found that patients want to use health apps, but they are more comfortable using health apps that have been approved by their care team or health agencies. Additionally, some groups may need more help learning to use technology. Almost 1 in 4 older adults said they lacked confidence in using technology, and 54% said they want a better grasp of their devices. Not only offering a digital experience, but offering support for patients to understand and use the digital experience is key for a better patient experience.  

Ask Patients!

One of the best ways to understand the patient experience for your organization is to ask your own patients! This can be done through patient surveys after appointments, or any other way that best fits with your organization. Getting feedback from patients helps pinpoint what your organization is doing well and what could be improved. 

When getting feedback from patients, it’s important that this is a continuous process. Just because patients feel one way about their experience now doesn’t mean that it will be the same in a year. Continually getting feedback allows the organization to keep improving to provide the best experience. Another tip is to get feedback from patients on solutions your organization wants to implement to help make sure that the solutions are addressing the correct issues. 

What have you seen at an organization that improved the patient experience? Let us know on social media!