How to Improve Patient Experience: 5 Tips for Healthcare Practitioners

5 Tips for Healthcare Practitioners

When patients go to see a healthcare provider, they’re looking for more than just a diagnosis or treatment. Today, they desire and expect an all-around positive experience—from the moment they perform their initial search for care to scheduling their appointment to checking in to receiving follow-up.

Positive patient experiences are not just a nice-to-have; they are essential to the health of both patients and healthcare organizations. Positive interactions with healthcare providers can help build patient trust, which encourages patients to keep coming back for care so they can properly address their health needs.

Additionally, patient satisfaction has been shown to impact healthcare organizations’ bottom line. A study by Deloitte found that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability, and profitability is important for an organization’s ability to continue delivering high-quality care.

While healthcare providers such as doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses are not in control of every element that impacts patient experience (i.e., access to care through insurance plans or affordability of healthcare costs), there are many other factors they can influence, including time spent interacting with the patient, the quality of care delivered, and even healthcare business logistics (if the healthcare practitioner is a practice owner or organization leader).

Below are five strategies that healthcare practitioners can use to improve the patient experience. First, let’s explore the state of patient satisfaction in today’s healthcare system.

U.S. Patient Experience Facts: How Satisfied Are Patients

Studies show that there is great room for growth when it comes to consistently giving patients positive experiences. According to a study by the Beryl Institute:

  • 76% of Americans surveyed said they have not had a positive patient experience in the past three months.
  • 60% said they had an outright negative experience.
  • 68% said they believe trust in healthcare has eroded over the past two years.

While data shows great levels of dissatisfaction with the U.S. healthcare system overall (healthcare at the macro level), patients tend to be more satisfied with their actual healthcare providers and the quality of care they receive (healthcare at the micro level).

According to a 2023 patient experience survey conducted by the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) and The Harris Poll:

  • 53% of respondents graded their local healthcare above average (A or B grade).
  • 63% graded the healthcare they received in the past 12 months above average.

As mentioned, while healthcare practitioners cannot impact every aspect of the patient experience (especially those pertaining to insurance and organizational red tape), they can still make a substantial difference in improving patient satisfaction. All practitioners can do is focus on what’s within their realm of control, which may vary depending on their position within a healthcare organization.

5 Ways to Help Improve Patient Experience at Your Healthcare Facility

1. Take Time to Really Listen to the Patient

One common frustration of patients is the feeling that they spent a great amount of time securing and scheduling care only to feel rushed or unheard by their healthcare providers during their appointment. According to The 2023 AAPA-Harris Poll’s patient experience survey:

  • 66% of respondents said providers seem more rushed than they have been in the past.
  • 30% say that they have felt rushed during a healthcare appointment.
  • 49% of respondents (especially those under the age of 65) said they don’t always feel listened to by healthcare providers.
  • 40% said they at times feel hesitant to speak up during healthcare appointments – especially women, patients under the age of 65, and adults with lower levels of education.

As a healthcare practitioner, you may not be able to control how long it takes for a patient to get an appointment booked, how long they spend in the waiting room, or even how long the appointment lasts. However, you can be vigilant to ensure that the appointment time is being used in the most efficient and productive manner, and that includes giving the patient time to voice any health questions or concerns, and also thoroughly explaining any diagnoses, treatments, medication instructions, and so on.

2. Help Set the Right Expectations with Clear Communication

Nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and anyone else directly interacting with the patient can help create a better patient experience by helping patients know what to expect during and after the appointment. Giving some warning about extended wait times, explaining what medical tasks will be performed, sharing how long it will take to get test results, etc. can help answer patients’ questions faster, ease anxiety, and reduce frustration.

According to The Beryl Institute study, the top factors of a good patient experience involve having healthcare providers who listen (96%), communicate clearly (96%), and offer a clear plan of care and rationale for that plan (95%).

There should also be processes in place to help improve the flow of communication between medical staff members, as this can help minimize potential issues in the delivery of care and create a better experience for patients. As an example, some hospitals implement bedside shift reports (BSR) to help ensure nothing falls through the cracks during nurse shift changes. Check out our post that covers three tips for nurse-to-nurse shift changes.

3. Leverage Platforms for Digital Patient Engagement

Today’s patients are more than just patients – they’re healthcare consumers, which means they’re comparing their healthcare options and opting for providers who offer the best value and experience. A 2022 survey by Accenture revealed that patients are now more likely to switch healthcare providers than they were in previous years, and the practice is especially common among younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials).

One way that healthcare providers are staying up-to-speed with consumers’ changing wants and needs is through digital transformation. More healthcare providers are recognizing the need to invest in digital patient tools that can help patients take various actions throughout their journey of finding, obtaining, and continuing care.

According to a 2023 study by Experian Health, patient say the digital services that improve the patient experience include:

  • The ability to schedule appointments online or on a mobile device (76%)
  • Online/mobile payment options (72%)
  • Digital options for managing healthcare (56%)

Additionally, more healthcare providers are starting to explore the use of remote patient monitoring (RHM) technologies, which allow clinicians to obtain patient health data updates in real time outside the clinical setting.

By investing in digital patient engagement technologies, you help put your patients in the driver’s seat for managing their healthcare. This not only gives them the autonomy they crave as modern-day, digitally focused healthcare consumers, but it also encourages them to stay on track with their healthcare needs.

4. Offer Telehealth Appointments

The COVID-19 pandemic was a major catalyst for the rising use of telehealth in the United States. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, in April 2020, the use of telehealth in the U.S. grew to levels that were 78 times higher than levels in February 2020, with the new volume of telehealth appointments making up for nearly a third of outpatient visits. By February 2021, telehealth use stabilized to levels that were 38 times higher than 2019 levels.

While virtual appointments were initially used as a replacement for in-person appointments out of necessity during the pandemic, telehealth has become part of the new normal in healthcare. According to a report by the American Medical Association (AMA), nearly three quarters (74.4%) of physicians reported that telehealth was used in their medical practices, which is nearly three times the percentage from 2018.

While there are situations where in-person visits will be a more appropriate care option, physicians and practice owners should not dismiss the value of telehealth, especially for purposes such as chronic disease management and behavioral health. They should also not ignore the fact that more patients have grown accustomed to having the option of telehealth. Making telehealth appointments available to patients (when it is appropriate for quality care) can provide them with a higher level of convenience, help increase access to care, and align with their evolved healthcare expectations in a post-COVID world.

5. Send and Review Patient Satisfaction Surveys

You can’t improve the quality of your care if you don’t know what needs improving. You can gauge patient satisfaction by sending surveys to patients following their care. This gives you a transparent look into the true sentiments of your patients, identifies potential areas of improvement, and shows your healthcare customers that you are committed to delivering the best care possible.

Make sure to review the data in a timely manner (and on an ongoing basis) to ensure that no issues or complaints fall through the cracks. The more timely your reviews, the faster you can fix issues that are putting a damper on the patient experience and potentially affecting business.

Continue reading the West Coast University blog for more helpful information and tips for
current and prospective healthcare practitioners

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.