Amidst the transition to value-based care, healthcare organizations across the nation are working diligently toward improving the patient experience. There have been countless webinars, articles, and blogs dedicated to providing the best strategies for optimal results. Yet, what is interesting is that little research exists, relatively speaking, regarding what exactly matters most to patients. Survey data from MedicalGPS suggests that the top three most important factors to patient loyalty relate to the provider and staff interactions with their patients (provider communication, telephone interactions, and support staff interactions).
Additional research from the UK demonstrates that factors most important to patients were being treated with dignity and respect, and good communication with staff. This confirms the significance of both the physician-patient relationship and the patient-staff relationship. It also solidifies that when it comes to the patient experience, every employee plays a critical part. From booking the appointment, to checking out the patient; each role is just as important as the other.
Providing patient care is all about being part of a team, and every team player has an important position to play. If one member of the team does not execute well the rest of the team suffers and ultimately everybody loses, including the patient. When team members are well-prepared, they feel more empowered to handle whatever comes their way. Team members who come ready for the challenge typically perform well. An important part of being prepared includes training. Below are a few tips for helping prepare staff to anticipate and handle patient needs and anticipations:
- Discuss and educate employees on the importance of active listening. Suggest using gestures such as good eye contact, nodding, and repeating what the patient says to confirm.
- Start the work day with a daily, Team Huddle.
- Create a policy regarding how many times the phone rings before being answered (for example a three-ring limit)
- Encourage staff to use the patient’s name in conversation, and always greet and wish every patient well as they leave.
- Stress the importance of apologizing. A genuine apology for a mistake or extended wait can go a long way.
- Help staff take initiative by understanding what alternatives they can offer patients in the event of an issue. It is important that staff feel empowered to help find solutions.
No job is too small or insignificant to make a difference in the patient experience. From the receptionist answering the phone to the lab tech drawing blood, everyone is a key player on the team. Make sure your team is prepared to win the game, on behalf of the patient AND the organization, by equipping them with all they need to be successful!