All Smiles – How Your Office Staff Impacts Patient Experience

All Smiles – How Your Office Staff Impacts Patient Experience

Grumpy secretary

If this is what your offices staff looks like, or feels like, then you need to regroup. Your office staff is the front line of your practice, and will impact the patient experience as much as (or more than) the quality of care. Their greeting is your patients’ the first impression of your practice, and their goodbye is what patients will have in their mind until the next visit. My mechanic can execute the fastest oil change this side of the Mississippi, but if his front office staff would take their bad hair-day frustrations out me, I’d be out of there in a jiffy, pun intended.

But don’t just take my word for it: A recent PwC survey of 6,000 people released this year found that 34% were willing to switch medical providers if offered an ideal experience elsewhere. A report by KISSMetrics, claimed that 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service.

The good news is, turning things around is not too difficult.

For starters, you can structure your staff’s time so that your patients feel throughout their visit, that your staff’s primary focus is on them. A warm smile upon arrival, a friendly “let me know if I can help you with anything” or a fresh cup of water will do magic for your patient’s experience.

You can also put together a short survey for patients to fill out before they leave. With some luck, you’ll get some consistent negative feedback that will give you an indication of where your staff’s weak points are. Be sure to address any negative feedback immediately, cordially, and personally.

Ask them:
a. Were you satisfied with the overall care you received today?
b. Is there anything about today’s experience that did not completely satisfy you?
c. Based on your experience, would you consider referring someone to our practice?
d. What is your favorite invasive medical procedure?

Maybe make that last one optional.

Now I know what you’re thinking. These are nice ideas, but how can it be done by a staff that’s busier than my credit card on Christmas Eve? They’re answering phone calls, booking appointments, calling patients to confirm, not to mention cleaning up the inevitable antiseptic spill!

Today there are a host of solutions available that automate a lot of your office staff’s routine communication tasks. Instead of manually calling patients to remind them of their upcoming appointments and confirm their attendance, this can be done more efficiently by automatically sending out confirmations and reminders via email and text.

Upgrading to a system like this will free up your staff’s time to better focus on the visiting patients, providing a better overall experience for your patients. And we know that an improved patient experience means a happier patient, which means increased revenue. Who wouldn’t want some of that?

One such system is Patient Communicator. In addition to the automated communication features, it includes an industry-first texting platform that enables patients to converse with your office staff using text in the same way that they would with friends and family. You can check out Patient Communicator for free, or sign up for a live demo, it’s your call.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Patient Communicator is a state-of-the-art system especially designed for health care practitioners. A win-win system for both your patients and your practice, its sophisticated features make no-shows a thing of the past. At the same time, they make it easier for patients to book appointments online, and for providers to build stronger relationships with their patients, increase revenues, and grow their practice.

Growing Your Practice From The Inside

Growing Your Practice From The Inside

New customers are 5 x more expensive than existing customers

“It takes five times more money to attract a new patient, than it does to hold on to an existing one.”

There’s a lot to be said (and done) about the importance of attracting new patients to your practice. Every practice, whether large or small, needs to have a consistent inflow of new patients in order to maintain growth rates over time. But as the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. And you’ll find study after study showing that investing in customer retention should take precedence over any other growth-related activity. Feed that bird in the hand, and it will generate more income for you than the two birds stuck in the bush.

Consider the following facts about companies that focus on customer retention:

  • They make more money: Boosting customer retention rates by just 5% can increase revenues anywhere from 25% to 95%
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  • They sell more: The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% vs 5-20% for new customers
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  • They grow faster: Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more compared to new customers

Practically speaking, all of this means that the customer you have sitting in your chair right now is more likely than anyone else to bring their family members in for their checkups. They’re also more likely to shell out the extra $500 for the fancier braces, or to try out the new cosmetic surgery you’ve been promoting.

There’s one more important thing about your existing customers, maybe the most important. A recent poll by Invesp determined that a whopping 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a place of business. Not only that, but, 72% of people said that positive online reviews make them trust the business more, and 88% of people said they trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Customers making a purchase based on positive online reviews are also likely to spend 31% more than the average new customer.

I don’t have to spell it out for you, but I will anyway. By investing in your existing customers and soliciting their reviews, they are creating a positive reputation for your practice that actually draws in new customers. I don’t think there’s an old saying about the bird in the hand helping to attract the two in the bush for you, but maybe there should be.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if you’re running an established practice with thousands of patients listed in your PMS, or if you’re fresh out of dental school. Either way, having an effective strategy for keeping your patients active and engaged is the essential ingredient to ensure the long term success of your practice.

Stay tuned to this blog in the coming weeks and months. We’ll spend some time discussing some of the most important ingredients your practice must have in order to keep your patients coming back.

If you can’t wait, you can check out the tools available from Patient Communicator, to help get you started on keeping your patients happy.

Till next time,

Meir Goodman, CEO

Keep Your Practice Full and Your Waiting Room Empty With These Simple Scheduling Tips

Keep Your Practice Full and Your Waiting Room Empty With These Simple Scheduling Tips

More efficient patient scheduling

Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School, had scheduled an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon one day for 8 am. Punctual by nature, he arrived on time, only to find that 35 other patients were all scheduled for that same 8 am time slot! You can imagine the mayhem that ensued.

This inspired Dr. Mehrotra to develop a study that measured the value of the time wasted by patients pacing across the waiting room. What he found was that even though the average appointment lasted only about 20 minutes, patients spent an average of 64 minutes waiting to be seen by the doctor. That’s a lot of solitaire. In fact, in a 2014 Bloomberg study that ranked the most efficient countries for health care, the US ranked 44th out of 51 countries!

But there is hope. A 2015 study by the Beryl Institute revealed that over 40% of health care practices make patient experience and satisfaction their top priority. With a little planning and due diligence, you too can optimize your practice’s scheduling policies to improve the patient experience.

The three most common approaches to health care practice scheduling are the Steady Stream, Pure Wave, and Modified Wave methods. In this article we will define each approach, and discuss factors that will help you determine which is the best method for your practice.

Steady Stream

In this approach each patient is assigned a predetermined appointment time and length based on their particular needs. The obvious advantage of such an approach is that appointments are scheduled with the patient’s particular needs in mind, with the focus on giving each patient exactly what they need. In a perfect world, this is the simplest and most patient-centric form of scheduling.

This method will work wonders for practices whose primary care is centered around routine procedures, such as optometric and dental hygiene facilities. It can also work for a diverse practice that has a number of highly specialized providers. The steady stream method will be the easiest and most straightforward way to schedule appointments that are even months in advance.

But when a practice provides a wide variety of treatments to different types of patients, this method could make scheduling, and keeping to that schedule, a true nightmare.

Consider a medical practice that treats patients who range in age from 20 to 65. Virtually every patient being seen on any given day will have a different type of appointment. What’s more, due to the variations in age, even a similar appointment like a routine checkup, could have different time requirements depending on the patient’s age. Scheduling with the steady stream approach would be like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, as the office manager attempts to fit all the different types appointments into a rigid timetable. This will result in costly empty time slots, and inevitable backlogs in the event that there are any delays.

Pure Wave

Unlike most surfing enthusiasts would assume, this method assigns a group of patient appointments to the top of each hour, or at particular intervals in the day. The assumption is that not everyone will arrive on time, and that patients do expect to wait a little anyway. The popularity of this method is driven by the fact that it ensures optimal productivity for each provider. There is always a patient waiting to be treated, and so no time is ever wasted. That is, except for the patient’s time.

This is the method that led to Dr. Mehrotra to conduct his study, and the one that most likely influenced its results. But to what degree should you consider your patients’ experience at the expense of your staff’s productivity?

A PwC survey of 6,000 people released this year found that 34% of people were willing to switch physicians if offered an ideal experience elsewhere. Yet another PWC study showed that personal experience had almost two times the impact on choices in healthcare than the next closest industry, hotels and hospitality. Evidence even suggests that there is a strong correlation between patient satisfaction and healthcare outcomes.

It’s no wonder that practices aim to maximize the productivity of their valuable medical staff. But, though the short term benefits of this method are clear, the effect it will have on patient satisfaction, and eventually on the practice’s bottom line, have never been clearer.

Modified Wave Approach

This method adopts the principal behind the Pure Wave approach, with a slight modification (hence the name) to make it more patient friendly. Scheduling using the Modified Wave involves double-booking the first appointment of each hour, then scheduling regular appointments after that, while leaving one empty slot at the end of each hour.

On the off chance that both patients scheduled at 9 am will arrive on time, they will only have to wait for the one appointment that is ahead of them. Though there will be some waiting involved, it’s a far cry from the national average of 64 minutes! The empty slots at the end of each hour then give the provider the ability to make up for any delays that may have occurred in the last group of appointments. It allows the practice to account to appointments that may vary slightly in length, without causing too much backlog.

Of course, if your practice has diverse procedure types that differ in length, these procedures will have to be grouped together in order to maintain a flow throughout the day.

Those who’ve worked with the Modified Wave method and are staunch supporters, still warn of a few mistakes to avoid:

  • Do not fill up the empty time slot at the end of the hour with walk-in appointments. The reasoning for this should be clear, as it undermines the significance of that slot that should be used for catching up, not to create more backlog.
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  • Avoid double-booking new patients at the top of the hours, especially during peak hours. New patients simply take more time, and their first experience should be pleasant, never rushed.

The Next Step

Take the time to do a thorough analysis of your appointment and provider types, and start experimenting with the scheduling method that seems most right for your practice. You may not get it right the first time, but simply focusing on improvement will get you closer to ideal scheduling than you ever thought possible. You’ve worked hard to build your practice, to attract patients, and to provide them with the highest quality care possible. So it goes without saying that the last reason you want to lose your patients is because they lose their patience. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.

Whatever your scheduling preferences, Patient Communicator makes everything easier with automated appointment confirmation and reminders, and a real online scheduler. The online scheduler enables your practice to set the available appointment schedule, while your patients can book their appointments online, in real time. Click here to learn more.

Sources:
State of Patient Experience 2015: A global Perspective on the Patient Experience Movement, Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D, President, The Beryl Institute, 2015
Time Spent Obtaining Physician Office Visits, K. Ray, A. Chari, J. Engberg, M. Bertolet, A. Mehrotra, American Journal of Managed Care, 2015
Customer Service Vs. Patient Care, Torpie, Kathy, Patient Experience Journal, 2014
Patient Satisfaction: Why It Matters, Grigsby, J. Eugene, National Health Foundation, 2011

About the author: Meir is the founder and CEO of Patient Communicator, a simple but feature rich platform that helps medical and dental practices of all kinds to better communicate with their patients. Meir is passionate about helping practices grow by enhancing the patient experience and improving practice efficiency. Learn more about Meir and Patient Communicator here.

The Maze of Online Scheduling Solutions: 7 Tips To Help You Through

The Maze of Online Scheduling Solutions: 7 Tips To Help You Through

online patient scheduling

You know your practice needs an online scheduling system.
But do you know which one is best for you?

Did you know?

The success of your practice depends on scheduling appointments – and on managing them efficiently. That’s why the old “receptionist/pen/appointment book” scheduling method doesn’t quite cut it anymore. But lucky for you, healthcare has recently met digital media – producing a whole range of patient communication tools and appointment scheduling systems to help you improve your office procedures.

Keep in mind though, it’s a relatively new space and there are literally hundreds of software providers out there promising to automate everything from scheduling to coffee making. So how are you supposed to know which online scheduling system offers the right features for your practice? Here are 7 things you should look out for to help you decide:

  1. Know what you want – Break down in detail the specific areas where you want this solution to help your practice. Many of the different solutions have similar features, but nearly all of them specialize in certain areas. Determine which features are absolute must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. Just like with any investment, it’s important to be clear on the goals before you dive in.
  2. Check for reliability – Before you sign on the dotted line, you want to test-drive the system. Therefore, choose a provider that offers a free trial that will give you enough training and time to test the waters. You want to get hands-on experience with the software’s features and functionality and make sure that it delivers consistent performance over time.
  3. Make sure it’s user-friendly – Does your staff need a doctorate in software engineering to use the system? Do your patients need to be tech-savvy? Does the system work with all platforms and get the job done with as few clicks as possible? An appointment scheduling software should be designed for simplicity and ease of use, because if it’s simple, people will use it.
  4. Choose only a Web-based software – If it’s not available online – and accessible to your staff and patients wherever they may be – then it doesn’t serve your intended purpose of having patients schedule their own appointments or your employees processing them efficiently. Nuf said.
  5. Look for security protocols – Appointment scheduling systems may give you convenience, but they also bring into focus privacy and confidentiality issues. Make sure the system is HIPAA compliant, and that it can safely store your patients’ personal information, including financial data if applicable.
  6. Seek calendar manageability – Will the system let you have total control? For example, will you be able to manipulate provider availability and procedure details hassle-free? At the same time, will the calendar be tamper-proof, with features that will mitigate scheduling errors and prevent appointments from falling through the cracks?
  7. Test customer support – Accurate and efficient appointment scheduling is critical to your practice. And investing in a software provider is serious business that demands nothing less than top-of-the-line customer service. Select the provider that can give you high-level technical and other support from software setup to post-sale service.

So do your homework.

If you want a good place to start, check out Patient Communicator’s Online Scheduler and what it can do for your practice – risk-free! Or contact us for a live online demo or to get started on a 30-day free trial.

Patient Communicator provides a first-in-class online scheduling and automated messaging solution especially designed for medical and dental practitioners. A win-win system for both your patients and your practice, its sophisticated features include Automated Confirmations & Reminders, True 2-Way Texting, Online Scheduler, Reviews & Surveys, and Marketing Tools. The solution drastically reduces no-shows, makes it easier for patients to book appointments, and for providers to build stronger relationships with their patients, and grow their practice.

About the author: Meir is the founder and CEO of Patient Communicator, a simple but feature rich platform that helps medical and dental practices of all kinds to better communicate with their patients. Meir is passionate about helping practices grow by enhancing the patient experience and improving practice efficiency. Learn more about Meir and Patient Communicator here.