In 2020, patient experience, satisfaction, and retention are critical areas of focus for most medical and dental practices in the United States.
If you have recently surveyed your patients (a practice I highly recommend), it’s likely that the three key issues I’ve highlighted below have shown up on your results.
How are you treating these comment ailments at your clinic?
#10) The Ailment: You Make it Too Hard to Schedule Appointments
In a recent Healthcare Consumer Insights survey, sponsored by Binary Fountain, appointment scheduling was revealed as one of the greatest pain points in patient experience. In fact, fully 20% of patient respondents said that simply setting up their appointment was their biggest frustration in the entire patient journey. Even more strikingly, that number has been growing dramatically, having shot up 129% in just one year. Patients want their scheduling process to be convenient, seamless, and reliably documented. But if you’re reading that as a preference for online scheduling, you might be surprised to learn that far more patients – 47%, in fact – want to be able to set up their appointment over the phone. (Compare that to only 29% who prefer setting up their own appointments on the clinic website.)
Why is scheduling so hard for your patients who call into your office? Probably because your office staff is busy greeting and checking in new arrivals, answering urgent patient calls, and tending to the normal, often urgent needs that arise in a patient-centric office setting.
It might be time to take a long, hard look at the bandwidth of your current front office staff. Can you afford to dedicate sufficient staff to only answering appointment scheduling calls? Do you have people on staff who are highly skilled and capable of representing your practice to both new and existing patients? If you’re answering no, you can hire, train, and supervise a team who can handle this for you. If those steps sound unrealistic, you’re not alone. Increasingly, medical and dental practices are truning to outsourcing partners to handle appointment setting. At Skybridge Americas, we have a full time staff of highly trained appointment schedulers who make sure everything is set up correctly, professionally, and efficiently.
#2) The Ailment: Your Online Reviews Don’t Match Their Personal Referral
Today, just about everybody – every body – who gets a referral to a new doctor is going to hop online to check that doctor out. And, according to the Binary Fountain study, the number of patients who express concern about their doctor’s reputation in the community has grown by 167% since 2017 their concern with a doctor’s specific track record for treating illness has increased by 124%. So when these patients search you online, they’re seeking reassurance that you are competent, caring, and reliable. When they find a handful of scathing reviews – and nothing positive to counterbalance them – they are likely to look elsewhere.
Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away (but it may have that effect on your patients). Even long-standing patients will occasionally check out your ratings. When they do, they need to see that your online reputation matches their needs. In other words, show awareness, care, and responsiveness when patients post reviews. When someone compliments anyone or anything in your practice – no matter how big or small the comment –respond promptly and graciously. Conversely, if you find a bad review, do the same. While the comment may seem unfair, incomplete or completely false, your response needs to showcase your professionalism and care and again, responsiveness. Invite negative commenters to contact your office directly so you can resolve misunderstandings. If your practice has gone through a bad patch in the past and you’re facing an overwhelmingly large amount of negative online feedback, you may need to hire a professional reputation management service.
#3) The Ailment: You Make Them Wait, and Wait, and Wait
More patients (27%) pointed to wait times as their biggest frustration with the patient experience. Think about it. When patients call your front desk for an appointment, chances are they’ll be placed on hold at least once while your hard working staff tend to someone else who is either already on hold, calling in, or standing in front them, waiting for help. Once patients arrive for their appointment, they’re likely to wait for more than 20 minutes before seeing you. Then afterward, many patients face uncertain and often worrisome wait times as before receiving test results.
While some of these challenges may remain outside your control, an outsource partner can help you streamline and improve your scheduling process. Phone hold times are reduced to negligible amounts. And automated appointment reminders can help you reduce your no-shows and late shows, keeping all appointments closer to their scheduled start times.
At Skybridge Americas, we are experts in delivering superior patient experience. If you would like to know more about we can help you improve patient satisfaction and retention, please reach out. We would love to talk!
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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