Specialty Care Providers: Here’s How to Improve Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction has long been a hot topic for healthcare leaders. It’s directly linked to reimbursement and patient retention. When thinking about how to improve patient satisfaction, healthcare organizations should evaluate the overall patient experience of care – the range of interactions between patients and care team members in varying clinical settings across the healthcare system.

Improving the patient experience hinges on the ability of providers to deliver whole-person, patient-centered care. This isn’t a new concept. But what is new, are the tools available to help healthcare providers leap common barriers when delivering patient-centered care.

We will look at five strategies that innovative specialty care organizations are using to improve communication among care team members and patients, close gaps in care, reduce errors, and generally increase staff and patient happiness. But first, let’s quickly identify some patient experience satisfaction barriers.

 

What Ruins Patient Experience Satisfaction Levels?

Several aspects of a patient-centered experience – especially good communication between patients and providers – are tied to higher quality care and better clinical outcomes, says the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Unfortunately, the U.S. healthcare system does not organically put patients at the center. Especially for patients with complex or chronic conditions who receive care across multiple subspecialties, the experience can be siloed and fragmented. 

Other top challenges include:

  • Inefficiencies that pose time constraints, limiting the ability of clinicians to form personal connections with patients 
  • Lack of alignment among care coordinators and clinical team members regarding the patient’s treatment and progress
  • Unwieldy systems that make it difficult to organize patient data into a single view so that clinicians can get that at-a-glance picture of the whole patient.

Now, let’s look at the five improvement strategies.

 

Five Strategies to Improve Patient Experience and Satisfaction

Care management platforms with automation capabilities give providers a major advantage in improving value-based care experience for both patients and care team members. These tools drive efficiency, which is critical to improving care delivery, but it goes deeper than that.

The right platform can unlock clinicians’ ability to develop stronger relationships with patients. It will serve as a tool to deepen engagement with patients, empowering them to take an active role in their own healthcare and treatment, positively impacting health outcomes

The following five recommendations describe ways specialty providers can make changes that have a real impact on patients’ health and happiness. These strategies also support patient satisfaction in the context of the hospital consumer assessment of healthcare providers & systems (HCAHPS) survey, particularly by strengthening communication and responsiveness.

 

1. Give clinicians time back to strengthen patient relationships

The personal connection between clinicians and patients correlates strongly with higher patient engagement and better health outcomes. But like any relationship, it takes time to build these connections. Easier said than done – for every hour of direct patient care, physicians can spend up to two hours on desk work, research shows

How can specialty providers give clinicians significant time back in their day to make a difference in the patient experience? Enough time, for example, to spend a few extra minutes answering patients’ questions, or addressing non-clinical circumstances that might influence treatment?  

Many leading healthcare organizations are finding the answer with automation and software platforms that streamline routine tasks and workflows. 

Centralizing patient information saves time otherwise spent sorting through disparate sources (e.g., charts, and individual notes). Crucially, when clinicians have fast access to all of a patient’s relevant details, it’s easier to provide an experience that feels personalized. They can improve communication, which builds better connections and rapport.

 

2. Create a better experience for clinical team members

Research has long correlated healthcare worker satisfaction with a better patient experience.  An environment that helps clinical team members work more productively and confidently leads to better happiness and job satisfaction, which they pass along to their patients. It’s a win-win.

Providing staff members with tools that drive efficiency and confidence demonstrates support from the organization – a key factor in preventing job burnout and turnover. With this in mind, when you’re ready to commit to a new care management platform, involve end-users in the selection process so they can weigh in on the user experience.  

 

3. Work to close gaps in care

Care gaps happen when patients fail to receive the ideal course of treatment. Not closing care gaps prevents optimal outcomes and erodes patient satisfaction and trust. But by using intelligent automation features that are available in care management platforms, providers can:

  • Set reminders for clinicians to monitor whether patients receive preventive care like annual appointments, vaccines, screenings, and other interventions that lead to early detection and prevention of illness 
  • Set reminders for clinicians to reach out to patients to ensure they understand their diagnosis and specifics of treatment protocol (e.g., inhaler usage, self-administration of insulin)
  • Surface all available resources specific to a patient’s condition, so clinicians can help patients fully leverage everything available.  
  • Proactively identify when a patient may need support for social determinants of health, such as transportation to medical appointments or food assistance.

4. Leverage process automation to prevent errors and support regulatory compliance

Clinicians deal with a daunting cognitive load – remembering to complete all the tasks associated with every care interaction with every patient is stressful. Automation helps prevent errors and compliance failures that can happen as a result. Here are a few examples:

  • Automated workflows and reminders reduce the mental stress of remembering to complete care plans and address care gaps.
  • Automated alerts keep everyone updated on changes in condition, unexpected hospitalizations, or ED visits so that appropriate interventions can be made at the right time.

5. Meet patients’ growing expectations for a consumer-like healthcare experience

Call it the Amazon effect: consumers today expect an experience that’s convenient and tailored to their preferences. That goes for healthcare consumers, too. Here are some ways technology can help elevate the patient experience to meet these expectations:

  • Meet patients where they are. Accommodate their preferred channel of communication for appointment scheduling and reminders (e.g., SMS text, email, a telephone call). 
  • Provide telehealth and video conferencing capabilities as options for live engagement when patients need assistance. Make sure the apps you use for this will adapt across a variety of devices and screen sizes.

And don’t forget the basics, like a clean, comfortable environment, updated systems and equipment, reasonable wait times, and hassle-free appointment scheduling. Remind staff members to pay attention to small gestures like making eye contact to make patients feel welcome. 

These customer-facing aspects of the patient experience have a huge impact on the patient experience and patient satisfaction scores. 

 

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