In short, the difference between the patient journey and patient experience is about path vs. perception. The patient journey is the path patients take to engage with a medical provider, while the patient experience is the patient’s perception of that journey. Was the patient frustrated while making an appointment? Or was it a seamless experience?
To put it simply:
- Investing in ways to reduce friction throughout the patient journey lays the groundwork for a better patient experience.
- Enhanced patient experiences mean enhanced patient satisfaction.
- Greater patient satisfaction means more patient loyalty.
Reducing Friction in the Patient Journey
Healthcare providers must lay the groundwork of awareness via multi-channel touchpoints prior to the patient even considering making that first appointment. Because like a typical customer journey, the patient journey can begin even before the patient has recognition of needs.
Tip #1 - Ensure Your Practice is Top of Mind
- Get their attention BEFORE there is a need with direct mail – Within your direct mail campaigns, specifically target new movers so that when the need does arise, your office or facility is the first one that pops into their head.
- Show that you care by creating a personalized, multi-channel experience. Nowadays, it’s easy to link that same patient data (first name, last name, address) used for the direct mail campaign to an online experience. Through a combination of unique QR codes and dynamic landing pages, your direct mailer can link your prospective patient to a personalized landing page that encourages them to take the first step in engaging with your medical office.
- When there is a need, provide them with free resources – online or print. Patients have questions that your practice is uniquely positioned to answer. When a prospective patient begins searching for that answer, ensure that your practice is there with free, accessible resources that are available in the patient’s preferred medium, whether that’s a blog or a brochure.
Using mediums like email, social media, direct mail, and more enables healthcare providers to generate awareness so that their facility is top of mind if and when the patient reaches that recognition of needs stage within the patient journey.
Tip #2 - Remove Barriers that Patients Encounter Pre-Visit
Whether the patient experiences the onset of symptoms or is just due for routine preventative care, once the patient wants to engage with a healthcare provider and thinks of your facility first, it’s important to capitalize on the opportunity by leveraging multi-channel touchpoints and removing as many barriers as possible. Here are some ways that healthcare providers can incorporate multi-channel touchpoints to communicate clearly and remove barriers:
- Offer Options – Make it easy for the patient to engage by offering online and over-the-phone appointment options.
- Remove Uncertainty through Clear Communication – Healthcare providers can use a combination of SMS communications, email, and direct mail to confirm appointments, remind patients of upcoming appointments, offer guidelines around what the patient needs to bring to the appointment, as well as how to contact the facility should the patient have any questions.
Tip #3 - Ensure an Ideal Patient Experience During the Visit
While healthcare providers cannot always control the time a patient spends in the waiting room, they can control the experience within the waiting room.
- Have Clear Signage that Answers Patient Questions – Whether it’s a digital kiosk that enables the patient to sign in upon arrival, or clear markers of where things like the bathroom or checkout are, clear signage removes uncertainty for the patient, which makes for a better patient experience.
- Make Resources + Educational Materials Readily Available – Offering brochures, posters, or interactive displays with information on services you provide, resources patients can access that they may not know about, medical conditions, etc. enable patients to use their wait time more productively while positioning your practice as a trusted resource. For example, create an informational pamphlet talking about “Early Detection – Know the Signs of a Stroke.” By creating this educational piece, you could potentially contribute to saving someone’s life.
Check out this story of a wife recalling a Heart & Stroke TV commercial and saving her husband’s life.
Tip #4 - Don’t Forget to Follow-Up with Patients Post-Visit
According to Becker’s Healthcare, a whopping 83% of Americans do NOT follow treatment plans prescribed by their physician. That said, 42% of patients are more likely to follow treatment plans if they receive encouragement from their doctor.
This is an easy problem to address, but the fact that 1 in 2 patients are not contacted by their doctor in-between visits suggests that healthcare providers are failing in the post-visit follow-up department. When you follow up with patients, it must be genuine and personalized. This might feel like a tedious and time-consuming task but you can actually “automate” the follow-ups:
- Send a survey email – Not only are you ensuring that your patient is following your orders and if the treatment is working, but you can also receive feedback on how YOU are doing.
Send them personalized mail – Follow-up with the instructions you gave them or even include a QR code that directs them to their patient portal.
By leveraging multi-channel touchpoints, you create effective and transparent communication between you and your patients. Once consistent communications are established, you drastically increase the chances of patients returning to your facility for future needs.
Still curious about how you can improve the patient experience?