What Do Patients Want?

“The rung of a ladder was never to meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”   -Thomas Huxley

According to research from The PwC Health Research Institute in 2012, consumers expect the same amenities and customer services from their health-care providers that they do from hotels, banks, airlines, restaurants, and retailers. Are we offering them those services?

There is a real evolution happening in health care and many providers are simply not seeing it. When was the last time you actually visited a colleague’s office or clinic? How about 5 or 10 colleagues? If they are down the hall, that doesn’t really count. The point is there are many things that individual practices are doing to improve the patient experience, and many of those things are not being shared.

Have you ever approached your office as if you were a patient? Try walking in through the front door and look at your entry, carpet, signs, waiting areas and front desk and think about the impression your next new patient is likely to get of you and your practice. There are likely a few things you can improve that cost no money and little effort, and that will have a positive impact on your patients’ perceptions. Remember, smiling at the front desk is free, and is grossly undervalued by those of us in the office every day.

Another thing to consider is your patients’ experience before they ever get to your office. What does your website look like? Is it clean and easy to navigate? Do you have a way for new and current patients to request an appointment with you, especially when the office is closed? Is your phone number prominently displayed (with area code) in the upper right corner so they can easily call or touch your number on their mobile phone? More and more people are searching and briefly looking at websites upon being referred to you in order to validate the decision to come see you. Make it easy on them by putting your phone number on display, and offer an option to request an appointment from their device during hours when there is no one at your office to answer your phones.

Other amenities you might consider are online bill pay, a map link or google map embedded image, and a way to email your office without feeling like they are passing through airport security. Patients are remarkably respectful of provider emails in most cases. Those practices who have their providers’ emails posted on their sites occasionally deal with spam, but seldom with problems with real people emailing them anything abusive or inappropriate, or even problems of volume.

Patients want access, kindness and to get better when they are ill or hurt. But most importantly they want to know you and your entire team care, and that they matter. Letting them know that they do could be as simple as smiling and listening.

This post also appears on the ScheduleDoc Blog

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