We get it. Patients want a better experience. But what does this really mean? The elusive positive patient experience may seem challenging to get right without clear direction from none other than the patient.

Catalyst Healthcare Research conducted a study of 400 baby boomers living in the US. This age group was selected because it was believed by the researchers to represent a large segment of society and consistent users of healthcare. The information gathered was useful. It provides healthcare providers with something concrete to use for improvement. Here are ten things patients reported that you can implement in your practice to improve the patient experience today:

  1. Provide patients with a summary of the visit. Patients want to walk away with something concrete that they can return to when reviewing their options or speaking with loved ones. This should include a medical diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. Patients want to be more active in their healthcare. Help them by providing the information needed in black and white.
  2. Spend less time typing away during the appointment and more time making eye contact with patients and having a dialogue. Patients want to feel that they have the undivided attention of their provider. There is nothing like eye contact to achieve this.
  3.  Provide patients with a written estimate of the expected charges associated with having any procedures prior to surgery day.
  4. Offer free WiFi for patients to use while in the waiting room (or exam room).
  5. Send patients a text message about 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment time if the doctor is running behind. There is nothing more frustrating for a patient then waiting to see the doctor. Honor their time by giving them a heads up when the doctor is behind schedule and offer them an option to reschedule or come in a little later.
  6. Don’t switch the provider a patient is scheduled to see from doctor to nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant without first asking the patient if that is okay. Emergencies happen, but don’t surprise the patient by not informing them they will be seeing someone else during their exam.
  7. Offer patients the ability to log in to an application or website securely to view test results or send messages to the doctor.
  8. If it is recommended that a patient change their treatment, talk to them about the reasoning first (ie: changing prescription medications)

A couple that I would like to add after years of working in healthcare practices include:

  1. Provide patients with a beverage station. Have coffee and water available to patients in the waiting room. If possible, offer snacks as well – especially in fee for service practices.
  2. Place a call to the patient following the appointment checking in to see how they are doing.

Having clear instructions on what needs to be done to improve the patient experience will help you give the exceptional service patients desire. Getting out of routines will be the biggest challenge but can be overcome with repetition. The patient experience is directly tied to the success of a practice. Make the most out of each encounter and you will prosper.