The COVID-19 pandemic has forever altered the demand on health systems; the healthcare industry has learned many lessons and has evolved to find a “new normal.” While this environment looks different, the patient experience whether — positive or negative — begins with their access to care, and it defines their relationship with the organization going forward, with 80% of patients willing to change providers based on convenience factors. A patient’s experience is not only how employees interact with a patient; it’s also about the patient’s process of getting the care they want and need.
With value-based care accelerating efforts to improve the patient experience with a proactive approach, 87% of health care leaders list patient access as a top priority for health system leaders and innovators. Here are five steps to consider when looking to improve patient outcomes.
1. Make empathy a priority in all interactions. Empathy is recognizing and validating a patient’s pain, worry and fear. Sixty-five percent of patient satisfaction was attributed to provider empathy, according to Science Daily. Expressing empathy should start at the point a patient isn’t feeling well and wants to make an appointment. When staff can better understand a patient’s emotions, they can better demonstrate empathy by acknowledging the patient’s concerns and reassuring them they’ve come to the right place for care. Focus on educating your staff on best practices and enhancing their skills in communicating with patients to ensure the best outcomes. Organizations can develop custom training programs that leverage voice analytics tools that listen for and detect empathy, looking for keywords and emotions, ensuring patients understand their visit instructions, and making certain they’re given the information they need to navigate their appointments.
2. Work toward patient-centered communication and access to care. Patients want a more consumer-driven approach to obtaining care. Many are now expecting to communicate or make appointments with their care team from their mobile devices or through other digital channels. Look for self-service opportunities so access to care is more readily available and convenient. The ability to meet patients where they are is fundamental to empowering them in their own care — and ensuring a stronger partnership for better outcomes.
3. Centralized or coordinated scheduling can benefit both staff and patients. Transferring the responsibility of scheduling from clinical staff to a centralized patient access team or center allows clinical staff to use the full extent of their education, training and experience in patient care. And this can give more appointment options to patients, lessen their wait times, and reduce the risk of no shows or leakage. The decision to move to this model should be well-reasoned and involve key stakeholders, both clinical and operational, throughout the process. There are many aspects to consider when planning for this type of operational model, but involving key stakeholders responsible for patient care and coordination in the planning and decision will help with process adoption going forward.
4. Enable employees with resources and tools. Provider scheduling templates often are so complex that those scheduling for patients don’t know how to accurately do it. And that leaves slots unfilled on providers’ schedules. Not having the right resources and tools can result in patient and employee dissatisfaction as well as safety issues, which all cost health systems in lost revenue. Empower and enable your teams with the tools like data-rich dashboards, credentialing software, automated insurance verification and prior authorizations workflows. Accelerating an organization’s digital transformation with the right tools can help mitigate care team burnout and improve care delivery by reducing mundane, time-consuming administrative tasks.
5. Data-driven platforms inform decision making. Data is critically important to delivering real-time insights to inform clinical decisions and automation to improve workflows. Unlocking the predictive power of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered software with easily accessible analytics tools and dashboards allows care teams to make informed decisions faster — and improve care coordination. This can reduce care team and patient frustrations and speed time to revenue realization. For example, AI-powered software could help improve scheduling workflows, reduce patient no-show rates, and enable seamless insurance verifications and prior authorization — allowing care teams to focus on what matters most. Healthcare leaders can also leverage AI to inform executive decisions for better resource management and financial decisions. It’s imperative to seek input from the consumers of these AI tools to ensure the metrics are meaningful, provide actionable data and improve targeted outcomes.
Patient access — whether virtual, in-person, or both — is the front door to the health system and care providers. Developing a plan with the ideal patient access experience in mind — and involving key stakeholders in planning and execution — will be the key to an organization’s success. Collectively, health systems can work together to scale and sustain lessons learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to innovate for better patient access and enriched patient outcomes in the future.