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How to Improve Patient Experience: A Guide for Healthcare Providers

You enter a building and are greeted with a smile and a warm voice saying, “Welcome! Come on in, take a seat, sit down, sit down—can I take your coat?” Where are you? A friend’s home? A fine restaurant?

We’ve all experienced at some point what it’s like to not just be a guest, but be truly welcomed. However, in healthcare organizations across the country, patients experience something vastly different.

The typical arrival at a clinic or hospital is something more like hesitantly approaching a receptionist’s desk and having a clipboard thrust at you from behind a computer monitor. But it doesn’t need to be this way—in fact, it shouldn’t be. By improving patient experiences throughout their visit, everyone wins.

Why Improving Patient Experience Matters

As friction between patients and healthcare providers grows, it’s increasingly important to improve patient experiences. The reasons for doing so are twofold. For one, it benefits patients:

  • Patients may be more likely to perform components of at-home care regularly when they have a better experience. For patients with chronic conditions, this is critical for achieving the best possible quality of life.
  • Patients are more likely to follow medical advice and therefore achieve better health outcomes when they have a better experience.

Secondarily, by improving patient experiences, healthcare organizations can improve their business outcomes:

  • Improved patient experience can reduce the risk of medical errors and malpractice suits. Each medical error could potentially expose your organization to millions of dollars in liabilities.
  • Improving patient experiences can improve employee satisfaction. In the healthcare field, where turnover is not only high, but also incredibly costly, it’s vital to find creative ways to retain staff.
  • Patients’ experiences also dictate whether they stay with you as a provider. Evidence shows that hospitals providing outstanding patient experiences can see net margins 50% higher than hospitals providing an average patient experience.

In short, patient experience isn’t an overhyped gimmick that won’t actually push the needle. On the contrary, it has very real implications for your patients’ health outcomes and your organization’s business.

How to Improve the Patient Experience

If you don’t know where to start improving the patient experience in your organization, consider taking some of these steps:

Simplify the Arrival Process

In modern healthcare, the process of improving a patient’s experience begins long before they even step foot in your hospital or office. By making paperwork and scheduling available online and sending reminders about upcoming appointments, you can prepare your patients for their visit and simplify the arrival process.

It’s common for patients to need to arrive as much as 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork that often seems redundant. Many patients take time away from work to get care, and minimizing the amount of time they spend on tasks such as paperwork can reduce their stress the day of the appointment.

Finally, ensure that you have the paperwork each patient needs to complete ready upon their arrival, with a pen that’s in working order. While having arrival paperwork available online is ideal, some patients may still choose to do it in person, as it may be easier for them.

Emulate The Hospitality Industry

First impressions matter, and rising above the standard arrival procedures in healthcare can go a long way in making patients feel welcome, comfortable, and like they’re being cared for from the moment they walk through the doors.

When patients do arrive, be ready for them. Be able to direct them where they can hang their coat and set down any belongings, and where they can find a comfortable seat. Let them know when they’re fully checked in, how long they can expect to wait, and who they’ll be seen by.

Include Family and Caretakers in the Care Discussion

Many patients will arrive with family members or caretakers. If they’ve consented to having those individuals present, ask to include them in discussions following any examinations. Family members and care takers can be incredibly helpful both for practitioners and patients.

By having family members present, physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants may learn new information that’s helpful for the treatment process. Additionally, it can help remove the burden and stress of having to repeat it all to their family, and increase the level of accountability they’ll have during their treatment.

Finally, recognize that no matter how comforting a physician's or nurse practitioners’ bedside manner is, it can be intimidating to take in serious health information from someone who’s nearly a stranger. Having a caretaker or family member present can put patients at ease and improve the patient experience.

Send Follow-Up Surveys

After your patient’s appointment ends, follow up with them before they leave. During this time, take the opportunity to ensure they have everything they need—prescriptions, forms, paperwork, notes, or anything else. Gather additional contact information if needed to send follow-up emails, and try to get any necessary follow-up appointments on the books during this time.

Then, send them feedback forms and surveys to learn more about their experience with you. Without feedback, your ability to improve patient experiences is severely limited. Feedback from patients will allow your organization to understand the pain points from the perspective of a patient.

Finally, take the time to respond to that feedback. Doing so can help patients feel validated and reinforce the message that you care about them, their health, and their experience getting care.

Engage Your Teams

Patient experience is a crucial part of providing care, but that care is provided in a system. For a system to function well for patients, it ultimately needs to be functioning well for practitioners too. When physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants aren’t engaged in their roles, patient care suffers. Nurse practitioner engagement is a massive predictor of mortality rates in hospitals, for example.

Engaging your team isn’t always simple and is just part of a broader need for hospitals and healthcare organizations to mitigate burnout, but you can take steps toward it by leaning on technology and the IOT to streamline administrative tasks and reduce the amount of time healthcare professionals spend on those tasks. Utilizing technology to its fullest can leave more time for your teams to strategize, think creatively and find new solutions to healthcare problems, and help one another out, ultimately increasing their engagement.

You can also engage your teams through things like unconscious or implicit bias training and diversity training. By presenting a new lens to view their work through, staff may be more engaged with their work. Engagement can also be improved through continuing education. Not only does continuing education provide nurse practitioners, physicians, and physician assistants with new skills and knowledge that will benefit your organization and patients, but it will remind them why they entered the field. Be willing to invest in the best CME experience for your healthcare professionals, as not only will it benefit your staff, but it can have a profound impact on your patients’ experiences.

Turn to the Best Provider for CME

Improving patient experiences is vital for your organization’s success, impacting both your patients’ health outcomes and your organization’s performance, and it starts with engaging your staff.

For over 30 years, Continuing Education Company has been one of the leading CME providers in the U.S. Our accredited curriculum is developed by a committee of physicians, pharmacists, and medical educators with deep clinical and facilitation experience. Our conferences and online courses engage physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, giving them new knowledge to bring back into the healthcare setting.

To learn more about how our courses can benefit your organization, check out our upcoming conferences or view our online courses today.

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