Rolling Out the Red Carpet to Create Positive New Patient Experience
Patient experience is one of the top three priorities of hospital leaders in today’s healthcare environment. This is largely due to the common association between improved patient experience and lower medical malpractice risk, higher hospital profitability, and increased overall employee satisfaction.
Focusing on improving the patient experience for new patients has gained in popularity recently, and organizations are focusing on developing techniques to attract new and maintain relationships with patients. Patients often decide whether to stick with or change providers based upon experience. Relationship quality is a major predictor of patient loyalty.
No matter the industry, referrals from trusted sources are consistently one of the top drivers of customer/client/patient acquisition. Even reviews online have been increasing in credibility and often influence people’s choice of where to eat, shop or go for care. Patients are no different when shopping for healthcare providers. Patients are shopping around, and if you’re organization has a 2-star rating, it’s likely they’ll shop elsewhere.
Research has shown better patient experience scores are associated with higher hospital profitability, and that this association is strongest for aspects of patient experience most likely to be associated with better clinical care.
So, what can your marketing team do to help enhance the new patient experience?
Roll Out the Red Carpet
You do not literally have to lay down a red carpet, although this might be a nice, little PR stunt. The point is, practices need to create a VIP experience by putting in place a few procedures, starting with the initial phone call.
From the First Phone Call
When a new patient calls for the first time, there needs to be a script written followed by all staff members who answer the phone. The phone call should capture all the basic information without being overwhelming. It’s important to capture how the new patient heard about the office, and if it was a referral, who referred them. This is so you can make a note and thank this individual with a letter or email from the doctor. A little recognition can go a long way. A referral gift incentive is also a great way to say, “thank you” and get additional referrals in the future.
Once you have all the information needed, make sure to fit them in the schedule as early as possible, offering both morning and afternoon options to increase the likelihood of finding a time that works. Before you end the call, provide the option of emailing or mailing a new patient packet ahead of time. This will cut down on their wait time in the office and let them fill out the paperwork at their own pace.
To the First Foot in the Door
When the new patient arrives, be sure to greet them using their name and thank them for choosing your office. Have a small New Patient gift to give them once they provide you with their new patient packet (In a gift bag with a small promo item such as a mug with your logo). Before they sit down, offer them a beverage while they wait or ask if you can get them anything.
Stick to the Schedule
Staying on schedule is key for a new patient’s first experience with your office. Things happen, so be sure to have things like beverages, television, and magazines available in case of a backup.
The red carpet treatment doesn’t stop after the patient’s appointment is over. A few follow up techniques should be put in place. Keep track of following up with patients via phone calls and postcards/emails over the next 3-6 months. The best way to follow up with a new patient is to send a thank you letter/email (or even a text) with a survey within the first week after the appointment. Measuring the patient’s experience will give you the tools needed to keep referrals and current patients coming. And don’t miss the opportunity to stay in touch via social media. Encourage your patients to follow you on your social media channels, so you can keep up with them more effectively and efficiently.
Following these steps, and going above and beyond to optimize the experience for your new patients is critical to your success, but don’t forget about existing patients. This same level of service should be offered to all patients, no matter how long they’ve been with you.