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How to Improve the Patient Experience In a Medical Practice

February 21, 2019

Patient-experienceEvery practice and health organization, regardless of size or specialty, needs to step back from time to time and evaluate their patients’ experiences and satisfaction levels. With more patients flexing their consumer muscles and taking on more financial responsibility for their health care expenses, providers no longer can afford to do “business as usual.”

With increasing evidence that better provider-patient relations can improve overall care outcomes, the ACA put in place quality and satisfaction measures intended to change physician behavior with the goal of improving the patient experience.

Start with the correct metrics

You can’t manage what isn’t measured: since the practice is being judged on the patient experience, your organization needs to understand the importance of measuring its performance, with a commitment from staff and providers alike.

To measure anything, we need to know what we are measuring, and what we will use as a benchmark to measure improvement and growth.

To illustrate with a couple of examples, in the call center with first-call resolution greater than 80 percent and with 90 percent of patients calling before noon scheduled for the following day, the use of patient portals should be expected to produce a 82 percent likelihood of patients recommending a higher score.

Remember that metrics can be manually collected from records and other data or by abstracted through a computer system. The value of the metrics used is only realized when both staff and practice leadership all learn from and apply the lessons to changes in behavior to achieve the potential results.

It takes a team

Since no one person can give a patient everything needed, making the approach of care as team-based ensures that patients receive coordinated, consistent, predictable and efficient care by all healthcare team members. For example, consider the following team-based procedures for exam rooms:

  • Appointments are created allowing for new and returning patients to have same-day access to care.
  • A patient’s first contact point should ideally have a first-call resolution at least 80 percent of the time.
  • Supplies are provided in each exam room with an organized and clean approach.
  • Patient visit prep is handled before the scheduled appointment to ensure that test results and paperwork are in place to smooth the process for provider and patient.

Using a team-based approach as well as standardized work procedures can be expected to pay off with better access to care and providers with value-added time faster call resolution, less wait time and fewer unanticipated delays.

Call center challenges

Your call center must deal with questions from patients, payers and others. Are there protocols in place to follow to ensure that calls are routed to the correct respondent who is qualified to answer medical questions?  Keep phone lines open during staff breaks, answer phones promptly, be diligent in returning calls and emails, and keep track during the check-in process by fully utilizing the tools and templates your system provides.

Templates improve scheduling

One care center decided to standardize template scheduling guidelines with same-day access, fewer visit-types, with restrictions to accessing scheduled blocks to a clinical manager and physician site-lead. The focus was realigned around the patient, with providers open to seeing each other’s patients. Scheduling became more streamlined, patient satisfaction increased and everyone was happy – including the payers.

Reducing EHR-related stress

With the increasing emphasis on documentation comes the inevitable stress and frustrations that accompany learning and working with systems that are not always compatible and easy to interface. To minimize inconveniencing patients as well as ease the reporting burden on providers and other users, try the following:

  • Make patient “face-time” a priority, even to the extent that a scribe may need to be hired to free you up for giving patients your full attention and time, with less time in the office and more in the examining room.
  • Encourage staff to help brainstorm new ways to ease reporting burdens, perhaps by taking on different responsibilities that can contribute to their professional development and growth while helping you.

While not all EHR-related stressors can be eliminated, taking time off to get away from the office and “recharge” can leave you and your staff feeling renewed and able to handle the day’s tasks.

Consider utilizing a concierge system

Standardization doesn’t have to mean centralization: one facility reduced patient wait times by creating a concierge line that helped provide a “warm transfer” of patients to a central location where staff could redirect them to another nearby location for a same-day appointment. Recognizing that patients would simply go to an ER or an outside provider, transfer to a concierge line by staff using the EHR  helped patients be seen by another provider member at the medical organization’s satellite location.

Benefits of patient satisfaction

Proactively improving work flow, reducing both employee and patient stress levels by taking advantage of EHR scheduling templates, improving communications between providers, patients and other staff and assuring that patient questions and other needs are met will help achieve your outcome goals without having to spend either significant amounts of time, money or resources.

Increased engagement by patients results in better compliance with physician directives. When used as a metric by payers, patient satisfaction increases revenue. Finally, a positive experience boosts the facility’s reputation among healthcare consumers.

Team up with an experienced billing and practice management service

Perhaps one of the most important team players that healthcare leaders can bring on board is a trustworthy, experienced medical practice billing and management service. Since 2002, M-Scribe has been in the business of assisting practices with their medical billing, claims follow-up and tracking as well as other necessary services including pre-audit checkups and more revenue-enhancing activities.

With state-of-the-art software and other technologies, M-Scribe can work with the most popular systems and platforms in use today by practices regardless of size or specialty. Contact them at 770-666-0470 or by email to learn more about boosting your revenue while adhering to the latest payer and government billing and reporting regulations.

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