Medical Practice Management

Improving Patient Experience in Your Practice in 3 Steps

Women today seek a high-quality patient experience when they visit their gynecologist and other medical professionals.

Today's medical patients are savvy consumers. That's especially true of women — 8 in 10 of whom take chief responsibility for family healthcare decisions, according to the "Women's Health Care Chartbook" from Kaiser Women's Health. As with all healthcare consumers, women seek a high-quality patient experience when they visit their gynecologist.

Enhancing the Patient Experience

The first goal of any physician is to deliver excellent medical care and aim for good outcomes. However, good medical outcomes don't always guarantee loyal patients. Contemporary OB/GYN noted that providing patients with a positive experience leads to retention, loyalty and practice growth. Women who are highly satisfied when leaving the office are also more likely to share that news with others.

Patient satisfaction is associated with better health outcomes as well. This is partly because when a patient has more trust in her physician, she is more likely to follow the doctor's advice, according to research published in Patient Related Outcome Measures. Satisfied patients are also less likely to sue. The same study found that women are generally happy with their gynecologists and obstetricians, rating them 55 percent higher than other specialties.

What a Girl Wants

Some patient experience factors apply across all genders and demographics, but women are a unique subset and have slightly different expectations. A study by Prophet and GE Healthcare Camden Group titled "The State of Consumer Healthcare: A Study of Patient Experience" found that women tend to take responsibility for their own health and are fairly confident in their ability to understand health information. 

In general, women have many of the same needs as other healthcare consumers. Their experience boils down to three main factors: convenience, cost and relationship.

1. Convenience

In survey after survey, patients indicated that they value convenience in their healthcare. In today's environment, it's common for a woman to have to wait weeks, if not months, to see her gynecologist. When she shows up in the office, she may be taking time off work, paying for a sitter to watch her kids or toting a child whose patience will only last so long.

In the same study published in Patient Related Outcome Measures, a wait time of less than 15 minutes led to a patient satisfaction score of more than 88. Meanwhile, a wait time of 45 to 60 minutes lowered the score to just over 43.

Establishing a quality, well-managed scheduling system is key to keeping patients moving in and out of your office in a timely manner. Physicians Practice recommended building accountability into your practice management system by tracking patients starting when they check in.

Other tools such as online scheduling, text message reminders, extended hours, online health information portals, online bill paying and email also promote convenience. These factors may become more important over time as millennials start to make up a larger portion of the patient base.

2. Cost

Patients are consumers, and they spend a lot of money out of pocket. Although a study by the Society for Participatory Medicine found that patients primarily valued interactions with their doctors, many of their comments focused on tests. Patients surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with being sent off for tests, especially if the doctor didn't adequately explain the reason they were needed.

Patients want to know why interventions are necessary and how much they will cost. The capability to provide services in-house improves convenience for patients, especially when it saves them the hassle of making another appointment.

3. Relationships

Telemedicine is gaining popularity, but Prophet's research found that women still value face-to-face interactions with their doctors. They want providers who listen and thoroughly explain complex information. Women are proactive about their health and want detailed information about prevention.

Empathy is also an important factor. Your time in the office is limited, but taking simple measures such as sitting down when talking to your patients can make the visit seem longer and less rushed.

If you have a good relationship with a patient, don't be afraid to ask her to post a positive review. Patients often search online for doctors with a good reputation. Having more positive reviews out there about you also encourages growth in your practice.

Patients are the main driver behind your practice, and they want to know that their time and patronage is important to you. Focusing on their needs and satisfaction is the best way to strengthen relationships, foster trust and increase loyalty, which can help your practice find long-term success and stability.