5 helpful tips for hospitals to improve patient experience

5 Helpful Tips for Hospitals to Enhance Patient Experience

Written by Kushal Dev | Co-founder, Customer Guru

The healthcare ecosystem is based on trust. The stakes are big and emotions run high. Patients put their trust in the hands of hospitals and their experience governs the reputation and growth of a hospital! To meet this huge responsibility, hospitals have started strategising on improving patient experience.

Hospitals that have prioritised patient experience have reaped results. It’s been a long and on going journey for them but the returns have been manifold. It has helped them establish a repeatable process for good patient experience, retain talent through improved morale and business growth by positive word of mouth is a side effect in all of this.

Some noteworthy gestures that form the basis of any good patient experience are explored in this article.

Help them deal with the waiting time

Waiting is one of the most dreaded things for patients. The waiting experience includes registration time, time to triage, time to find the physician, time for room allocation, time to treatment and time to disposition. As much as it is exhausting, it is something that is inescapable.

But, the good news is that time is relative. The waiting time can vary from eternity to ‘is that all’ according to the patient’s perception. It is this perception that we must take advantage of to implement techniques that can alter the satisfaction curve to the upside.

Giving the patients a heads up on the unavoidable formalities, the procedures involved and the estimated timeline of the respective workup could change the perception of waiting time for them. It is the uncertainty lying ahead that gives the perception of a no ending waiting time. If the waiting time exceeds the promised timeline, we must ensure that they know the reason for the delay and inform them of the updated waiting time.

All systems must be integrated with the full patient information so that much time can be saved in identifying a regular patient and a new one in order to be attended to accordingly.

Remember that it is always better to under promise and over deliver for the sake of patient’s sanity.

Empathise with the right body language

Empathy is the most over used term, yet most under practiced. And those who do practice it fail to understand that their body language too needs to be in sync with empathy. Imagine you are trying to calm a terrified patient while cleaning your desk! You body language does not convey the same message as your words. Your sincere effort goes for a toss. Instead sit down, look them in the eye and say what you really mean. Sitting down is essential. It means you are there for them physically, and giving a few minutes of your time exclusively to them. Most of the stress is mitigated with this one simple gesture!

Dig deeper into what your patients are telling you

Most of the surveys that hospitals do are in the form of options. Though it saves time for both the patient and the doctor to fill them and read respectively, it often leaves the grey areas unexpressed and therefore gives only superficial information. The wholesome background is obtained by providing spaces for them to write in detail about their experience.

Case in point : Cleveland Clinic, through the HCAHPS data discovered that most of their patients have a better experience when their caretakers smile more. In digging deeper, they found that when doctors and nurses do not smile patients interpret it as a means of hiding problems from them which leads to anxiety and impacts experience. So be a good judge of moments and do not shy away from smiling!

Be accessible, both physically and virtually

Patients want to be able to access the clinic through any medium that is convenient to them. Accessibility could be a phone call or a transportation issue. With the advent of smartphones, they expect the clinic to be ‘smart’ and have their own apps to check availability and make hassle free appointments. Being listed in online healthcare aggregation platforms can take care of the geographic accessibility while mediums such as Whatsapp helps to connect directly with nurses and doctors for quick responses.  Wherever the patients are, we must make ourselves be present.

Physically, senior leaders need to remain accessible at all times by making frequent rounds in the clinic. Engaging with the patients and their family from time to time, monitoring their progress and keeping an eye on the behaviour of care takers towards them boosts the patient’s experience.

Make them feel that they are here for the better

Ambience remains a neglected area in health care sector. A good ambience is that which makes the space resonate with positivity by all means possible.  A wall with a positive quote on it, well ventilated space, the warmth of the staffs, the frequent visits by their loved ones, the feeling of security imparted by the doctors during check up; all of these add to the ambience factor. Apart from the regular medicines, patients highly depend on such external factors to feel better and have a pleasant experience. Changing their bed sheets every day and cleaning their room as and when required are things that have immediate psychological impact on patients. ‘It’s all in the mind’, is quite apt in this case, which is why it must be in top priority to free the mind of uneasiness.

The above points are only a handful of how one can help patients have a positive experience. The important thing is for everyone to work as one single organisation towards making it a better place for the patients to stay. If you have more such points to add to this topic, we would be delighted to read them in our comments section below.

  • Maurice FitzGerald

    Good points here. I would like to a short example on the first point from way back when I was studying for my Industrial Engineering degree. Our class had projects in different industries and institutions in the city. One was in the ermergency room in the university hospital. The project was around the staffing levels. My classmate working on the project found that the staffing was opposite to the demand. The lowest staffing was around midnight, when there was peak demand due to traffic accidents and fights after the bars closed. From a pure IE perspective, optimizing a schedule required assigning a value to the time of all concerned. The doctors responsible for the service categorically refused to assign a value to the time of the patients. No problem with assigning a value to the time of everyone working for the hospital, but “Patient’s time has no value to us.” My fellow student assigned a value to patient time based on average wages in the area, but the hospital never accepted it, and did not change the staffing. I was reminded of this three weeks ago when one of my daughters broke an arm snowboarding and had to wait in pain for four hours in the ER of the local hospital on a Saturday afternoon. I am sure they have the same staffing model, and suspect it is still common practice.