As telemedicine becomes the new face of the healthcare industry in the wake of covid-19, hospitals, and healthcare institutions have a greater than ever responsibility to precisely understand and take necessary measures to improve patient experience scores in hospitals using telemedicine.
Now as the technology is getting matured and adopted, more and more questions are arising about the potential impacts of the technology to improve satisfaction levels of not just the patients but also the healthcare provider.
Well, in this blog we will be looking more deeply into telemedicine technology and how it’s impacting the patients’ healthcare experience, as well as, for caregivers. We will also be looking at some ideas that hospitals and healthcare practitioners need to implement to enhance the patient experience in hospitals.
So, let’s get started…
What is the Importance of patient experience in healthcare?
Just like in almost every other business, keeping up with the patients’ satisfaction has become a primary concern for healthcare providers. Reason? Well, it’s simply because by improving the healthcare experience for patients, hospitals and healthcare institutions get to improve their success metrics. Higher patient satisfaction scores directly relate to improved clinical outcomes, higher retention rates, and increased reimbursement claims; all of this leading to higher revenues for hospitals or healthcare clinicians.
The integration of technology in the healthcare industry has made it even more important for hospitals to improve the quality of healthcare services, and offer a better experience in line with patients’ increased expectations for convenience, collaboration, and transparency.
The first step in this regard is for hospitals to realize the importance and need of improving patient satisfaction levels. Moving on, hospitals and healthcare practitioners will have to strategize ways that can maximize the patients’ satisfaction levels.
For starters, hospitals will have to be honest in assessing the quality of their services from patients’ perspectives. Remember, the patients’ experience with the hospital starts as soon as a patient first schedules an appointment and goes all the way through to the treatment quality, services, payment procedures, and follow-up sessions. Any and all changes throughout the entire journey of the patient with the hospital influence the patients’ overall experience with the hospital and subsequently can impact the bottom lines for hospitals and/or clinicians.
What is the patient experience improvement strategy with Telemedicine?
To meet the growing expectations of patients for better and more streamlined healthcare services, hospitals need to think beyond the clinical encounters and lookout for a robust and all-encompassing telemedicine strategy to improve patients’ satisfaction levels. When we talk about an all-encompassing strategy, it needs to cover the entire journey of patients with the hospitals – because every touchpoint matters. From the initial interaction with the telemedicine solution platform to appointment booking, and from consultation experience with the doctor to follow-up and payments, every touchpoint needs to be optimized to improve patients’ journey.
Here are some key areas that needed to be covered by hospitals and healthcare providers to ensure a smooth, and satisfactory patients’ journey for their healthcare experience.
– Look the Part
While theoretically doctors/healthcare providers will be giving consultations through mobile devices and not personally, this doesn’t mean that they can overlook their appearance on camera. That’s because as the patient books a consultation through a telemedicine app, he/she is looking forward to meeting a professional-looking and qualified healthcare provider that can help them with health and fitness.
Remember, even on the webcam, your body language conveys a strong message, and thereby, doctors and healthcare providers need to learn how to appear professional and confident while consulting over the webcam. Make sure there aren’t any distractions in the background environment, just like in the clinic.
– Be Prepared
Telemedicine technology has advanced significantly, and today hospitals can achieve much more than most people can realize. The key is to have the right tools with the healthcare providers, which can help them to offer a vast range of healthcare services. For instance, many people may not realize but with the right telemedicine tools, doctors can look past the throat of the patients, or hear the patients’ heart or lungs, as well.
Moreover, when we say be prepared it also means having a well-defined strategy and resources to keep up with the scheduled consultations so that patients don’t have to bear the agonizing wait in virtual waiting rooms. Also, make sure you are able to send reminders and alerts to patients about the appointments, and any possible delays they may expect for the scheduled consultation.
– Collect Feedback
Last but not least, putting in place a transparent and robust feedback collection mechanism is also an important part of an effective telemedicine strategy. Remember, while the technology eliminates much of the pain points, it also introduces new frictions along the way. For instance, the telemedicine app takes too long to load, or the navigation of the app is too complex for the liking of many non-tech savvy patients. Similarly, since it will be a new experience for patients to consult doctors, it’s important that the doctor is able to cover all pain points of the patients and perform a complete diagnosis.
All of this can only be achieved when hospitals are able to gather transparent and comprehensive feedback from patients. In fact, feedback mechanisms don’t just help hospitals to improve the overall performance of telemedicine practice, but also instill confidence amongst patients for the reliability of the process. When a patient is able to share his/her feedback on the entire healthcare journey through telemedicine technology, he/she feels more connected to the technology and feel more satisfied with the system. Here are some ways to collect feedback from patients for their virtual experience;
– Digital Experience Survey – perhaps the most standard form of feedback, you can simply add a feedback link on your website or the app for patients to share their experience
– Quick Feedback – the fastest way to gain feedback is to simply request patients to rate their experience
– Online Reviews – Subtly ask patients to leave a review for their virtual healthcare experience with the hospital/doctor
How does telemedicine improve patient experience in the hospital?
While telemedicine has been here for quite some time, the technology really took off in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, as the patients, as well as, policymakers and hospitals realize the potential of telemedicine to deliver better healthcare services. Today, patients are increasingly preferring telemedicine as a faster, and more convenient alternative to traditional hospital visits. And while this increase patients’ preference has greatly enhanced the scope of telemedicine technology, it also poses challenges for hospitals to cater to the increasing expectations of patients regarding their healthcare experience through telemedicine.
Now that telemedicine has established itself as a capable technology that can not only compare but actually perform better than the traditional approach, it’s up to hospitals to exploit the features and functionalities of the technology to improve patients’ healthcare experience.
Here’s how telemedicine can help improve patients experience in hospitals;
– A more attentive consultation experience
Telemedicine technology literally eliminates all of the distractions that patients and healthcare providers experience in a routine medical office environment. With a one-on-one video consultation meeting, healthcare providers can keep better focus on diagnosing patients’ and addressing their concerns without any background distractions; thus resulting in a more attentive consultation experience for patients.
– Fewer treatment obstacles
The traditional healthcare process includes various obstacles that get in the way of patients looking to get an appointment with the doctor. For starters, patients need to visit the hospitals that include transportation, which doesn’t just add to the cost but also is highly time-consuming. Moreover, getting to see a doctor becomes more difficult for working people as they often can’t afford to get time off from offices. Similarly, children and elderly care responsibility only add to the many obstacles for patients to see a doctor with a traditional approach, which either results in people not making an appointment altogether or missing/canceling the appointment due to one of the other reason. Also, the lack of qualified doctors/specialists in remote/rural areas is a big obstacle that limits the scope of traditional healthcare services.
The telemedicine on the other hand simply eliminates all of these factors by offering people flexibly, instant, and affordable access to qualified healthcare services, thereby significantly improve the overall quality of healthcare for patients.
– A Wider Treatment Approach
Telemedicine also enables patients and providers to schedule meetings that otherwise may not be addressed in the hospital environment. For instance, patients can schedule appointments to discuss test results, or review medication management. Similarly, healthcare providers like lifestyle coaches can be able to keep up with the patients’ progress by keeping up with their goals (weight loss, quit smoking, etc.). Overall, telemedicine technology simply extends the scope and approach of healthcare services for patients.
– Reduced Risk of Exposure
Perhaps the most significant benefit of telemedicine technology for patients, as well as, healthcare providers are reduced risk of exposure to a contagious illness. At the time when the covid-19 pandemic overwhelmed the healthcare system around the world, putting the lives of patients and healthcare providers in danger; telemedicine rise as the alternative approach that relieve the healthcare system from the spreading of the contagious virus. With telemedicine technology, healthcare providers today are able to closely monitor the patients’ health vitals without exposing themselves or patients to the disease.
Best Ways to Improve Patient Experience in the hospital?
Well, telemedicine isn’t the only way for hospitals to improve the patients’ healthcare experience. Rather, there are other approaches hospitals can implement to significantly streamline patients’ experience for their services. Here’re some ways hospitals can improve the patient’s healthcare experience;
- Maintain an effective online presence
Even if hospitals aren’t offering telemedicine services, it can improve greatly streamline the patient healthcare journey by maintaining an effective online presence. This may include having a professionally developed and maintained website with all the important information like local directory profiles, doctor schedules, and other information.
In today’s digital world, a website remains the most effective and reliable medium for consumers to get information and interact with businesses and hospitals are no exceptions. Hospitals need to maintain a comprehensive online presence through a well-developed website, from where patients can extract all the information they may need like services and procedures offered at the hospitals, doctors/specialists who can be visited, the timing of doctors, contact information, and others. To take it a step further, hospitals/healthcare institutes can also add high-quality photos reflecting their practice management; just to add a bit more reliability and confidence for patients before they visit. Displaying testimonials from existing and previous patients is another great idea for hospitals to generate trust.
- Offer online scheduling
For the majority of patients, getting an appointment is a painstaking process with frustratingly long and never-ending phone calls. In fact, the process isn’t just agonizing for patients, but also jeopardizing for administrative staff as they have to make sure they don’t give out wrong appointments by doubling appointments or leaving a slot empty.
In this regard, the healthcare ERP system can greatly improve the process of scheduling for hospitals. The system can automate the entire process of obtaining an appointment for patients, thereby not only improve patients’ experience with the hospitals but also relieving the administrative staff of a redundant job. Also, with an online scheduling system, hospitals can ensure a 24/7 appointment platform, so as to maximize their practice and increase revenue.
- Send reminders and alerts
One of the biggest reasons for “no-shows” in hospitals is because patients often forget about appointments amid a busy work schedule. And while patients will always remain busy, it’s the responsibility of hospitals to assist patients in keeping up with their appointment schedule. This can be achieved by employing effective reminder and alert systems for patients. There are various robust healthcare ERP systems that enable hospitals to send timely alerts and reminders to patients. Such a system won’t just improve the “show-time” for patients (thus reducing the costly no-shows for hospitals), but also improve their perception and experience of the healthcare services with the hospital.
Reminders and alerts can be sent via text/SMS or email at the time an appointment is made, whereas, an alert may be sent a week before the appointment; asking patients to confirm their appointment. If the patients’ failed to confirm the appointment in due time, the last reminder may be sent a day or two before the schedule, and if still no confirmation is received the appointment may be canceled.
Hospital patient experience best practices with telemedicine?
Below are some of the telemedicine best practices hospitals need to take to improve patients’ experience;
– Focus on Technology
Telemedicine is an emerging technology with new tools and equipment being introduced each day. As mentioned earlier, the latest telemedicine technology is able to cater to various healthcare needs, which many people don’t often realize. Thereby, hospitals need to invest in the latest and cutting-edge technology that not only improves the patient experience but also increases the scope of services for the hospitals. Technology tools like high-quality audio equipment, large high-definition screens, and others can significantly improve the capacity of healthcare professionals to observe and address various health concerns of patients and make an accurate diagnosis.
Also, user-friendly telemedicine gadgets can be recommended or supplied to patients experiencing chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, and others. There are various tech gadgets like wrist bands that can help healthcare providers keep a close check on diseases like glucose monitoring, blood pressure monitoring, and others. Also, some devices can directly communicate with electronic patient records through web-based connectivity. This greatly improves the monitoring of chronic diseases amongst patients; improving the overall healthcare experience.
– Focus on Patient Experience
The whole idea of telemedicine technology is to improve patients’ healthcare experience by offering them convenient access to qualified healthcare services. According to numerous studies, over 65% of patients believe that telemedicine technology is able to improve their healthcare experience. Some of the major benefits of telemedicine as perceived by patients include;
- Convenience of consulting specialist doctors from home/remotely
- Convenience of not having to travel to hospitals/clinics
- Convenience of consulting doctors for non-urgent medical needs
- Affordable healthcare services as compared to the traditional approach
– Focus on Privacy and HIPAA Compliance
With all the benefits of telemedicine, the technology does pose a significant challenge for the healthcare industry – cybersecurity.
As one of the most regulated industries, the healthcare industry needs to keep up with the privacy standards like HIPAA Act to ensure the protection of sensitive personal and medical records of patients. Today, as there are more and more telemedicine platforms available for hospitals, it’s even more important to keep a close check on the authenticity and security protocols of these platforms and ensure they comply with all state and federal regulations. Any violation of privacy laws may result in a hefty financial penalty, as well as, administrative restrictions, which may be crippling for hospitals.
Last but not least, by complying with privacy and HIPAA compliance, hospitals not only avoid crippling penalties but also improve their reputation amongst patients, resulting in better patient retention and increased revenues.
Top ideas to improve the patient experience with telehealth services
Lastly, let’s quickly get over some top ideas to improve the patients’ experience with telehealth services;
– Keep a consistent physical space for the virtual telemedicine consultations
Remember, even if you are only offering virtual visits with telemedicine technology, the environment around you does have its impact on your practice, as well as, patients’ experience. That’s why it’s important to have a definite physical space in hospitals or even at homes/clinics dedicated to telemedicine consultation. This will help you to better manage your practice, while also improving the quality of healthcare services for patients.
– Invest in technology
As mentioned above, you need to invest in state-of-the-art technology to not only offer better patient care service but also to keep up with the technological advances. Also, when we talk about technology, it isn’t all about flashy screens, and high-tech equipment, rather it is also about basics like having a strong and reliable internet connection or having an intuitive and professionally-developed telemedicine application, which are something that directly impacts the quality of healthcare services and patients’ experience.
– Control room lighting
Just because you are over the video, you can’t hide your face behind the screen. Patients need to have a clear visual of the doctor, to be able to feel confident and comfortable during a telemedicine consultation. Thereby, make sure to have an adequate lighting system installed in the room so that patients are able to clearly see the doctor.
– Keep a separate microphone
Clear audio connection is also important to help improve patients’ satisfaction scores for telemedicine. Most of the time the built-in microphone in the laptop isn’t good enough and leads to hollow and echo-y sound. Thereby, hospitals need to invest in a high-quality microphone to ensure patients are able to clearly hear and understand the doctor’s voice.
– Put in place a feedback mechanism
Lastly, an important tip to improve the overall patient experience of the telemedicine practice is to put in place a stringent and robust feedback mechanism where patients can share their reviews or raise their concerns. As we already discussed above, there can be multiple feedback mechanisms like asking for instant ratings, or having a dedicated feedback form for patients to fill in, or asking them to leave reviews.
All of these mechanisms won’t just help hospitals to understand the lacking in the system, but also improve the overall satisfaction levels amongst patients.
What are patient satisfaction scores?
Patient satisfaction score refers to the subjective measure of whether the hospital is able to meet the patients’ level of expectations for their services or not.
How do hospitals measure patient satisfaction?
Hospitals can measure patient satisfaction through a variety of feedback mechanisms like putting in place a rating system, phone surveys, feedback forms, or personal interviews.
What is the difference between patient satisfaction and patient experience?
Patient satisfaction is limited to the extent of patients’ fulfillment with the healthcare services offered inside and outside of the doctor’s office.
Patient experience is a broader measure that includes the entire journey of the patient with the hospitals including the healthcare services, convenience, interaction with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare facilities.
Is patient satisfaction a quality indicator?
Patient satisfaction is one of the most commonly used indicators that is used to measure the quality of healthcare services. The level of patient satisfaction influences the overall hospital outcomes, including patient retention rates, attracting new patients, as well as, medical malpractice claims.