One of the most effective ways to grow your dermatology practice may be through word-of-mouth advertising; happy patients are far more likely to talk up your practice to their friends and family, and if they are happy with their experience at your practice, the people they talk to are for more likely to become your patients as well, especially if they’re currently looking for a dermatology provider. The problem for many dermatology practice owners, however, is that they don’t always know exactly what a great patient experience looks like, or how to get there in their own practice. As a result, we’ll focus today on defining what the ideal patient experience might look like for a patient in your dermatology practice, explore a few tips you might utilize to improve your own patients’ experience, and finally look at how building a patient experience program and taking advantage of that feedback can help you create a continuous improvement and feedback loop to help you keep pushing your dermatology practice forward.
Defining the ideal patient experience in your dermatology practice
As the healthcare industry continues to evolve as a result of competitive pressures, healthcare providers—including dermatologists—are often challenged to win patients’ satisfaction via better patient experiences in order to build patient loyalty and remain viable in a competitive marketplace. Of course, what that means for your practice may be different than what it means for someone else’s practice, but there are a few attributes that many patients look for in their healthcare providers; patients prefer providers who are perceived as skilled and trustworthy. Similarly, patients tend to prefer providers who use digital tools to help educate them and keep them informed, just as they prefer providers who they feel truly listen to their needs and concerns, where they feel they are receiving care in a collaborative setting.
Exploring patient feedback avenues for your dermatology practice
What that looks like in your practice may vary depending on how your practice works, how your team roles are defined, and how patient care fits in your mission and vision statements and organizational ethos. There are a few ways you can explore where there might be opportunities in your patient care, or at the very least, places where your patient experience can improve:
- Patient check-out process. One simple strategy for getting good patient feedback might be having your check-out process ask each patient a simple follow-up question (or a short series of questions) about their visit. Your front desk staff can then collect and collate that information for periodic review. In some cases, this also allows your team to do immediate service recovery while the patient is still in the office.
- Patient satisfaction surveys. You can also implement a consistent post-appointment patient satisfaction survey process. This shows your patients that their feedback is important to you. It also allows you to strategically address patient concerns and improves the healthcare you offer your patients. Many practices also implement patient feedback and overall recommendation scores into their marketing plans. You can view a full list of survey vendors here.
- Informal follow-up conversations. An alternative to asking for feedback as part of your check-out process may be asking patients for feedback informally when you next see them, such as a simple question about how their experience with your practice has been so far or something along those lines. In a more relaxed conversational setting, you may get insights otherwise not available—which can make this an additional and valuable tool with those patients who are at ease with you.
- Post-visit feedback via social media. Finally, another good option for feedback can include regularly asking for feedback via social media.
Tips for improving patient experience in your dermatology practice
Once you have plenty of patient feedback, you can then use that feedback to identify and address places for improvement. Obviously, what that looks like will be different for each and every dermatology practice, but consider these tips that have proven helpful for numerous other care providers as you proceed:
- Ensure your patient care reflects your mission and vision statements. Practices where patients see how their care reflects the organizational values tend to report better care and are more likely to report practice loyalty.
- Focus on timeliness. One of the most frequent complaints about medical care providers is delayed appointment times or long waits for appointments. Reducing those wait times can help improve the patient experience, and when patients are forced to wait, there are choices you can make that may help reduce the unpleasantness of such experiences, whether that’s strategies as large as reduced visit costs for wait times or as small as good reading materials in the waiting room.
- Focus on your team’s friendliness and courtesy. This may go back to your mission and value statements, too, but patients who feel engaged by the team members are less likely to have an unpleasant or unfavorable experience, and as the quality of that engagement improves, so does the average patient experience in your practice.
- Help ensure your support team members have a deep knowledge base. The more your RNs, PAs, and NPs know, the better they are able to satisfactorily hear patient concerns and answer their questions and, as we noted earlier, patients generally prefer providers who they feel truly listen to their needs and concerns, where they feel they are receiving care in a collaborative setting.
- Find places where you can improve the quality of your own care. Personal development is always a good idea when it comes to improving your dermatology practice, and that’s true when it comes to the patient experience, too. Consider where workshops or training might help make you a better care provider.
Building a patient experience program—and using that feedback effectively
Finally, one last strategy that has proven effective for many dermatology practices is the addition of a specific patient experience program as part of their practice. Many good patient experience programs focus not only on ensuring all team members are united in care goals and ensuring patient satisfaction, but also in setting clear goalposts for measuring program success—ideally, goalposts that move with continued revisions of what benchmarks define success. The AMA EdHub learning program, for instance, uses six steps in their patient experience program model:
- Assess current patients’ level of satisfaction
- Define your preferred and perfect outcome
- Get stakeholders to engage in experience design
- Develop and implement your preferred patient experience strategy
- Analyze feedback and determine the impact
- Recognize accomplishments and improve over time
Your own patient experience program may differ, but the basic principles should likely remain the same.
Regardless of what strategies you choose to embrace, if you’re focused on improving patient experience in your dermatology practice, you’re well on your way to helping your practice continue improving and growing.