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4 Strategies for Improving the Patient Experience

Nov 23, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Mary Frances Coryell

The consumerization of healthcare is here. With new mandates forcing healthcare providers to be transparent around pricing, many service providers are left wondering how to best present this information without scaring patients away.

If only they understood this is actually the least of their problems. The patient experience has long failed to live up to an optimal experience. Most appointments are still made by calling a receptionist or call center who books the time on the patient’s behalf. He or she is then expected to arrive up to a half-hour early to fill in several pages of paperwork.

This experience fails to meet patient expectations, it’s inefficient, and doesn’t meet the demands of the current climate.

Here are four ways to provide a better patient experience.

Provide easily accessible pricing estimates

Pricing in healthcare is rarely straightforward. In-network, out-of-network, payer negotiated discounts, plan designs, co-pays and deductibles are just some of the factors that go into understanding the true cost of a test or procedure. New price transparency rules are challenging healthcare organizations to publish negotiated rates in a “consumer-friendly manner”, but bringing all pricing factors together in a way that makes sense for the member can be labor-intensive. 

Patients have gone beyond asking questions like, “what will I pay?” and now want to know what’s included in the price and what happens if they have trouble paying. Now that they are acting more like consumers, it’s more important now than ever before to provide clarity in all patient communications.

Be the leader in your community. Show your commitment in helping to make the healthcare system less complicated. It will provide your organization with a competitive advantage to attract more patients. 

Simplify the billing process

The current state of healthcare collections is broken. Patients are expected to provide payments to providers at the time of service before insurance has a chance to process the claim. This puts undue pressure on the patient and forces the patient to front a large portion of the bill upfront. 

However, being more transparent in understanding the different payment options available will ultimately lead to better profitability. This includes creating processes that make billing easier to navigate. Most healthcare providers can’t hire the staff needed to keep up with accounts receivable. Instead, they are embracing automation to improve their revenue cycle efficiency. This makes it easier to create flexible terms without longer payment cycles.

Provide a better user experience

Look for ways to provide a more patient-centric experience in all facets and invest in the technology that will allow you to do so. Not sure where to start? For one, eliminate paperwork by providing forms through an online portal and push patients to fill out the requisite information before they enter your office. 

Patients don’t want to spend an extra 15 minutes giving a doctor information that they could just as easily complete on their own time. They would rather spend that time talking to a doctor and getting the necessary treatment.

In addition, healthcare providers need to provide an option for patients to book time with a doctor at their convenience and from any device. Most organizations require patients to fill out a form and wait for someone to call back with availability. But this experience is disruptive to the average working person. They either have to interrupt what they’re doing to answer a call or play phone tag until the patient and operator can sync schedules.

Today, professionals in the business world handle their scheduling through an app or a chatbot. Yet the healthcare space still hasn’t embraced this simple tactic that creates a much more seamless scheduling process. Making this simple change can dramatically improve patient satisfaction scores.

Double-down on current strengths

It’s normal to feel like you need to be a one-stop facility for patients in order to provide the most value. But the truth is you might be biting off more than you can chew. 

Many healthcare providers are engaging in cooperative competition or coopetition. This allows providers to offload financially draining services like chronic disease management or vaccines to big-box retailers in order to provide better patient care at a lower cost.

In addition to partnering with other organizations, consider collaborating with telehealth service providers to improve patients’ access to highly specialized care. Prior to COVID-19, doctors were mostly hesitant to do virtual visits. But now that the pandemic made them a necessity, you can now provide telehealth services to patients anywhere in the country and have other providers offer services to your clients remotely. 

Patients in cities and rural areas alike can appreciate working with a number of specialists and provide highly specialized critical care. This is especially beneficial in areas where it’s difficult to recruit talent.

The continued disruption in the healthcare space gives providers no choice, but to innovate. After all, the patient sees the provider and all partners as one entity. Providing patients with a unified consumer-like experience will allow systems to grow and capture new revenue while also catering to today’s patient needs.

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