Most people enter the medical profession to make a difference. Talk to a room full of nurses, and many of them will tell you their work isn’t just a job — it’s a calling. Helping patients is their number-one priority.
But they also have to take care of themselves, pay the bills, and avoid burnout. Yes, burnout is a real thing, especially in today’s healthcare landscape.
Talk to a room full of patients, and most of them will tell you they only go to the doctor when they’re sick. And many people don’t enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, some people have such a negative mindset toward the healthcare system that they avoid treatment if at all possible, for as long as possible, which can result in worsening conditions and higher costs.
So what can we do? We can take a look at current trends and suggest easy ways to put these trends into practice — as well as additional solution-based approaches — to make the caregiver’s job easier and to improve the patient’s experience.
Trends in the healthcare industry
- Growth of AI and Machine Learning in Healthcare
- The Rise of Telemedicine and Virtual Healthcare Services
- Value-Based Care Across Modalities
- New Wearables and Remote Monitoring Devices
- Importance of Healthcare Cybersecurity
Notice how big of a role technology plays in each of these trends. It’s a huge business too! According to the recently published report by Mordor Intelligence Telemedicine Market: Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2023-2028), “The global telemedicine market was an estimated $104.44 billion in 2021, and it is projected to rise to $272.76 billion in 2027, growing at a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.5% over the forecast period.”
This isn’t science fiction we’re talking about — robotic surgical procedures have been successful for years, and more high-tech medical equipment is now available to make treatments easier on providers and patients alike.
Even artificial intelligence (AI) has its place, with “various AI-aligned technologies, such as computer vision, natural language processing, and pattern recognition algorithms, already deeply embedded in the healthcare ecosystem and will continue to be adopted as evidence of their usefulness grows.”
Happy patients lead to healthy patients
Let’s take a look at one big trend — technology — and examine a few ways it can be handled for greater efficacy.
Technology is great — when it works, and when it’s easy to use. With the rise of telehealth and virtual appointments, your audio and video connections must be optimal. While you can’t control the patient’s system or internet, any lag time, static, or blurry screen on your end will only add to the already real feeling of distance and disconnect.
Another note about technology: Make sure your website is updated regularly, protected from malware or ransomware, and easy to navigate. Contact information, location details, and appointment scheduling should be front and center. Not all of your patients will be tech-savvy, so try to consider everyone’s user experience when designing your site. (ADA-compliant sites will help your patients and also help protect your practice from lawsuits.)
And if you add the trendy “patient portal,” it should make things easier on the patient, not just the practice. Some patients might not have access to the internet, and some patients might not be able to use technology for a variety of reasons.
Research shows that too many barriers to information are more likely to cause people to stop trying. Each extra step a patient has to take to reach you or access information will increase the likelihood that they will give up or go somewhere else. This includes more than the clinic’s website. It also concerns the phone system. Limited automation is expedient but patients crave timely care and personal attention.
Improved experiences, improved outcomes
We’ve talked about tech; let’s talk about the in-person experience. It’s said you only get one chance to make a first impression, and the waiting room is usually where medical clinics first meet patients.
This means the waiting room should be clean, attractive, quiet, and easy to navigate. When it comes to healthcare spaces, hygiene is vitally important. But aesthetics matter too.
- Is the art current, calming, and inoffensive to all sorts of people?
- Are there dirt scuffs, scratches, or tears in the paint, wallpaper, flooring, and seating?
- Are there several TVs or screens with loud or competing audio?
- Do they know where to sign in?
- Does the intake experience feel friendly and welcoming?
- Are there “clean” pens and “used” pens and unused masks available?
- Does the space feel crowded with chairs and side tables, or is a patient able to walk freely—or navigate the room in a wheelchair or on crutches?
All of these factors will contribute to patient experience before they even see a provider. Of course, there are also steps staff, nurses, and physicians can take to increase patient satisfaction.
- Be punctual. Doctors often charge a fee and/or cancel an appointment if patients are late. While everyone understands that emergencies happen and delays are inevitable, doctor punctuality should be the norm not the exception.
- Be friendly. A smile goes a long way to making patients feel comfortable and more relaxed. Typically, people are in a healthcare facility due to need or illness, and a smile or a kind tone of voice can be its own kind of treatment. You can still be professional while being nice.
- Be attentive. Address the patient by name — the correct name and pronunciation. This helps them feel like a person instead of a file number in a long line of file numbers waiting to be seen. Practice active listening so the patient feels heard, like their health matters to you, and so you are able to accurately remember what they said. Most people are worse at listening than they realize.
- Be trustworthy. Everyone makes mistakes but in the healthcare industry, mistakes can be costly — even deadly. It’s paramount to stay current with research, treatments, medications, and equipment so that your entire office is able to follow best practices and compliance regulations. Patients want to believe what you say — from test results and diagnoses to prescriptions and treatment plans. Patients also want to trust that you’ll do what you say. If you say the office will call to schedule a follow-up appointment, make the call.
- Be professional. Most staff and providers look the part due to their scrubs or lab coats. But does the medical equipment in the facility also look professional? And is it fully functional for the most pleasant treatment experience possible?
The more providers and practices do these things, the more patient satisfaction increases. And if patients perceive they are being cared for, that feeling can translate into improved health outcomes too.
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