Regardless of what kind of medical practice you work in, understanding how to improve the patient experience is critical.

A recent study illustrates why improving the patient experience is vital to success by examining the relationship between patient satisfaction scores and hospital performance . Per the research, a hospital’s overall rating and the patients’ willingness to recommend the hospital carries, “strong relationships with technical performance in all medical conditions and surgical care.”

A 2014 study from Anhang Price reached a similar conclusion:

“In addition to the intrinsic value of measuring care quality from the patient’s perspective, our review finds that better patient care experiences are associated with higher levels of adherence to recommended prevention and treatment processes; better clinical outcomes, particularly in the inpatient setting; better patient safety culture within hospitals; and less health care utilization.”

Indeed, making sure your patients leave satisfied is vital. But accomplishing that is easier said than done. If you are wondering how to improve the patient experience, here are five methods to consider.

1. Emphasize Timeliness

In today’s world, where an incomprehensible amount of information is available at our fingertips, people don’t want to wait around–whether they’re at home attempting to contact your office, or in the lobby waiting for their appointment to begin.

So make sure every question is answered–even if that means asking one of your colleagues for help. Pick up the phone quickly when it is ringing. Return missed calls and emails promptly. Go out of your way to lower the amount of time patients are on hold, and while they’re on hold, make sure they have something engaging to listen to. When your patients are waiting to be seen, interact with them as you see fit.

Your office’s punctuality can have a direct effect on the way your doctors are viewed. A study conducted by Vitals, a healthcare consumer engagement group, found that a strong relationship exists between the patients’ wait times and how they rate their physicians.

The results are fascinating: On average, doctors who earned five-star ratings only made their patients wait around 12. Conversely, those with one-star ratings made their patients wait more than 33 minutes per visit.

To lessen the average wait time, many physicians across the country have expanded their hours and started seeing patients on weekends–making weekday schedules less jam-packed, and improving the patient experience.

2. Make Everyone Feel Welcome

As obvious as it may sound, making sure your doctors, nurses, and administrative staff go above and beyond ensures that patients leave feeling satisfied. Those who work in the medical field deal with an enormous amount of stress and often grueling schedules. If you have spent your career handling tense work and long shifts, it would be understandable if you weren’t cheerful every minute of every day — and figuring out how to improve the patient experience may not always be at the top of your to-do list.

Nonetheless, it is important to do your job with professionalism and a smile on your face. Taking the time to get to know your patients, as opposed to hurrying from one examination room to the next will give those being treated peace of mind and make it more likely they’ll return for future appointments.

Perhaps most importantly, be as empathetic with your patients as possible. When they have a realistic idea of what they can expect, they are more likely to leave your facilities satisfied. Improving the patient experience begins and ends with compassion.

Recently, The Cleveland Clinic surveyed more than 1,000 adults about this topic, and three-fourths said that while they believe their doctors are empathetic, they would be more likely to look past other issues in the office if their doctors showed more empathy.

An effective way to ensure everyone working at your practice is treating patients with respect is to hold regular customer service workshops. They will reemphasize your team’s commitment to the right kind of service. Given how busy medical facilities tend to be, you can conduct these workshops in waves, which ensures the office remains functional when it’s meant to be open, or outside of office hours.

3. Take Advantage of Analytics

While, traditional feedback provides some important insights regarding your office’s strengths and weaknesses, digging into data is a daunting task. However, automated reports can sharpen those insights and lead to more effective solutions.

Consider what the Cleveland Clinic accomplished when it decided to use analytics to address the question of how to improve the patient experience. As they began this endeavor, they knew they needed to improve their patient satisfaction scores, but they didn’t realize where exactly they were falling short. Their research suggested that patients were not only concerned about wait times, but also about receiving communication from staff and being treated with respect.

“As result of our discoveries,” one researcher noted, “we piloted an initiative where everybody in the emergency department was taught to communicate with each patient during their wait. For example, the janitor sweeping the hallway near the patient might say, ‘I know you’ve probably been here a long time. Is there anything I can get you?’ Patient experience scores suddenly went up.”

The Cleveland Clinic learned a valuable piece of advice that can be applied across many different industries: Though not every single problem can be fixed when running an office, identifying what matters most when it comes to patient/customer care makes a tremendous difference. And the best way to accomplish that is by embracing analytics and reports.

4. Embrace Shared Decision Making

Shared decision making, frequently referred to as SDM, helps the patient feel more empowered. Before smartphones and search engines, people were more likely to trust whatever advice doctors gave them. Today, though, with so many patients looking up their symptoms and conditions on the internet, more adults are self-diagnosing themselves–and using potentially harmful misinformation.

Although this is concerning, it shows people are more invested in their health. If doctors are willing to collaborate with their patients on choices, options, and decisions, it will play a part in improving the patient experience.

5. Implement a Queue Management System

One of the most effective ways to empower your patients–especially if your office is dealing with a shortage of doctors, nurses, and/or administrative staff–is to use queue management software.

The Qless healthcare queue management system can decrease operating costs, enhance staff productivity, eliminate overcrowding in your waiting room, and, as a result, bolster your practice’s reputation.

With the Qless FlexAppointments feature, existing appointments integrate with walk-in customers – providing an elegant solution to eliminate scheduling gaps when appointments are canceled. This not only reduces patient wait times and improves satisfaction rates, but ensures you’re maximizing the schedule to boost intake.

Our research shows that improved patient flow increases satisfaction by 20 percent. The queue management software accomplishes this by notifying patients of delays; in turn, their expectations are controlled and they feel less frustrated by the waiting process.

Finally, Qless Analytics offers illuminating data about your patients, their visits, and your staff’s performance. You can send SMS surveys to your patients to gather real-time feedback about their experience, helping you identify areas for improvement while also showing your patients that the quality of their experience matters to you.

To learn more about Qless and how our solution can improve the patient experience in your hospital, clinic, or medical practice, request a demo today.