What do patients really want from their PT treatment? Quite the loaded question, we know. So, we spent some time discussing how patient expectations influence outcomes, loyalty, and success in our webinar, The Unexpected Drivers of PT Patient Success.
This webinar was rooted in findings from our first-ever Patient Experience Report, which surveyed more than 550 PT patients about their care preferences and perceptions. Our co-hosts also covered opportunities for clinicians to improve the patient experience within their own organizations, such as:
- How to better motivate and retain patients;
- How to drive patient recommendations and referrals;
- The patient preferences that drive overall PT satisfaction; and
- The software providers should be capitalizing on to enhance and streamline the patient experience.
We received a ton of great questions during the webinar—too many, in fact, to answer in the time allotted. So, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked here. Enjoy!
What is the easiest thing I can do to boost patient retention?
One simple thing to help your retention is to schedule patients for a series of appointments right from the start. The Patient Experience Report showed that 56% of patients preferred scheduling their appointments all at once. This provides patients with the benefit of planning their schedules around upcoming appointments, and getting ahead of any potential scheduling conflicts down the road.
Another tip is to automate your check-ins between appointments. Frequent check-ins via a patient’s preferred means of communication help to keep patients motivated, and give PTs a way to gauge how patients feel about their treatment. Automated tools to deliver educational content or deliver a Net Promoter Score® survey are a great way to track patient satsifaction throughout their treatment.
Do older patients prefer text communications too?
A notable finding from the report is that older patients tend to suffer from technology bias in their treatment, whether conscious or not. The reality, though, is that patients of all ages preferred digital reminders for appointments, with text being the preferred option among those. The pandemic surely played a big role in improved technology education and adoption among seniors, and PTs should take advantage of that. The main takeaway, though, is that you should 100% be talking to every patient about how they prefer to receive appointment reminders and provider communications—regardless of age.
How do you recommend I ask and document a patient's communication method preference?
It’s best to establish a patient’s communication preferences from the start. Make sure that your intake forms ask about preferred methods of communication, and document those preferences directly in that patient’s chart. (If you have a digital patient intake tool, though, all patient information will transfer automatically to your EMR, saving you the time and hassle.)
How do we automate communication between appointments?
Fortunately, there are a number of great solutions available to help you automate your communication with patients. Ideally, you want software that will send out appointment reminders, scheduled emails, and surveys at the right time to make sure patients are engaged with their treatment and satisfied with their care.
Would telehealth options help simplify the path to care and reduce another barrier for patients?
Telehealth has proven tremendously effective in reaching new patients and in engaging current patients. Bay State Physical Therapy President and CEO Steve Windwer attested to the benefits of telehealth in this blog post, noting that not only did patients enjoy the convenience of telehealth, but clinics saw a drop in no-shows and a decrease in the cost of care. The first point is a key one—patients are looking for the flexibility that telehealth can provide, particularly if they’re having trouble making it to your clinic during “regular” business hours, or are faced with mobility issues.
If I’m seeing a patient twice a week, do they require communication in between appointments?
While communication other than appointment reminders between twice weekly visits may be overkill, it’s certainly best practice to ensure your patients are receiving regular check-ins via the HEP portal or through the communication channel of their choice (e.g., text, phone, email). Per our research, “when therapists check in on a patient’s progress between visits, the success rate of HEP is 94%, compared with only 67% of patients not receiving regular communication.”
This is a perfect segue into our next question!
What’s the number one thing I can do today to enhance my clinic’s patient experience?
Communication, communication, communication. According to our report’s findings, clear and frequent communication is the number one driver of patient-perceived success. Here are some actionable strategies to improve this particular function in your own clinic—even as soon as today:
- Be an active listener and seek to better understand patients’ past history, current goals, likes, dislikes, current lifestyle, and personal values. Additionally, pay attention to any non-verbal cues to gauge their emotional response to your conversations and the subsequent treatment provided.
- View patients as partners in care. This helps create expectation alignment, meaning that both therapists and patients are united on all decisions made regarding the patient’s treatment.
- Check in with your patients between visits to gauge how they’re feeling about their progress so far, and if they have any questions related to their treatment or PT as a whole.
- Send automated appointments reminders to help keep patients on track.
This is just the start. We’ve outlined some of our top patient communication recommendations in further detail here.
Can we communicate with patients via an HEP platform?
Absolutely! Any HEP software worth its snuff will enable patients to communicate with providers within the platform itself. For example, WebPT HEP features a secure patient-provider messaging platform, a feedback mechanism, the ability to automate notifications as needed, and goal-setting features to help keep patients on track.
In addition to streamlining patient communications, these sophisticated platforms are totally customizable, allowing providers to modify exercises and descriptions as needed. And because this software is cloud-based, patients can access their individualized programs through any Internet-enabled device (e.g. smartphones, tablets, laptops).
If you have any other questions we didn’t get to here, feel free to add them below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!