I’ve got a secret—can you keep it? Here’s the deal: meeting therapy goals isn’t the only thing that drives patient satisfaction.
If you follow our blog regularly, then you’ve probably noticed a lot of discussion about patient satisfaction, and that’s not by accident. After all, satisfied patients are integral to the success of every physical therapy practice. That’s because these patients are often your most passionate promoters, and their endorsement is worth more than any paid advertisement. But, in order to realize that value, you have to think beyond the treatment floor. To that end, I present you with six more secrets to help you boost patient satisfaction—and thus, improve patient retention and drive new patient referrals—in your practice.
1. Prioritize the patient experience.
Physical therapy ain’t easy. It requires consistent effort from both the provider and the patient, and sometimes, a minor speed bump can have a detrimental ripple effect. Conversely, if everyone in your practice strives to create a smooth patient experience, it can help your patients remain motivated and, in some cases, even heal faster. So, develop a team strategy to ensure that every patient visit a positive one, and make sure every team member understands his or her role in achieving that goal.
For example, your front office staff has the weighty responsibility of delivering a welcoming first impression as well as a positive last impression, both of which can make or break a patient’s opinion of your practice. That means your front office staff should be friendly, communicative, and attentive to patients before and after those patients are in the treatment area. And speaking of treatment, your clinical staff should focus on providing quality, one-on-one care to each patient without sacrificing efficiency. That could mean calling on their PTA colleagues when things start to get hectic. If that’s not a possibility, then therapists should, at the very least, resist the temptation to overstuff their schedules.
2. Create a payment policy.
Money: Everyone needs it, but no one likes to ask for it—well, almost no one. When speaking with your patients, medical expenses are often the elephant in the room, which is why it’s crucial to have a written payment policy. In fact, having a payment policy can actually help dispel some of that awkwardness, thus improving the patient experience and increasing patient satisfaction. Basic elements of a successful patient payment policy include:
- An explanation of the procedure for patient contact and benefits check prior to the initial visit
- A provision for payment collection at the time of service
- A list of in-network insurances
- A refund policy
- An appointment cancellation and “no-show” policy
- A policy for patients who can’t pay their balances
- A patient acknowledgement form
3. Cultivate a positive team culture.
If you live in the Western United States, chances are, you’re familiar with the coffee chain Dutch Brothers. As anyone who’s visited one of these funky coffee spots can tell you, the defining characteristics of a Dutch Brothers experience are friendly people, cool music, delicious coffee drinks, and a fun atmosphere. And while the beverages are undeniably yummy, it’s the baristas’ infectious energy that sets the company apart from the competition and keeps folks coming back for more.
So, what does coffee have to do with rehab therapy? Simple: If your practice has a strong sense of culture and your staff jibes well, your patients will want to be there. That’s not to say that you need to pump dance music through your clinic’s speakers to create a positive environment. (Although, depending on your clinic culture and patient demographics, it could be a fun way to keep people moving.) At the end of the day, though, culture comes from people, and your clinic’s culture can have a significant impact on patient satisfaction. In fact, a study published in Medical Care found a significant correlation between a positive, teamwork-centric culture and increased patient satisfaction. Ultimately, culture is about defining your clinic’s goals, aligning your hiring strategy with those goals, and working as a team to realize that shared vision.
4. Stay engaged with patients—even after they’ve left your care.
As with any relationship, strong communication plays an instrumental role in fostering lasting patient-provider relationships—which explains the sudden emergence of tools aimed at helping providers better communicate with their patients. Software such as electronic home exercise programs (HEPs) keep patients engaged in therapy by delivering peer-reviewed, industry-backed exercise tutorials that patients can access from any Internet-capable device. Plus, the use of interactive tools appears to have a direct correlation with improved patient satisfaction. As we noted in this WebPT Blog post, “Research from The Beryl Institute showed that providing interactive technology (like digitized home exercise programs) in hospital settings sparked a 10% increase in patient satisfaction and a more than 40% improvement in satisfaction with educational materials.”
And your practice’s patient engagement efforts shouldn’t cease once you’ve discharged a patient from care. After all, when you maintain an open line of communication with patients post-discharge, it not only keeps you in the loop on their continued progress, but also keeps you fresh in their minds should they ever need additional therapy services. Fortunately, patient relationship management software has made patient engagement a breeze at all stages of care, whether you’re sending intake paperwork to new patients, reminding current patients about upcoming appointments, or sending marketing communications to past patients.
5. Track outcomes.
If you’re already tracking therapy outcomes, then you know how valuable that data is when it comes to proving the efficacy of your treatment. And when you track a patient’s health outcomes throughout the course of care, you can heighten the patient experience by catching issues before a patient drops out of therapy. Alternatively, you can use positive therapy outcomes to highlight patient gains and keep patients motivated, thus encouraging them to continue coming to their appointments. Better yet, if you use outcomes-tracking software, you’ll have all of that outcomes data aggregated in an easy-to-read format that’ll help you address patient concerns—or celebrate gains—in a timely fashion.
6. Establish metrics for success.
Speaking of data-tracking, trying to foster increased patient satisfaction can feel a little overwhelming—and even discouraging—if you can’t measure the fruits of your labor. It’s also difficult to determine which efforts are effective—and which ones you may need to re-evaluate—without solid numbers to guide your analysis. That’s why we recommend consistently tracking metrics that are influenced by overall patient satisfaction.
The metrics that matter most will depend on the individual clinic, but in most cases, the following metrics can help you get a pulse on patient satisfaction:
- Inbound phone call answer rate
- Wait times
- Payment collection speed or Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Also, keep an eye on your online reviews. Although reviews aren’t always a perfect indication of overall patient satisfaction, they can help you identify potential opportunities for improvement.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business, how much you spend on marketing, or even how educated and experienced you and your staff are: your practice will never reach its full potential if your patients aren’t satisfied.
Do you have any secrets for driving patient satisfaction in your practice? If so—and if you’re willing to share them—drop a line in the comment section below!