Think back to the scrappy, bootstrapped start-up era of your practice. If I had to guess, I’d bet those early days were infused with optimism, enthusiasm, and healthy dose of anxiety. But with a lot of hard work—and maybe a little luck—word spread about the quality of your patient care, and your budding clinic flourished into a strong, healthy business. Perhaps you even added another location or two—or more. And at that point, you probably realized that—as with any multi-location business—maintaining the same level of service as you did when you were a one-spot operation can be a challenge. And that’s especially true if you don’t have the right tools (e.g., patient engagement software).
If you’ve ever received less-than-excellent feedback about a particular patient’s experience at one of your practices, you might be feeling a bit helpless in your fight to ease the pains that come with a growing business. After all, with one or two practices, fostering highly personalized, one-on-one relationships with patients and referral sources—as well as delivering the kind of top-notch service that prevents patient dropout—was a fairly manageable task.
But, as your practice grows, it’s tough to scale your playbook for providing exemplary service with a personal touch. In fact, when we conducted our recent industry-wide survey of rehab therapy professionals, we found that patient care improvement becomes more challenging the larger a company gets. So, how can you continue to grow your business without sacrificing service?
Be environmentally conscious.
No practice is ever too big to maintain an inviting, soothing environment, and that starts with a great patient experience in reception as well as in the treatment area. I’m not just talking about a fresh coat of paint and ocean sounds on repeat. Every aesthetic decision should be made with the patient’s comfort in mind, whether it be providing pleasing light (try to avoid fluorescent bulbs!) or putting a TV in the waiting area. In fact, a pleasant reception environment can actually turn the waiting period into an enjoyable event that has a positive impact on the patient experience. Additionally, your front office staff—and your providers—should be well-versed in the basics of top-notch customer service, and you should implement policies (e.g., greeting every patient who walks through the door or keeping patients updated on wait times) that reflect that philosophy.
Keep in touch.
As any business owner or executive knows, attracting new business can be a costly endeavor. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that "acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one," so we know it’s financially responsible to hang on to existing patients. And—perhaps more importantly—focusing on patient retention is beneficial to the patients themselves. We’ve discussed the positive impact of maintaining contact after discharge in the past, highlighting the crucial connection between keeping an open patient-to-provider dialogue and building patient loyalty. But, as your business grows, manually reaching out to each individual patient after discharge can be a challenge. Some practices address this with generic email blasts, but these are often impersonal and have a tendency to get lost in the recipient’s inbox. Fortunately, there’s a solution that addresses this problem by allowing for personalized post-discharge communication without putting extra strain on your busy schedule.
Think beyond the monthly newsletter.
Don’t get me wrong; newsletters—when done correctly—are great for ensuring you remain on your patients’ minds, but crafting them can become a time-consuming endeavor. Instead, consider deploying automated messaging about complimentary consultations or wellness evaluations every quarter—and if you can tailor those complimentary services to the patient’s specific health goals, all the better. Some tools even allow you to send automated emails to certain types of patients—providing educational content and other targeted messaging. You can also show love for your patients with a well-organized patient appreciation event (and you don’t have to break the bank to do it).
Additionally, any EMR worth its salt will have built-in tools to supplement your patient re-engagement and retention efforts. For example, your software should help your front office identify when a patient was last seen and whether he or she has an upcoming appointment on the schedule. Your staff can then use this information to reach out to patients before they become lost forever.
Measure the patient experience.
As your company grows, you may find it difficult to maintain a high level of staff awareness around patient experience in your practice. In fact, you may have already taken some steps to correct this in the form of end-of-treatment satisfaction surveys. There’s just one problem: paper surveys are reactive and often environmentally biased, so how do you know you’re getting an accurate snapshot? That’s where your Net Promoter Score (NPS) comes in. If you’re not familiar with NPS, it’s a management tool that gauges the customer's overall satisfaction with a company's product or service as well as his or her loyalty to the brand on a scale of one to 10. And if you’re a busy practice owner, the information you glean from your NPS about the patient experience in your practice has value beyond measure.
Turn numbers into knowledge.
However, without the proper patient relationship tracking tools, your NPS score is only telling you half the story. Fortunately, patient relationship management (PRM) software can help you connect all the dots—and those connections are even stronger if you use a PRM platform that integrates with your existing EMR. Using information like patient diagnoses, eval and discharge dates, and NPS data, an integrated EMR and PRM platform offers the perfect solution for keeping your patients engaged and loyal. After all, now that more than 76% of rehab therapists have ditched the clipboard for a cloud-based EMR, you and your providers likely aren’t documenting on paper. So, why would you measure the patient experience on paper?
Growing a startup into a large, thriving company is one heck of an achievement, but as with any business, blossoming into a booming rehab therapy practice doesn’t come without a few growing pains. And if those growing pains threaten to harm the patient experience, they could be doing some serious damage to your brand’s—and your—reputation. By tracking, measuring, and nurturing patient satisfaction, you’re ensuring the continued growth of your practice as well as the cultivation of brand evangelists. Because the fact is, when you prioritize the physical health and happiness of your patients, you’re safeguarding the financial health and happiness of your entire practice.