Optimizing the Patient Experience Throughout the Care Journey

Ryne Natzke, Chief Revenue Officer, TrustCommerce a Sphere Company
LinkedIn: Ryne Natzke
X: @SphereCommerce

As the patient experience in healthcare evolves to mirror that of retail industries, it has become more essential for providers to provide patients with engaging and convenient tools throughout the care journey. For example, providers should take steps to ensure patients have clarity about every aspect of their care, including pricing that is transparent and intuitive workflows for online appointment scheduling, reminders, and payment plans.

Price transparency is a high priority for patients because it enables them to make more informed decisions around their healthcare spending. Patients are more likely to trust and remain loyal to providers when providers furnish clear, straightforward pricing information prior to a transaction.

Certainly, these concepts have proven true across other industries. For example, 83% of customers value transparency above brand reputation, according to a McKinsey survey, while 39% of consumers have shifted to a rival due to hidden expenses, a Deloitte poll found.

Consider the straightforward, easy-to-understand experience consumers often have with Southwest Airlines compared to other airlines. A customer simply visits Southwest’s website, purchases a ticket and is presented with an all-inclusive price that covers all expected costs. With rival airlines, a ticket price for the same destination may at first glance appear less costly, but customers are then met with extra charges for choosing their seats, checking bags, and more. Southwest Airlines has built its brand on delivering a transparent experience that drives customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Building patient loyalty and trust

Beyond price transparency, providers that deliver a superior, more engaging, retail-like consumer experience throughout the patient journey have the potential to drive greater patient satisfaction, trust, and loyalty, and even higher patient volumes. Here are three ways providers can improve the patient experience for pricing and beyond:

  1. Self-scheduling: Self-scheduling capabilities enable providers to deliver a more consumer-centric experience for patients. By adding self-scheduling functionality, providers can integrate scheduling into other segments of their digital ecosystem. Other advantages to providers include freeing staff for higher-value, patient-facing activities, increasing patient satisfaction, reducing data-entry errors and, potentially, adding greater confidentiality to the process, especially for patients who might otherwise have to call from their workplaces to schedule appointments.
  2. Pre-appointment communications: Providers can greatly increase convenience for patients through a variety of pre-appointment communications. It’s important to ask patients which communication channels they prefer to receive these messages – phone call, email or text message – and then accommodate those requests. Here are a few ways to engage patients pre-service:
    • Send automated appointment reminders with two-way texting prior to office or virtual visits. For providers, automated appointment reminders can reduce the rate of no-shows for both in-office and virtual visits without utilizing valuable staff time. Further, if two-way communication is enabled it allows for potential rescheduling or answering questions that the patient may have prior to their arrival.
    • Additionally, providers can offer patients pre-service check-ins via their preferred channel, or onsite kiosk, that confirms key data: demographic information, insurance and benefits coverage, copay and service amount estimate based on visit type. Patients value having cost estimates prior to the visit, and providers can benefit from an uptick in the percentage of payments collected overall and prior to appointments. With more streamlined processes, practices can potentially also improve patient volume.
    • Other pre-appointment services providers should consider including sending patients driving and parking directions, as well as intake forms that can be completed prior to the appointment.
  3. Post-service payment plans: When billing patient after rendering services, providers can create better engagement by offering multiple payment plan options. One consumer survey found that patients who use payment plans are much more likely to pay their bills in full and on schedule, with 76% of patients who use payment plans saying they would complete the payments on time. By offering payment plans, providers can free up staff time and expense that would have been devoted to collections, and give patients greater feelings of flexibility, control, and satisfaction.

To build patient loyalty and improve retention, providers should strive to optimize the patient experience by embracing technologies that are engaging and convenient at all touch points along the patient journey.

Listen in as Shahid N. Shah, host of Trending NOW radio show speaks with Ryne on a variety of topics.