Insights From Our Editors

What’s the Best Way to Measure the Patient Experience?

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

May 9, 2018

What do your patients think of their time in your office? How do you know if they are likely to return, and whether they will refer others? Healthcare could take a cue from other industries in determining customer (patient) satisfaction.

Have you designed the patient journey in your office to produce the outcomes you desire? Most practices design the patient journey to keep the doctor in the exam room busy. Schedules are created to maximize patient flow and minimize doctor down time. This may be great for the doctor, but does it create great experiences for patients?

What are the most important drivers that create great experiences for patients?

McKinsey published an article describing the Three C’s of Customer Satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency. Indeed, consistency is one of the hardest, yet most important, ingredients in the recipe for making patients happy. Consistency reduces variability in experience, increases trust (one of the biggest drivers of satisfaction and loyalty), and permits proactively shaped key messages to guide every patient as they move through your office.

The other key ingredient in the recipe for making patients happy is a well-designed patient journey. The patient’s journey includes everything from the first touch to the last touch. It’s not enough for patients to be happy with each individual interaction, it’s the cumulative experience that forms their perception of your practice. That’s why the patient journey needs to be well designed. Spending time designing the patient journey means you need to create patient flow maps. There are not an infinite number of patient journeys. There are generally three to five that matter most to patients. Identify these and design them to create the outcomes you want.

How important is maximizing patient satisfaction? According to research, it can increase revenue by 15 percent and decrease the cost of serving patients by 20 percent. In a $1 million gross-revenue-collected practice, increasing overall patient satisfaction could be worth as much as $1M x .15 = $150,000 to the top line and $1M x .2 = $200,000 to the bottom line.

Research of 27,000 American consumers across 14 different industries found that measuring satisfaction on customer journeys is 30 percent more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction. So, how do we measure overall patient satisfaction with their patient journey? Here are the three questions to ask that will give you the answers you need.

The first question is called the Ultimate Question. It also goes by the name of the Net Promoter Score®, or NPS®. The NPS is designed to measure the patient experience. It also predicts business growth. The question is: On a zero to 10 range, how likely is it that you would recommend our practice to a friend or colleague? The scoring is shown on the following chart.

Promoters will actively promote your practice to others. Detractors will actively talk negatively to others about your practice. Passives (sometimes called Neutrals) will only talk about your practice if someone else asks, and then they will respond with a neutral answer.

Question number two is: What did you like best about your patient experience today? The answers here give insight into why patients are choosing your practice over others in the area. Pay particular attention to the answers given by “Promoters.”

Question number three is: What would have improved your patient experience today? This question identifies your service faults. Pay close attention to the answers given by “Promoters.” Use patient journey design, role playing and script guidelines to fix these negative patient experiences.

We all like to think that patients have great experiences as they move through the practice, but the only way to know is to ask. Take this week to ask these three questions. Then, go back and see if the patient journey in your practice can be improved with a redesign. Don’t forget to incorporate approaches that drive consistency across everything that is said and done in your practice with every patient. And then, after your changes have been debugged, and have achieved consistency, ask the three questions again.

References
i. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/the-three-cs-of-customer-satisfaction-consistency-consistency-consistency
ii. https://www.netpromoter.com/know/

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