How to improve patient satisfaction in healthcare: Industry experts share their insights

Simone Edelmann, PhD

Editor at HealthcareTransformers.com

How to improve patient satisfaction in healthcare: Industry experts share their insights

7 December 2022 | 8min

Quick Takes

  • As patients seek out better healthcare experiences, organizations can improve patient satisfaction through small, yet positive and innovative strategies

  • Healthcare leaders must realize that patients want to feel that they are receiving the best possible care throughout the entire journey — before, during, and after the visit

  • Several methods that can help improve patient satisfaction include reducing friction points, implementing remote patient monitoring and better patient education, and imparting compassionate experiences

With patient-centricity being a key topic around improving healthcare, stakeholders and providers are constantly looking for ways to improve patient satisfaction to remain competitive and relevant.

In this article, industry experts share their insights into how healthcare leaders can implement simple yet effective changes to improve patient satisfaction – from reducing friction points with remote patient monitoring to boosting employee-patient engagement. Building a new healthcare ecosystem through small changes could result in tremendously positive outcomes and improve patient satisfaction.

All it takes is 15 minutes or less

Founder and CEO of Goodthink Inc. and New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential, Shawn Achor, provides insights on how to elevate and improve patient satisfaction in 15 minutes or less

Taking a page from the Ritz Carlton hotel chain employee training program, Shawn implemented a method known as the “10/5 way” and used it with Ochsner Health System in Louisiana. Briefly, the Ritz Carlton would train the employees to make eye contact and smile if they meet a patron within 10 feet. If that patron were within five feet, the employee would say hello. 

When employees of the Ochsner Health System adopted the 10/5 way, there was a significant rise in unique patient visits, increased patient referrals, and doctor engagement. “A one-second free behavioral change resulted in more money for the hospital, more people cared for, better perception of care quality, and greater levels of happiness to caregivers,” said Shawn. Hospitals can simply transform the quality of care and engagement through smiles and contact.

Shawn also points out that a positive patient experience begins with positive employees. Leadership teams can create better patient satisfaction if they first address issues that arise from employee negativity, stress, and uncertainty. According to Shawn, small interventions can drastically improve happiness, one of an organization’s most significant competitive advantages.

Reducing customer friction points to clear patient pathways

Founder and CEO of ExPeers Consulting and author of It’s Hard to be Easy, Unleashing the Chief Moment Officers, and co-author of Advice from a Patient, Diane S. Hopkins suggests that if healthcare executives are looking to improve patient experience, they first need to reduce patient friction points

Because the healthcare landscape can be tremendously complex and challenging for patients to navigate, Diane asserts that leadership teams need to provide patients with reliably convenient and relatively frictionless experiences. Diane points to the Friction-Defection Progression™ model. The model suggests that when a patient experiences initial interest in a service, like scheduling a physician appointment for example, but then is confronted by friction that prevents them from obtaining the service, the patient becomes dissatisfied and ends up defecting to a competitor. 

Identifying friction points should start by evaluating customers’ complaints, polling staff members, or comparing competitor offerings. This could help healthcare executives improve patient experience strategies, thus easing the path to improved patient satisfaction.

Reinventing patient experience through innovation

Patient experience is the sum of all patient engagements throughout their entire journey, every touchpoint within the organization’s ecosystem, says Brian Solis, a world-renowned digital anthropologist, and futurist. Brian also serves as Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. Experience shapes how patients perceive and remember your services, products (both physical and digital), and the brand itself.

According to Brian, when it comes to patient experience, its design needs to be considerate and empathetic. At the same time, it also needs to align with their preferences, expectations, and aspirations as a patient. Remember, patients have choices.

Because a lot of the patient journey in the healthcare system can be inefficient, uninviting, and disconnected, healthcare leaders need to consider more inviting experiences that can potentially lead to positive sentiment for recurring visits and their overall organization. Human-centered innovation to enhance patient experience design needs to be considered at every touchpoint. Each phase of the patient journey evokes memories, which will become critically associated with your brand and significantly impact the business.

“Innovation in patient experience will not only help set you apart, but also you’ll push the industry forward by delivering new value and setting new standards for experience along the way,” ​​says Brian.

No experience should be anything less than convenient, efficient, and intuitive

Brian Solis

To ensure effective transformation of the patient journey, Brian offers four key pillars that healthcare leaders can invest in for the next generation of the patient experience.

  • Innovation: Experience innovation is a differentiator and creates new value in the patient journey. Create new and unusual experiences to deliver untapped value.
  • Data-driven empathy: Human empathy and data-driven empathy power personalized engagement and better-informed care. Hands-on experience and patient data enable healthcare leaders to learn about people’s experiences, expectations, and desired outcomes.
  • Spatial design: Reimagine physical and digital spaces to create thoughtful, intuitive, inspired, and connected experiences. Improve and introduce capabilities and experiences so that every touchpoint is carefully designed.
  • People and culture: Building a culture of innovation empowers teams to deliver industry-leading patient experiences. Culture influences employee behavior and needs to be centered around a shared vision, values, and purpose.

In addition, Brian outlines seven steps that healthcare leaders can take action on today.

  1. Establish a patient experience team to lead patient experience design and innovation
  2. Listen to the voice of the patient and experience the patient and employee’s pain points
  3. Venture out on experiential and innovation tours (and make it a habit)
  4. Imagine new patient experiences in a new era
  5. Make all investments mutually beneficial… measure what matters
  6. Procure a dynamic customer relationship management (CRM) platform and engage patients personally, as their health changes 
  7. Audit employee engagement, morale, and your corporate culture 

Simple ways of improving the patient experience can bring tremendous benefits for everyone – from patients to caregivers to employees.

Remote patient monitoring to improve patient satisfaction

To successfully navigate the digital health space, cofounders at Veta Health, Tanvi Vattikuti-Abbhi and Nora Zetsche, MD suggest that user-friendly, digital care plans for remote patient monitoring can reduce readmissions and, ultimately, improve patient satisfaction. One crucial distinction they make is that adopting these digital tools can help patients manage their care better. 

By creating a collaboration between patients and physicians, proactive care management through digital tools could lead to better patient engagement with access to curated, patient-specific resources outside the clinic. As the human population ages and the incidence of chronic disease rises, healthcare systems will experience increased demands on how patients receive care in terms of both quality and immediacy. This will entail patients seeking tools to manage their health from the comfort of their homes.

The team at Veta Health offers three key insights that can help healthcare executives integrate these digital technologies into their business to potentially answer the question of how to improve patient satisfaction.

  • Put patients at the center by educating them
  • Build patient trust through comfort and transparency
  • Allow patients to dictate their health journey

The perfect patient result

As a former Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patient and author of Life 2.0 – A Journey From Near Death to New Life, Kevin Kirksey knows what it means to improve the patient experience. While Kevin is not a healthcare professional, he has significant experience within the healthcare system as a patient and offers insights into “the perfect patient result.”

Based on personal experiences and research, Kevin describes examples that can dramatically change patient care and improve patient satisfaction. These observations can have a profoundly positive impact on patients and caregivers that, despite the worse outcomes, can still be deemed “the perfect patient result” according to Kevin. This perfect result can be achieved through simple acts by employees, demonstrating that both the patient and caregivers can have a positive experience throughout the patient journey.

Kevin summarizes “the perfect patient result” as:

  • A great experience
  • Going back to the same facility for future healthcare needs
  • Telling others about the experience 

Healthcare organizations need to figure out ways for their employees, both clinical and non-clinical, to impart experiences that are compassionate, valuable, encouraging, and comfortable. By doing so, these leaders can show patients and caregivers that they are essential and their care is a top priority. “Create a path to improve patient experience and create the perfect result, independent of the patient outcome,” says Kevin.

Better patient education for improved patient outcomes

Improving digital patient education has the potential to significantly impact patient health outcomes, according to Mona Ciotta, cofounder, and director of business development at medudoc. 

Much of the informational material provided is not patient-focused and can lead to anxiety and frustration. “The medical information that patients are given during their treatment process lacks patient-focused language and visuals,” says Mona. Incorporating better, more personalized educational solutions, like individualized informational videos, can help patients feel empowered and more optimistic. 

For healthcare leaders, implementing better educational resources can increase organizational efficiencies and impact informed consent so patients can make better, more informed decisions about their care.

To improve patient education, healthcare executives can:

  • Find partners to help you enhance patient education within your facility
  • Challenge the status quo because new ideas and approaches make processes better and improve the experience for doctors and patients
  • Involve people at all steps of the patient journey when discussing or implementing new digital solutions
  • Be open-minded to a new status quo to empower patients and give doctors more freedom to focus on what’s important

By becoming more engaged in their own care, patients can better understand their entire journey and as a result, improve patient satisfaction. “Healthcare needs a true standard for patient education to meet new patient demands,” says Mona.

Improving patient satisfaction should be a top priority and can be easy

For healthcare leaders, how to improve patient satisfaction should be a top priority of their organization. With the advancement of new technologies in self-care, patients are becoming more in tune with their healthcare needs. It is not enough to provide care to patients during a one-hour visit. 

Patients want to feel that they are receiving the best possible care throughout the entire journey – before, during, and after the visit. Executives can implement simple strategies that make the pathway easy for the patient and, at the same time, ensure all their healthcare needs are being met.

Simone Edelmann, PhD is an editor and contributor at HealthcareTransformers.com. After completing her PhD from the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, she found her passion in medical and scientific communications. She is dedicated to delivering high-quality content on the topic of the future of healthcare to our readers.

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