How to Drive More Revenue by Improving Exam Room Experience

Delivering the best patient care experience is all that really matters when it comes to developing a successful medical practice. Forget the different technologies, or new age treatment techniques. Why do most doctor’s offices put out magazines in the waiting area? Because in the odd case that a patient doesn’t have a smartphone to look at, they need to have a happy and pleasant visit. That’s what keeps patients coming back and recommending the practice to their friends and family.

Translation in case you didn’t catch it: a pleasant visit leads to a higher chance of patient retention or referrals… both of which impact revenue growth.

Just keeping one patient on board with your practice can have a lasting impact. A recent state of healthcare report by Salesforce mentioned that around 43% of patients switched doctors in the last ten years. Based on some estimates about the cost of a physician visit, consider that one patient making regular semi-annual visits in a ten year period brings in about $3,200. Based on how much your practice spends on marketing and recruitment, costs will vary, but investments into bringing on a new patient can cost as much as $2,000. Obviously, it’s more profitable to just keep the old ones.

A large part of what will keep old patients and attract new ones is positive patient experiences. Getting patients talking about how great it is to work with your practice can provide a great revenue boost. In fact, research has indicated that businesses who gain one star on Yelp can see revenue increases of up to 9%. Just from one little star, provided by a few satisfied customers. So in healthcare, what can doctors do to gain that boost in reviews?

Building a Positive Patient Care Experience

What makes a regular check-up a happy experience, or a trying visit at least bearable, is usually not going to take place in the front lobby. It’s in the exam room.

Face-to-face interaction is where doctors can make the biggest impact on a patient’s experience. Obviously, they’ll also be administering care. While some appointments necessitate treatments or procedures that make the patient uncomfortable, the part of the exam that doesn’t need to be uncomfortable is the dialogue. Try these topics out and see if you can’t build rapport with your patient:

Share Something

If an examination and treatment plan is going to be truly effective, a provider needs to know the full picture of what’s going on with the patient. That means that privacy has no place in the exam room. A lack of privacy means heightened vulnerability, and humans instinctually do not want to be vulnerable. Luckily, doctors can potentially reduce the discomfort for the patient by sharing a story or opinion of their own. Even some minor details about facing an injury in the past or going on a trip can be enough to help the situation without breaching professionalism.

Explain the Unfamiliar

While most doctors do a good job of explaining their post-examination findings and the reasons behind treatment recommendations, sometimes the methods of discovery can be alarming to patients. Checking vitals, breathing, blood pressure, etc. seems to be run-of-the-mill for most patients, so there’s no reason to unnecessarily lengthen the visit with explanations of those activities. However, if there’s an odd test thrown into the mix, a brief explanation of what actions are being performed or what tools are being used and why they’re important can go a long way to comfort the patient, or pique their interest.

Open with Small Talk

Some people love chit-chat, some people hate it, but doctors have to use it. Small talk can be especially effective if the provider makes a side note in the patient’s chart about hobbies, family, or other topics, and then check back in on that topic. Even though it’s just in the notes, revisiting an old topic can feel to the patient like they’re continuing a conversation with a familiar friend. It also provides an added benefit of helping to lower the patient’s guard before asking necessary health-related information. Plus, some seemingly-unrelated background info can occasionally provide important context to diagnoses and help the doctor with delivering care.

Making Sure You’re Communicating

While these tips just involve interacting with the patient in fairly ordinary ways, a lot of physicians still struggle with these activities because they’re focused on gathering data. Your patient records (and eligibility for government payment incentives) matter, certainly, but how can you pick up some new social habits without putting down the EHR?

The answer may lie with mobile. Some patients actually want to see doctors leverage technology more effectively, with about 74% of millennials seeking ways to pay their bills and schedule appointments online. The same study reports that mobile devices and mobile apps are the most in-demand technologies for healthcare access, so it’s easy to see that smartphones are a likely solution here. Without it, you may run the risk of giving patients a poor experience, like the one we heard from a colleague earlier this year.

Mobility may be breaking into healthcare sooner than you think, all to the benefit of your patients’ experiences and your practice’s bottom line. Learn more about the way that mobile devices are impacting healthcare in this free eBook – download it now.

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