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The Beryl Institute invites members to submit posts on patient experience related topics. For guidelines and information on submitting a post for consideration, contact michelle.garrison@theberylinstitute.org.

 

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Phone Skills: Making or Breaking The Patient Experience

Posted By Sarah Suddreth, Friday, June 22, 2018
Updated: 10 hours ago

A patient’s first interaction with a healthcare organization sets the tone for his or her overall experience. In fact, it only takes two negative phone experiences to diminish a patient’s view of his or her healthcare provider1. In non-emergent situations, the patient’s first touch is most often a phone call. Since the patient experience begins on the phone, your staff’s ability to consistently execute on every patient call is crucial.

Why?

Just think about the ease of today’s landscape: We order groceries to our doorstep, request cars from our couch to take us virtually anywhere and have prescriptions refilled by pressing a button. Almost every task is performed over the phone; we are increasingly turning to our handheld devices to fulfill our wants and needs.

Your patients expect the same ease and accessibility when scheduling an appointment or interacting with your healthcare organization at all. Let’s give them the most optimal patient experience every time that phone rings. They deserve it.

What should scripting look like on a patient call?

1. Identify yourself and your health system or practice.

  • “Thank you for calling [Your Provider Name], this is [Your Name], how can I help you?”
  • Assert that you can help and collect the caller’s information.
  • “I can help you out with that. Whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”
  • Ensure that you refer to the caller by name throughout the conversation to establish rapport and a personal connection.

2. Knowledgeably answer questions and collect necessary information. 

  • Be prepared to confidently obtain information and answer questions regarding:

    • Accepted insurances
    • Cash discounts or payment plans
    • Services offered in office
    • Schedule availability for particular services
    • Doctor availability
    • Consultation / initial exam price (for emergent care)
    • Address and hours

  • When someone calls in asking questions, that caller is likely looking to book an appointment. After obtaining all needed pre registration information, request the appointment. If the patient’s answer is yes, offer at least two different appointment times. “Is morning or afternoon better?” “Morning, great! I have an appointment available at 9:30 Wednesday or 8:00 Thursday. Which do you prefer?”

3. Provide the Optimal Patient Experience

  • Increase your appointment show rate and set the caller’s expectations for next steps. “We have you down for 8 a.m. on Thursday. Be sure to arrive 15 minutes early to complete initial paperwork. Do you know where our office is located?”
  • Let the patient know what’s to be expected upon arrival for the appointment, such as check-in steps or needed documentation for the appointment. This is also a good time during the call to discuss payment expectations. Increase your cash collections by articulating what the patient should expect to pay, or collect it over the phone.
  • When wrapping up the call, provide instructions for what the patient should expect to happen next. If he or she will be contacted by another individual to confirm paperwork and financial responsibility prior to the visit, make that known. Finally, do a self assessment. Did the patient feel at ease? Did you receive the necessary documentation and payment information? Is there anything that needs to be looked at again?
  • “Thank you so much for calling XYZ Health System. We look forward to seeing you on August 8 at 11:15 a.m. Be sure to bring your insurance card and desired form of payment with you. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

Proper usage of scripting on calls is homologous with an unparalleled patient experience. It puts patients at ease and strengthens provider-patient care. Having said that, for a health system to offer that white glove experience for patients calling in, there needs to be constant feedback on key performance aspects of every phone call, rather than just a sample call size. Other than scripting, what is your health system doing to monitor and enhance the patient experience on every single patient call?

1. “Consumer Survey Reveals the Customer Care Experiences That Most Impact the Relationship Between Cable Operator and Subscriber.” CSJ International Press Release. May 12, 2010. 

Sarah Suddreth is a proud member of The Beryl Institute and Director of Business Development at Call Box, the leading telephony and artificial intelligence technology firm that works with health systems and providers to present more insight into their phone calls. Healthcare providers turn to Call Box when both internal and external patient experience issues continue to arise over the phone. Living in Dallas, Sarah works with healthcare executives across the nation to enhance Patient Access and Experience standards for patient interactions over the phone.

Tags:  communication  patient experience  scripting  technology  telephone 

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A New Framework for Putting Patients at the Center of Digital CARE

Posted By Niall O’Neill, Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"Oh great." I hear you say. Yes, this is another article about consumerism in healthcare. McKinseyForbesDeloitteNYTimesHarvard Business Review, you name it – industry leaders and commentators have all called this trend in recent years, and consumerism was a hot topic at HIMSS. But the truth is, this conversation started at the turn of the century.

A long, long time ago, in the year 2000 AD...

The Institute for the Future made some alarming projections about healthcare. They identified early connections between healthcare spending and consumerism.1

 

Patients

 

Consumers

Passive recipients of care

Actively making choices about care

 

A healthy economic market requires competition, and therefore, informed and engaged consumers empowered by choice. Other industries like retail, travel and technology2 have adapted rapidly, and consumers expect the same in healthcare services.

This isn’t about Siri replacing your primary care physician or Amazon’s robot surgeons replacing hips at Whole Foods. While we might get there one day, let’s dim the science-fiction fantasies for now and focus on the present reality.

We need a simple framework to drive today’s digital solutions so we can adapt quickly to healthcare consumerism, put patients at the center of care, and create a meaningful, interoperable platform to enable the future. Solutions for this new landscape must adhere to four fundamental principles of digital CARE:

  • Convenience
  • Accessibility
  • Relationships
  • Empowerment

Convenience

Once upon a time, patients may have had one choice - the community hospital. With the ongoing consolidation in the US market, super-systems now compete regionally for consumer loyalties.

Today, consumers have a choice, and are influenced by the same drivers as other industries – a need for convenience and responsiveness.3 When we look at the evolution of digital tools like smartphones, convenience drives us.

A zero-friction customer service model isn’t just “nice to have.” It’s absolutely necessary for acquiring and retaining consumer relationships. For patients, particularly those with ongoing care needs, convenience will reduce the burden of these interactions.

One technique is to map the consumer’s journey, starting from the point at which they have a need for care. Try thinking from the user’s vantage point. Even if a process works well for you and your staff, it may not optimally address your consumers’ (or their families’) needs. When we walk in our consumers’ shoes, we better understand what they are thinking and feeling, and can identify new opportunities for improvements.

Only when you understand your opportunities for improvement should you identify digital solutions.

When you can anticipate your consumers’ needs and think holistically about their interactions with your organization across multiple channels you can design personalized solutions that make it easy for them to get the information and communication they need, at the right time, in the right way. Reduce the friction, make it easy for your consumers.

Accessibility

Ron Mace, founder of the Center for Universal Design has defines Universal Design as the “design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

To achieve this, involve as many consumers as possible in your design process. Connect with patient leaders through Patient Advisory Boards, or through organizations like WEGO Health and the Savvy Coop. Ask them to share their stories, and let them shape your diverse, realistic user personas. For those who don’t speak software, that just means your consumer experience must work for everyone, even outliers. Real life is messier than fiction, so let them inspire you to test your design in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise. And remember, your consumers speak many languages – emotionally, culturally and literally. Will everyone know what to do? Feel understood? Heard?

Technology creates new possibilities for accessibility.

Relationships

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Providers that meet or exceed expectations will gain and sustain relationships with consumers. Sounds great if you’re a consumer, but do providers have the time to be heroes?

They do if you leverage technology to automate their routine administrative and clinical tasks, so they have time to spend enriching patient interactions. Look for tools that enable them to focus on care and the interpersonal relationship, rather than data entry.

But remember, technology can do A LOT more than automate. Think of a time when you talked to an old friend living 10,000 miles away, or followed a new friend on Instagram because they had the best kitten memes...we are delighted in these moments. Can you foster the same humanity between doctors and patients using technology?

Digital tools have the power to improve communication in our relationships and foster partnership among consumers and caregivers. Today’s open, secure platforms for video and text-based dialog with “carers” (providers, family, friends) allow consumers to access care, share preferences, ask questions, and make shared medical decisions in the hospital or at home.

Empowerment

Knowledge is [em]power. *Knowledge (noun), the application of information through actions. We need to transition from information-sharing to knowledge transfer.

Patient portals are the standard patient engagement tool, thanks to Meaningful Use requirements. They give patients a view of some data captured in an EHR, but in many cases that information lacks context or helpful next steps about disease management. It’s not actionable.

Tools that empower consumers impart knowledge to facilitate self-care, give context and ensure that patient preferences, fears and motivators are factored into a longitudinal plan of care. We live in an exciting time for innovation in healthcare, and I believe that digital technologies can help truly put patients at the center of CARE.

1.  https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/debunking-common-myths-about-healthcare-consumerism

 

Niall O’Neill is the Vice President of Business Development at Oneview Healthcare, a health technology company focused on improving the experience of care for patients, families and providers. Based in Dublin, Ireland, Niall turned to healthcare after over a decade of management consulting in other industries with Accenture and Deloitte, driven by a belief that technology can make healthcare better for all.

Tags:  choice  Consumerism  patient experience  relationship  technology 

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Give a Better Patient Experience by Introducing the Care Team

Posted By Julie A. Snow, Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 17, 2017

As a patient, it can be uncomfortable and overwhelming to stay in a lonely hospital room with a seemingly neverending stream of unfamiliar faces coming and going throughout all hours of the day and night.

Hospitals can do a lot to improve the patient experience. One simple, yet surprisingly effective way to do so is by simply taking the time to introduce the patient to his or her care team professionals. This one act can improve a patient’s familiarity with their care team members, enhance their awareness of what to expect from each member and increase their confidence in the care that is being provided. When these things happen, the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff can also feel more connected with and more committed to providing the best care possible.

With both patients and providers quickly establishing a relationship with each other, patient satisfaction with their overall hospital experience can improve drastically while hospital staff feels more fulfilled in their work. It becomes a win-win situation.

Improve Patient Familiarity with Care Team Members

A team-based approach to patient care is widely used by hospitals. This is to ensure the best care possible for each patient. When the team is optimized by being composed of staff members who are working to the highest level of their expertise and abilities, the following can be accomplished:

  • Patients gain enhanced access to a team of experienced professionals
  • Patients are more satisfied with their stay
  • Care will see improved levels of quality, reliability, and safety
  • Hospital costs will reduce

If there is a downside to using a whole team of rotating professionals, it’s that the patient may not be given much of a chance to establish a relationship with each team member. This delays or reduces the chance for trust to be built. However, by keeping patients regularly updated on not only the name of their care provider but also their photo, title, and qualifications, it is easier to build a higher level of trust in a shorter amount of time.

Increase Patient Trust and Confidence

So what happens when patients are more familiar with the background, qualifications and certifications of each team member who is responsible for their care? Patients feel more comfortable in the hospital environment and even the confidence in themselves and their ability to heal is increased.

With this newfound trust and confidence, patients can become more empowered to voice their concerns, ask questions regarding their care plan or prescriptions and accept the advice of experts. After a patient leaves the hospital, they will be more likely to follow their doctor’s instructions and seek needed follow-up care.

A New Way for Introductions

A nurse can write his or her name on a whiteboard hung up on a patient’s wall, but now there is a better, more engaging way to make introductions. Hospitals are introducing their patients to care team members via an in-room television or even a digital whiteboard displayed on a personal tablet. This method has proven effective since the updates happen automatically, in real time, and patients are familiar with the format.

Easy access to information and enhancing patient awareness both play a big part in the encouragement of patients to open a consistent dialog with their care provider. A simple conversation can make all the difference in the health and wellness of a patient.

Patients are determined, more than ever before, to be fully engaged and educated in their own health care. By giving them the opportunity to be proactive when interacting with their care team, you are also giving them the opportunity to be more fully satisfied with their overall hospital experience.

 

Julie A. Snow is a health researcher and writer who has worked together with Sonifi Health to improve patient experience. When she isn’t working or mothering, you’ll usually find her in an Ashtanga Yoga arm balance or eating (sometimes both at the same time).

Tags:  Interactions  introduction  patient access  patient engagement  relationship  team  technology 

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3 Ways to Engage Patients Between Visits

Posted By Fred Altimont, Monday, November 21, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 21, 2016

Quality and cost. Two of the most important elements of the healthcare industry today, and key ingredients driving the shift from volume- to value-based care. Providers face tremendous pressure to deliver higher-quality care at a lower cost, and engaging patients in their own care can help on both of these fronts. On top of better health outcomes, engaged patients also typically report higher satisfaction levels.

The problem? Many patients’ interactions with their doctors are limited to the 10-minute in-person visit. Patients can often feel rushed and forget the questions they wanted to ask, and don’t have the time to process new information, leading to frustration. The patients return home, only to feel they’ve lost access to the personalized care and support of an in-person visit.

So, how can providers engage their patients between visits? There are a few ways technology can help bridge this gap.

Remote Monitoring

The proliferation of wearables and mobile devices means we are now more connected than ever before. Patients can monitor and report activity levels, symptoms, and even vital signs today from the comfort of their own homes. When shared with doctors, this data can not only empower patients to self-manage their care, but also inform clinical teams, creating a more productive in-person visit. Data overload for the physician is easily avoidable by setting mutually-aligned goals with the patient. The patient monitors his or her vital sign ranges, and the physician is only alerted when a vital falls outside that range.

Education

Often, a large portion of the office visit is spent educating patients about conditions and treatments. But when the patient only has a short, fixed amount of time with the doctor, retaining instructions or other information can be hard to do. What if that same education could be delivered virtually, though, freeing up more time with the patient to answer questions and have other discussion? For instance, a digital health program could educate patients about how to manage their allergies during the approaching pollen season, or teach them how to properly use an inhaler.

Communication

As simple as it sounds, a quick note to a patient between visits can improve patient engagement. In fact, a recent study from the International Journal for Quality in Health Care found that secure messaging “appears to be associated with higher quality diabetes care, particularly among at-risk populations.” By feeling more connected to care teams, patients often report higher satisfaction levels and may be more engaged in self-managing their conditions. The use of video can also propel the connected relationship for the patient. In seeing a provider’s face, patients can develop a deeper bond with the entire care team.

The in-person doctor visit holds a valuable place in the care continuum and cannot - and should not - be fully replaced. The relationships and trust built during face-to-face time are crucial in caring for patients in their health journey. With the right tools, however, these visits can be supplemented to facilitate even more trust and compassion, while delivering healthier outcomes. We’re committed to bridging this gap to improve patients’ lives and look forward to driving innovation in this area.

 

Fred Altimont is executive vice president at ViiMed, a digital health company that delivers customers’ care plans for acute, chronic, and episodic conditions through cloud-based software.

Tags:  cost  mobile devices  patient engagement  quality  technology  trust  wearables 

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