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3 Ways to Leverage Empathy and Improve Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare
Improving patient satisfaction can be daunting—especially when it’s difficult to measure. Here are 3 ways you can use empathy for the patient experience.
The way you treat your patients speaks volumes about your practice. It starts from the moment a prospective patient reaches out about an appointment and continues throughout their journey with the practice.
Patient satisfaction is difficult to measure but, nevertheless, important to strive towards. Healthcare is riddled with ups and downs that you cannot control. However, you can positively impact your patient’s experience.
Before we talk about ways to improve patient satisfaction, let’s take a look at a patient scenario that may sound familiar.
A patient’s experience in healthcare
Norma is a 65-year-old Arizona resident, who has built a fulfilling life in the Grand Canyon State, with her husband of 40 years. She now spends her days enjoying her 10 grandchildren and walking the beautiful sites her home state has to offer.
The past few years she had gone through several false alarms that seemed to signal breast cancer, but, luckily, in all cases, her doctor’s suspicions had not come to fruition. However, this year Norma’s doctor prescribed a mammogram as part of her regular yearly checkup.
As Norma prepared to schedule a new appointment with the imaging center, she was attended by a service rep that, for the most part, treated her well—but not as she had experienced in the past. When she finally arrived at the site, the practice seemed very appealing to her. Nevertheless, the attention she got from the staff left a lot to be desired.
All in all, the service she experienced from both the agent that took her call and the imaging center staff left her with the impression that she was just another number.
Utilizing empathy to improve the patient experience
All medical practices rely on their support staff to make their patients feel comfortable when they are scheduling their appointments and go in for checkups. It is imperative that the attitude and demeanor of the staff project high levels of empathy because you never know what the patient may be going through.
But, as we become a more digital society, how can we make sure that we don’t lose our humanity and instead transform into a provider of choice where all patients feel they are more than just a number? One way to achieve this high patient satisfaction is to become more empathetic.
Improve patient satisfaction in healthcare with these three tips
Using a little bit of empathy in your everyday practice goes a long way for your patients. There are several ways to leverage empathy and, at the same time, provide a top-notch customer experience. Here are three ways you can practice empathy:
1. Show trust
Trust is defined as a psychological state confirming the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another. So, how can you earn the trust of your patients so you can positively impact their experience? Through credibility, reliability, and empathy. Let’s look at each of these attributes separately.
The importance of credibility in healthcare
Nothing beats credibility. When patients find you credible, they trust you. Yes, that’s the bottom line. Do what you say you are going to do, and the rest will take care of itself. Haven’t you felt completely satisfied when a practice says they would return your call in minutes and that call comes at the precise moment you have been expecting it? Actions like this build credibility.
Establishing reliability with your patients
Most of our patients pass through your doors only once a year, thus it is extremely important that you build consistency in the way you run your processes and operations. Consistency builds reliability, and, when you become reliable you can reproduce outstanding patient experiences for new and returning patients.
Doesn’t it feel good to return to a practice that treated you well and find that the next visit was as good or better than the previous one? That’s reliability.
Adding empathy into the equation
But being credible and reliable doesn’t complete the equation that results in trust. There are many ways to reach the pinnacle of your industry, but without empathy, you don’t stand a chance. Without the empathy variable, no practice can ever become trustworthy.
But, what does it mean to practice empathy towards our patients? This boils down to designing the right experiences for your patients, delivering these propositions by focusing the entire practice on them with emphasis on collaboration, and developing capabilities to please patients again and again. That’s a great recipe for patient satisfaction.
2. Act with integrity
As you become a trustworthy practice, your patients and their referrals develop a positive view of our practice, which can even lead to interdependence. It is important to make sure that our patients speak highly of us—telling others about how credible, reliable, and empathetic our practice is. This results in integrity, making it the key driver of trustworthiness.
It’s obvious that acting with integrity can be hard to do; it’s equally obvious that we all want to be treated that way by others. So how can integrity be built into day-to-day situations? Here are a few ideas:
- Be honest—even about mistakes. As a medical service provider, you have an obligation to not only be transparent but also not hold back information that could be considered useful to employees and patients. When a mistake is made, do not come up with excuses, but admit your mistake. Your patients will thank you for it.
- Excel at the moments of truth. Whether you make promises or not, patients have expectations. This means that you need to make the experience stand out. Make sure every interaction with your patients is worthwhile. Understand these moments of truth and make them excellent.
- Be respectful above all else. Do you tend to pay more attention to recurring patients than new ones? Remember, integrity is about producing equal moments of truth at every interaction. This means that everyone gets equal treatment regardless of how many times they interact with you or your practice.
3. Rely on clear communication
Communication is key in business. Well, it is also key in all areas of human life. The pivotal aspect of communication, when dealing with patients—either at the first point of contact or when the patient reaches the practice—is transparency at every touchpoint.
You need to drive the patient to say: “If you continue to treat me well and deal with me as a person, I will continue to prefer you as my center of choice.” As we said earlier, patient satisfaction is hard to measure. However, hearing that the patient prefers your practice as their center of choice is a great indication that you are on the right track.
Communication is essential to create trust-building behaviors during the experience. This can be identified through both sides engaging in open, even candid, discussions. Communication also entails displaying high levels of discretion—employing active listening skills, encouraging open discussion, and reassuring your patients that their information will not be improperly disclosed or discussed. None of us wants patient-specific information to be improperly disclosed. No! Absolutely not.
One essential aspect of open, sincere, communication is that it gives patients the confidence to speak up. If the staff is well trained to listen and understand what the patient is trying to convey—especially in moments of crisis—patient satisfaction improves. It is not so much the relationship or the way patients are managed that distinguishes the change. It is the experience developed through these moments of truth that makes a big difference.
Employing these tips in your healthcare practice
As a healthcare service provider, you always need to keep in mind that you are engaging with real human beings. No one wants to be treated like Norma—like a number on a switchboard. The factors that will make us successful, such as trust, integrity, and communication, will allow us to build practices that are highly focused on delivering outstanding experiences for all patients, through empathy.
With industry expertise, highly educated customer service agents, and business intelligence, CCD Health is the appointment scheduler of choice for leading outpatient medical centers. As pioneers in specialized care, we know how to treat your patients intimately by adapting our best practices to your needs, including hybrid contact centers. Learn more about how we can increase your patient satisfaction by contacting us.