Elizabeth Woodcock, a leading expert on medical practice operations, is on a mission to help the healthcare industry improve the patient experience. In conjunction with the Availity Learning Center, she created a new on-demand training series, The Patient Relations Superstar, which launches this month.  
 
Woodcock formulated the series because she believes that medical practices require specialized customer service training for administrative and clinical staff alike. Existing courses on the market don’t address the unique challenges faced by practices. “Patients are sick. If they are not sick, they are fearful or anxious,” she said. “Medical practice environments are chaotic, which puts a lot of pressure on everyone who works there. For training to be effective, it has to take this into consideration.” She notes that other industries don’t have the same burden and responsibility to create a positive experience in the face of difficult circumstances.
 
When asked how well she thinks the industry is implementing patient experience programs, she ranks the effort at six on a scale of zero to 10. “Our heart is in it, but the execution is not there,” she said. “It’s not that we aren’t intending to do that, but in the heat of the moment, we are not good at it. We have to remember that every call and every touch represents a life.”
 
Here are three considerations when implementing patient experience training at your practice:  
 

Focusing on patient experience helps practices differentiate themselves

If medical practices hope to position themselves for long-term success, they have no choice but to focus on patient experience as a business necessity. As consumerism grows and patients take a more active role in selecting medical services, practices are facing a market where it’s more difficult for them to differentiate. “We really can’t influence their choices based on price,” said Woodcock. Therefore, practices need to focus on those areas where they can influence change. How quickly can they schedule appointments? How streamlined is the check-in process? How welcoming and compassionate are the staff? When it comes to how patients feel about their interactions, it’s the big things and the little things that matter.  
 

Patient experience training must be ongoing

Patient experience training shouldn’t be thought of as an annual event. Instead, it should be ongoing, allowing practices to not only introduce concepts to new employees, but also to refresh principles with experienced personnel. This is especially important given that the annual turnover rate among medical practice administrative employees hovers at 30 percent.
 

Managing social media is a component of the patient experience

One challenge medical practices face today is the same one that vexes even the savviest retailers—how to handle criticism via social media. Many patients are turning to Yelp, HealthGrades, and other online review sites to research physicians and practices. Unfortunately, the reviews on these sites often skew negative because people are more inclined to take to social media when they’ve had a negative experience, as opposed to a positive one. The old adage about satisfied customers telling just a few people while an unsatisfied customer telling many holds true here. As frustrating or unfair as negative reviews may feel, ignoring them isn’t an option.  
 
Woodcock recommends a proactive approach to managing online reputation. “When patients compliment you, ask if they will share that by posting a review online.” Most are happy to participate once asked, and you can quickly turn a one-star review into a stellar one.
 

Learn more

The Patient Relations Superstar series is now available on-demand from the Availity Learning Center. Courses in the series include: 
  • Wait Management: Best Practices to Handle the Patient’s Wait
  • Customer Service: On the Telephone…and Online
  • The Moment of Truth: The Face of the Business
  • Preparing Yourself: How to Handle Patient Complaints
  • Mastering Customer Service: The Ten Commandments

You can purchase each course individually, or buy the entire series at a discounted price.

Elizabeth Woodcock is a speaker, trainer, and author who is passionately dedicated to helping physician practices achieve and sustain patient satisfaction, practice efficiency, and profitability. You can visit her site at www.elizabethwoodcock.com.