The cat has been out of the bag for a long time. In fact, this cat is old and grey by now, but it remains relevant.
Referrals are not enough to sustain patient retention and growth anymore, and it hasn’t been for quite some time.
Patients regard themselves as royalty and demand the appropriate treatment. That is where the overall patient experience at your practice becomes so essential to your growth goals. But what exactly do we mean when we refer to ‘patient experience’ in a small-to-medium-sized medical practice?
What is patient experience?
When we define ‘patient experience,’ we refer to all the interactions patients have with the healthcare system or the provider. This includes the care they receive from health plans, medical providers, and administrative personnel.
The overall quality of the patient experience relies on various aspects such as the quality of care they receive, access and flow of information, transparent and clear communication, seamless appointment, billing processes, and other back-office processes. Additionally, there is that extra mile, which we will get into later.
What is the difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction?
These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they do have different meanings. To measure patient experience, patients should be asked if something that should happen did happen. For example, if it is a standard procedure at your practice that patients should receive a reminder of an upcoming appointment, they should be asked after the appointment if they did receive it.
Patient satisfaction is more subjective, and these ratings will differ from patient to patient. Let’s use the example of a reminder, pre-appointment. If you ask patient A if they were happy about the timing and content of the reminder, their opinion would be different from patient B, who received exactly the same.
Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys developed by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are good tools to measure patient experience. You can also create your own surveys to measure the metrics that you feel are key to the patient experience principles in your practice.
How can Virtual medical Assistant (VA) improve the patient experience at your practice?
Virtual Medical Assistant services in the medical industry have seen a drastic acceleration since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the ongoing skilled labor shortage in America, this industry will continue to expand until the end of the decade at least.
Apart from being a solution to the labor shortage challenge and the cost-saving benefits associated with hiring virtual medical assistants, other benefits are becoming more apparent to the medical industry. Suppose you have already jumped on the bandwagon or are considering hiring VAs. In that case, we highly recommend reading our article about management advice to obtain optimal ROI from your virtual medical assistant.
In this section, we will not focus on the obvious time and cost-saving benefits but purely focus on the role VAs can play in improving patient experience.
1. Front-office communication
One of the key elements of patient experience in small-to-medium medical practices is clear communication. It goes beyond just assuring that the patient is informed and reminded of appointments. Two-way communication should be encouraged via telephone, email, webchats, or third-party platforms such as social media. Front-office staff may sometimes be flooded with work and miss out on appointment reminders, birthday wishes, or whatever you wish to relate to your patients. VAs, on the other hand, when handed tasks, are strictly monitored at the backend to ensure that whatever you wish to convene is carried out.
2. Improve efficiency and decrease waiting times
Many back-office processes contribute to the overall patient experience. When managed effectively by a virtual medical assistant, triage systems that systematically prioritize patients’ treatments according to the urgency for medical care significantly improve patient satisfaction and the overall patient experience.
In addition, virtual medical assistants can assist in ordering prescriptions, updating electronic medical records (EMRs), and completing patient charts that could speed up processes and allow for fewer errors. This leads to improving the patients’ perception of the overall service they receive from your practice.
Again, we can come back to how medical virtual medical assistants can save time and money. But let’s not digress…
3. Benefit verification
Since the start of 2022, benefits verification has become even more important. With the inception of the No Surprises Act (NSA) of 2022, the spotlight is now fixed on medical providers to do everything in their power to avoid surprise bills.
To ensure that patients are adequately covered and that the billing process goes according to plan, VAs can request eligibility of new patients and delve into the microscopic details that busy front-end personnel sometimes overlook. And since non-compliance with the NSA could lead to hefty penalties, minimizing errors has become vital.
4. Create transparency
Managing expectations of patients become easier when there is transparency regarding your practice. Patients are always on the prowl for additional information regarding physicians and their practices, even if they were referred. Recent studies show that patients will even choose another provider if the information they find online does not satisfy their needs.
Medical VAs can assist in encouraging and reminding patients to leave online reviews. This will boost your credibility and build trust in potential patients. But don’t expect that all the reviews will be positive either.
Virtual medical assistants can also help reduce the negative sentiment by addressing negative comments diplomatically. This gesture shows that your practice is willing to listen to patients and improve to satisfy their needs. Also, as your VA elicits more reviews, the positive reviews will smother the negative ones, which will create a better overall patient experience impression of your practice.
5. Interact with the social media community
Virtual medical assistants are equipped with various skill sets that go beyond just completing administrative tasks. You can select a VA with the necessary marketing and communications skills to turn your social media platforms into effective patient-beckoning powerhouses.
These platforms could be used to build your brand and enhance the patient experience by posting content that informs the online community of your practice, services, personnel, and promotions. Additional information such as helpful suggestions could build trust and lead potential patients to consider your practice for future medical assistance.
Similar to encouraging and managing online reviews, VAs can connect and communicate with the online community, proving that you are keen to learn more about their needs and how to fulfill them better.
Where do I find VAs with the skillsets to improve patient experience?
Neolytix is a Management Service Organization that works closely with small and medium-sized medical practices, providing an a la carte service to practices nationwide.
After more than a decade of providing healthcare virtual assistant services to medical providers in America, we have learned the value of continuous training, monitoring, and support, unlike many of our competitors. We incorporate feedback from all angles to continuously improve our virtual medical assistant service.
We would love to share our strategies for improving patient experience at your practice with the best virtual medical assistants in the industry and show you how to obtain the optimal ROI.
For a free, no-obligation consultation about your VA needs, please complete the box below to schedule the most convenient slot.