8 Ways to Enhance the Patient Experience in Healthcare
Providing care to patients is a routine part of a provider’s day. Though they have an entire list of patients to see and care for, many healthcare workers are expected to provide quality service, encompassing compassion and convenience. This overwhelming pressure can inhibit a provider’s motivation and make it more challenging to provide the best care for each patient. However, ensuring a positive experience assists with the quality of care, access to care, and the overall doctor-patient relationship. Negative appraisals of the doctor-patient relationship can drastically affect patient outcomes.
This is why it is so important that health workers provide the best experience for their patients. A good patient-to-provider relationship not only results in better outcomes for the patient but also makes a patient more likely to return to the clinic or refer the clinic to a friend. Finally, maintaining a good relationship with patients makes a better experience for the provider and ensures they did the best they could for their patient. There are a variety of ways to enrich the patient experience in healthcare to facilitate the best outcomes for care.
1. Listen to Understand, Rather than to Respond
Patients visit healthcare facilities for several reasons. They may have concerns they need adequately addressed concerning their treatment or worrisome questions that seem standard to you but which are stressful and worrying to them. Sometimes, providers may hear a patient’s concern and be ready with a response to, hopefully, help them feel better. It is best to listen to the patient’s concerns fully before internally drafting a response. This allows the patient to feel they are a priority and that their care is person-centered. Active listening involves possibly paraphrasing what a patient said for them to recognize their provider understands them.
2. Encourage Conversation and Discussion
Patients may have one or two symptoms they discuss during a medical appointment. However, encouraging a conversation may reveal other issues that are important and otherwise understated. Patients will leave the office feeling taken care of after discussing all their concerns. The biopsychosocial model suggests that all parts of the patient are important when discussing treatment, including their mental, physical, and emotional health.
For example, a provider who is solely concerned about a lump on the patient’s arm and not concerned about their emotional health in relation to this physical abnormality may miss an opportunity to refer the patient to mental health services. Fluid conversations allow providers and patients to openly discuss concerns and identify the most accurate treatment goals.
3. Provider Professionalism
Professionalism is an important topic, especially in medical settings. When patients are receiving information about their health and prognosis, professionalism helps patients feel secure and reassured during times of distress. One way for providers to remain professional is to wear professional attire. Some clinics require scrubs as a primary means of attire for providers. There are a few companies that offer a variety of scrub options, including fun colors for cold or warmer environments. Always looking professional and put-together will ensure patients feel they can trust a provider.
4. Friendly Demeanor
Enhancing the patient experience includes convenient healthcare access and adequate service delivery. However, patients are more likely to report positive experiences from friendly providers, assistants, and scheduling staff. This means it is important to smile and have a positive demeanor while interacting with clients. One way to increase provider well-being that translates to your patients and improves your demeanor is to engage in mindful meditation practices before or after work. Mindfulness meditation has numerous benefits, the most important one being an increased ability to connect with others. Providers may more readily connect with and understand patients if they are more centered before beginning work.
5. Exercise Empathy
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Those who are empathetic recognize the magnitude of health issues for patients, even if they themselves have never had that exact issue before and seek to understand what their patients are feeling. Providers who make general statements, such as simply “I understand,” or who tend to minimize patient’s problems, have less connection with their patients. Patients want to feel heard and understood. Most may feel like a burden even coming into a clinic. Exercise empathy by allowing yourself to feel what your patient is feeling. This can help enhance the quality of care and the patient’s experience.
6. Minimize Paperwork
Patients often visit a clinic or medical setting and complete pages of paperwork. They enter a treatment room, only to repeat what they’ve written down on paper. Minimizing paperwork will reduce patient’s frustration and irritability and increase their willingness to discuss their concerns. Paperwork may be laborious, but sometimes it is unavoidable. If the clinic requires paperwork to be completed, take the time to read over the patient’s chart before seeing them. This will show the patient the paperwork they completed was essential, and they did not complete it simply for bureaucratic reasons.
7. Reduce Noise
Noise may interfere with provider-patient interactions and impact patient satisfaction. Quieter clinics tend to be more conducive to patients who are ill, frustrated, scared, or otherwise medically unstable. Unnecessary noise, such as loud printers or computers, may also inhibit a patient’s experience. Hearing other patients in other rooms can also be disturbing and evoke a sense of distrust or disorder, as it can give the patient the impression that other people can hear your confidential conversations, reducing the patient’s level of disclosure within treatment. If noise is inevitable in the clinic, playing soothing, meditative music may be helpful, as it provides a relaxing environment for those who may be struggling with physical or emotional conditions.
8. Focus on the Good
Patients mostly visit a healthcare setting to discuss the negative aspects of their health. They are seeking help to rectify or decrease negative symptoms. Focusing on the negative during every visit may discourage patients and make them less motivated to be a part of their care.
Providers who point out the positives in their patients may see better results in terms of patient satisfaction and adherence to treatment recommendations. For example, providers can celebrate little victories of their clients when they accomplish a task or take charge of their medical concerns.
Focusing on the patient’s strengths and resiliency factors may also be helpful in enhancing the patient’s experience. For instance, a provider may have trouble identifying strengths for a patient but notice he is very inquisitive about his upcoming procedures and treatments. The provider can highlight the patient’s detail-oriented nature and how beneficial it is for treatment adherence.
Examples of strengths or protective factors include social support, insight, motivation for treatment, or a curious nature regarding medical issues. Providers can even ask patients what their self-perceived strengths are and use those as a solid foundation for future treatments.
Each patient and healthcare provider is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for the patient-provider relationship. However, with a few mindful tips and tricks, you can enhance your relationship with your patients and make the experience rewarding for both parties.
Guest Author Bio: Adela Ellis is a full-time nurse and part-time ambassador for Infinity Scrubs. Adela attended the University of Arizona and has been a travel nurse for the last 6 years. She enjoys working with different doctors, nurses, and patients from all over the country and blogging about her experiences. In her free time, she loves true-crime podcasts and cooking for friends and family.