A positive patient experience is the foundation for improved patient relationships, higher lifetime value from those relationships, and better healthcare outcomes for patients. It’s a win-win for both providers and patients—which is why every should invest in strategies promoting patient-centric care.
Unfortunately, positive healthcare experiences have eluded many Americans in recent years. According to a 2022 survey by The Beryl Institute – Ipsos PX Pulse, 76 percent of U.S. adults did not have a positive patient experience within the prior three months. In that same period of time, 60 percent of surveyed adults reported a negative patient experience.
These negative experiences can have a long-term impact on the patient-provider experience, increasing patient frustrations and eroding their trust in individual providers and urgent care brands. Too often, these negative patient experiences are the result of simple mistakes made by well-intentioned clinics and staff.
One of the best ways to address patient care shortcomings and create positive experiences across your entire patient population, is to recognize simple mistakes, create a plan to resolve the mistakes, and communicate.
1. Long Wait Times
Research has shown that the overall patient experience is negatively correlated with longer wait times. The longer patients are asked to wait to receive care, the more likely they are to report lower confidence in the care provider, as well as lower perceived quality of care.
A lack of updates during waiting periods can further contribute to a negative experience, particularly when patients find themselves waiting longer than they had anticipated. Longpatient wait times affect business outcomes as well, resulting in a lower patient retention rate.
Lastly, poor reviews resulting from long waits can reduce the flow of new patients and increase your patient acquisition costs.
2. Poor Patient Engagement
Understaffed clinics and heavy workloads can lead to low morale, high stress, and burnout among providers and other urgent care staff. When staff is suffering from a poor workplace experience, it’s only a matter of time until their experience informs the patient's experience.
Along with explicit instances of staff being rude or dismissive of patients, some patients see the body language of stressed or overworked staff and interpret this behavior as impatience or a lack of empathy toward the patient population.
Communication breakdowns can also contribute to a poor patient experience. Rushed, unclear communication, as well as documentation errors and omissions, can be the result of staff attempting to perform under the pressure of a high-stress environment. When staff are regularly tasked with working in these conditions, it can degrade the patient experience, shake the patient population’s overall trust in the clinic, and lead to ongoing staff turnover and staff retention issues.
3. An Inaccessible or Cumbersome Booking Process
Even before patients walk through your urgent care doors, your booking process may have primed them for a positive or negative clinic experience. The lack of a user-friendly, online booking system can directly impact the number of bookings a clinic generates among both new and existing patients, and can lead to lost revenue when booking systems don’t maximize availability.
The lack of a visit booking system, as well as tedious, multi-step booking processes, can cause prospective patients to abandon time-consuming booking and digital registration processes. Even when online booking is available, insufficient booking options can send would-be patients to a competitor.
Timeliness and availability are primary concerns among certain patient populations, such as parents of children under 18: according to Solv’s 2023 State of Patient Engagement Report, 50 percent of parents said they would not wait for their child to see a provider beyond today, and 81 percent said they would not wait beyond the following day.
4. Unclear Communication and Follow-Through
Whether due to patient wait times, scheduling, post-visit follow-ups or other aspects of the patient experience, poor communication can cause increased confusion and anxiety among your patient population, decreasing overall trust in your clinic.
Insufficient post-visit communication, including instructions and test results from urgent care providers, can lead to worse care outcomes for patients requiring additional consultation or care, especially when post-treatment complications develop. Poor patient engagement,communication, and follow-up actions can adversely affect operational efficiency and lower your facility’s patient retention rates.
5. Lack of Transparency & Unmet Expectations
Patients navigating the urgent care process are often doing so while dealing with physical and psychological challenges. As a result, they can be particularly sensitive to poor transparency from clinics and providers and can become frustrated quickly when certain expectations are not met.
Inaccurate or outdated information on your urgent care website—such as hours of operation, services offered, estimated wait times, insurance acceptance and cost estimates—can impact patient access to care and the costs they incur. These inaccuracies can increase the risk of claim denials, erode patient trust in your facility, and lead to higher rates of patient attrition.
Your facility’s location accessibility can also affect the patient experience. Poor lighting for evening and overnight visits, lacking signage in and around your clinic, and a hard-to-find location can instill negative sentiments in patients before they check in for a visit.
Strategies to Improve the Patient Experience
These common mistakes can be costly to your business, but they’re preventable with the right tactics and operational changes. The path to a better patient experience begins with these five strategies:
1. Track Performance Metrics
Metrics like door-to-door time, average patient wait times, daily patient visits, and patient frequency can all offer insights into the quality of your patient experience. These data points can help identify operational changes, such as improving patient flow and optimizing waitlist management, to increase patient volumes and improve the patient experience.
2. Invest in Clinic Culture
Ongoing training for staff, adequate breaks, and digital administrative tools will make life easier for your staff. A better work environment can lead to more positive patient engagement and improved staff retention.
3. Optimize Your Digital Registration
Even if you have an online booking system in place, embrace digital tools and capabilities to optimize this process for both patients and staff. As we note in our Urgent Care Toolkit, best-in-class urgent cares have 92 percent of their patient's complete registration digitally, while more than 70 percent of patients book and register online before arriving at the clinic.
4. Utilize SMS
SMS can improve communication and transparency at various points of the patient journey. Paperless check-in and automated reminders can help patients arrive on time for booked visits, check their place on the waitlist, and follow through with post-visit engagement.
5. Prioritize Transparency
Regularly check your website to make sure pricing, insurance acceptance, and other information is up-to-date. Invest in adequate lighting and signage so that the entire patient experience is aligned with your branding and your efforts to foster patient trust in your clinic.
Ready to invest in a better patient experience? Request a demo of Solv’s on-demand care platform today.