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Strategies to achieve Patient Experience Excellence

Strategies to achieve Patient Experience Excellence

As healthcare is becoming a more consumer-based business, it is inevitable we need to focus on service excellence. What is Service Excellence?

Our consumers receive exceptional service at every touch point of their journey within the healthcare organization through their continuum of care. So that means it is everybody’s responsibility. Everybody is part of it and all play an important role – no exceptions!

There are some strategies we can implement to provide exceptional experience to our patients. I shall be highlighting 5 of the most important ones:

Strategy #1
Personalized Care:

Treat every patient with importance and aim to design individual care programs for your patients. Create opportunities to listen to your patient’s stories and connect with them and their family members to get to know them. By understanding our patients and their background, we create better personalized care and achieve more successful clinical outcomes.

Strategy #2
Patient Centered Communication:

Always explain to your patients what you are doing and why are you doing it. Do not feel you are wasting the time you spend with your patients to explain and connect. Make your patients feel that they are in charge of their health and are fully involved in their treatment planning process. Make them feel that it is ok to ask questions and tell their stories.

Strategy#3
Welcome Feedback

Always encourage feedback from your patients. Ultimately our goal is to exceed expectations, however we can not get it always right. Make sure you have systems in place that encourages feedback from your patients. Look at negative feedback as constructive and an opportunity to improve. Negative feedback should be welcomed, however, you need to have strong service recovery systems in place to deal with it in the appropriate way.

Strategy #4
Invest in your employees

Your staff is the most important assets in your business; they are making up your culture. If you have happy, motivated employees they will make your patients happy. When your patients receive exceptional care, it is down to your employees believing that they need to provide that level of care. Care for your employees and they will care for your patients.

Strategy #5
Celebrate success

Celebrate clinical and service excellence achievements. Show appreciation to the team for achieving those milestones. Just stop for a moment and enjoy the success when expectations are exceeded and goals achieved. You and your team deserve it.

How important is it to evaluate and improve your patient experience?

How important is it to evaluate and improve your patient experience?

Faye Sealey – Clinic Manager – Dr Roze & Associates Dental Clinic

Measuring patient experience and satisfaction can be a challenge because really, how can you judge the quality of your patient service level? Older used method by the healthcare industry included;

  • Observing employees – this method has not proven to be the most effective, as when an employee is being watched by a line manager, of course they will be on their best behaviour.
  • Asking the employee – they will not tell you that they are doing a bad job, this given you bias answers.
  • Patient feedback – Patients may give you feedback, but they may not focus on relevant issues, unless you specifically ask them, but also they may fear to give negative comments, if they have been asked personally to give feedback.

In other service sectors such as retail there is one method which has proven a huge success resulting in excellent customer service level and in turn increased profitability of the business. This method is called ‘Mystery Customer’, so why can’t we implement this in the healthcare industry……there is no reason why not!

Introducing a mystery patient in to your practice is the missing link you have been searching for in your patient journey.

What are the benefits of a mystery patient?

  • No one on the inside of your business can give you the perspective a mystery patient brings
  • Your team do not know who, what or when the patient will be coming into your practice, therefore they can provide you with a UNBIASED view of your service level
  • You can fully understand what the ‘first impression’ of your practice is
  • You can check compliance of your front of house team
  • When your team are aware of a mystery patient programme, it creates an even higher caliber of performance.

Using a Mystery Patients provides insight into how employees are interacting with customers. It can be difficult to know how employees conduct themselves when a manager or supervisor is not around, and as a clinic manager myself, utilizing this method of evaluating patient experience gave me the reassurance that my team was offering the high quality of service whether I was there or not.

Mystery patients are tasked with interacting with specific employees whether it be your clinicians, nurses, reception etc. and the best part, you can be provided with the names of the people, they interacted with and also  . This helps to ensure that all of a practices employees are conducting themselves in the right way from the moment of booking an appointment to paying at the cashier, that they are giving the customer the best experience possible.

And finally, the results which come from your mystery patient report can guide you on implementation or improvements in your training process by identifying areas where employees lack skills or competency.

Engaging your employees – why is it matter so much?

Engaging your employees – why is it matter so much?

Retaining a team is great for consistency especially in the dental industry as it allows for patients to build rapport with not only dentist but also the support team. I don’t know about you but for me there is nothing nicer than walking into your regular clinic and seeing the same friendly faces, it brings a level of trust that you would not necessarily expect.

Current statistics in the UAE is that 57% of employees would consider moving to another employer within the next 12 months, I don’t know about you but as a clinic manager that figure is scary for a number of reasons; one being cost, on average it costs employers approx. 15,000dhs for you to replace an employee but on top of this it can take as much as 20 weeks for them to be fully functional within the business and finally one of the biggest impact is staff morale.

Why as a manager should we care if our employees are engaged? It is simple, for benefits to the business such as;

  • Provide a better patient experience. Engaged employees are happier and therefore typically provide better service to their patients, as a result of being positive and proactive. Ensuring great customer service is a huge win for the clinic, ensuring happy patients into the future.
  • Positively influence your other team members and effectively train them on delivering a great patient experience.

So, what can businesses to do engage their teams more?

Number one is obviously salary, ensuring you are within the competitive rate for your industry. Yes, I hear you say ‘but it is unrealistic to give pay rises to each person’ and I agree, only do so when it is suitable and within the budget. But do not worry, there are other methods you can use that are relatively low cost for example;

Career progression and Appraisal systems; how often do you meet with your team? Do you know what they are great at? Do they have skills you can utilize somewhere else in the business? A three to six monthly sit down with your employees should give you the answers to these questions but not only this, showing your employees you are investing the time and interest speaks volumes for itself. Another benefit of employee 1-2-1’s is that you maybe  looking to fill a position, this may save you the time, effort and cost as you may already have someone in house who is ready to step into that role.

Team building, take time to step away from the business and just enjoy spending time with your team, this does not have to be costly at all; it can be done quarterly and ideally outside of the clinic, make sure you sit down with your finance managers and plan this into your annual budget, investing small amounts on staff welfare may save you big amounts in the future.

And finally something that I have found worked well is meeting with the team once per month, we enjoy a breakfast meeting, In this meeting we talk about the business and everything they have done to contribute to performance and most importantly an action plan moving forward. Get your team involved, give them accountability, and make them feel needed. If you can do this you will be sure to keep your skilled employees on board longer and ultimately that will have a huge impact on your patient experience and your bottom line.

Faye Sealey – Clinic Manager / Dr Roze & Associates Dental Clinic

Who decides what’s great? Finding champions for your practice

Who decides what’s great? Finding champions for your practice

When you are thinking about achieving customer satisfaction in your practice, is that really all you want? Satisfied customers, as Ken Blanchard proposes in his book ‘Raving Fans’, just aren’t enough. 25 years after that book was published I believe he is still right.

If you take a look at your patient base, which would you describe as the ‘raving fans’? I would suspect not the ones who have ‘no complaints’.  A ‘no complaints’ patient isn’t enough to get excited about.   The ones who are your greatest champions are the ones who think you are ‘great’.  But who decides what is great?

Let’s look at things a different way: which of your staff around you would you rely on 100% of the time to be great ambassadors for the practice  – or practice champions?  If the answer isn’t ‘all of them’ there could be some work to be done.

Without those people who think our practice is great – practice champions  – we risk being left behind in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. We need those champions, both patients and staff  – to tell our practice story for us, to motivate and encourage people to visit us and to provide proof stories of our excellent care.   The people who think we are great and can provide evidence from their own  experience,  can help us to recruit  new patients and  retain old ones  –  and can save us thousands of dollars in marketing costs into the bargain.

Their story is the practice’s story. And if we want them to be champions for us, we have to deliver what they think is great  – which may be different from what we think is great.

This of course is the reality check. The totality of our service needs to be focused on the needs and desires and preferences of our preferred patient base.  Not all patients want the same thing.  Some might not value our level of care or personal attention, preferring a more impersonal approach.  Others may want a level of service that even though they are prepared to pay for it, we are not prepared to offer as it would be too stressful and demanding!   Before we can develop those practice champions we have to find a happy marriage between our level of service that we are comfortable with providing, and the types of patients who  value what we have to offer  and how we offer it.

So moving on from  there, how can we create these practice champions? Blanchard’s concept of a raving fan is a customer (either internal or external) who is so impressed by the level of service they receive when dealing with you that they tell the story of their experience to many others, over and over again.  To make this happen for us we need to build a very clear picture of the ideal customer experience and take the right steps to make that happen.   Many  businesses including dental practices can testify to the effectiveness of creating such   champions,  not just amongst patients but also amongst their own staff.  After all if your own staff aren’t prepared to spread the word about how great your practice is, either face to face or on social media,  then what does this add  to your story?

Take a moment to think about your patients’ current customer service experience.  What is it like, really?  Not what you would like it to be like, or what it can be like on the days when all runs smoothly? What is it like when things are NOT running smoothly? Now think what you would like their ideal customer experience be, however impractical or unrealistic that may for the moment seem to be.  How far does this match up to what you KNOW that they would like?  If you know that your vision is what would make your patients say you were great, the power is in your hands to do something about it.   And of course, if you don’t, chances are someone else will.

Building that patient experience requires some key foundations: here are some rules for creating champions amongst  staff and  patients.

Keep your promises.

If you say you are going to do something, do it. If something happens that is out of your control making it impossible to honour a  commitment you have made,  keep your people informed and do everything you can to make it right. Such occasions should be very rare exceptions to the rule.

Don’t set people’s expectations unrealistically high

Use Tom Peters’ mantra of ‘underpromise, and overdeliver’.  That way you make it easy to exceed people’s expectations and don’t set yourself up to disappoint them.

Keep people in touch with their practice

Be proactive in keeping your patients in touch with what is going on.  Make them feel that it is their practice (and not that they are your patient.  There’s a difference.) Let them know when new services are available, or if you are changing opening hours, or of parking arrangements are changing.  Think in advance what would be useful information for them and tell them. When you discuss changes or improvements in the practice think about how you can involve the patients in the communication  loop early on. Avoid for example announcing the opening of a new surgery in the practice when  they have been walking through a building  site for a year. Conversely don’t wait for them to find out a chapter of your story next time they come in or through someone else.

Be consistent

Consistency breeds trust. We all like to do business with (or work for) organisations that are consistent. It gives us a sense of security and peace of mind. Foster that same sense of consistency in your practice – and avoid surprises.  Patients usually dislike them…

Deal with  problems fast.

If there is a problem sort it out quickly.  It might not be a formal complaint  – it might be a minor issue or a just a rumble of discontent  amongst some patients.  Whatever it is, no matter how small, deal with it and let patients know that you have.

Stay ahead of the ‘great’ game.

Find out constantly and consistently what your patients are thinking and what they think is great and what they no longer think is great. Why not think about creating some customer champions, people who represent your patients who are respected, influential and honest enough to tell you what the customer experience is really like and how it can be improved?  After all it is your patients who determine what is great and we need to listen to them.

Leadership that supports Patient Experience Culture

Leadership that supports Patient Experience Culture

Most of the clinics I work with or visit share the fact that they do everything for their patients, and that their main goal is to make sure their patients are happy.  However do we know how we could create an experience that makes our patients happy and turn them into loyal patients? I strongly believe to achieve this, great leadership is necessary in driving a patient focused culture. Your culture is made up by your people. Do they know what needs to be done? Do they know how to do it and more importantly do they want to do it?  This can be achieved if your staff’s behaviour is guided by the right protocols and processes and in the right setting:

STAFF

There are a few but key essential leadership elements we have identified that you can apply with your staff in order to create the Patient Experience Culture:

HIRE FOR THE RIGHT REASON:

One of the biggest arguments about hiring practices when it comes to achieving the desired culture is hiring reasons, whether to hire people because of their skills or because of their attitude. Which is more important and takes presidency over the other between the two? It is understandable that you want to have skilled and competent staff members, be it regarding clinical care or patient support team members.

My argument is that skills are something that can be taught however with attitude it is nearly impossible to change. It either you have the right attitude or you don’t, you cannot teach somebody to be more caring, empathetic or compassionate. These traits are what you need to give particular focus and attention to during the hiring process. One way of making it easier for yourself to identify these traits would be through the use of behaviour based interviews during the recruitment process.

INTRODUCING YOUR CULTURE TO YOUR NEW EMPLOYEES

One of the things we often see with managers is the on-boarding and inducting of new employees into the organisation which they do through showing them around, introducing them to the rest of the team and sharing the business’ vision, values and mission. However in some cases once employees start working full time and are embedded into the organisation they realise that the reality of the organisation and culture is different to what had been previously presented to them. This reality shock makes them question their trust in the management’s abilities as well as wonder what else might not be as previously presented. That is why it is critical and imperative that management create an open and honest environment where providing both positive and constructive feedback is the norm and they model behaviour that enables for a Patient focused culture.

How is your on-boarding process? How long do you spend on Patient Experience Education in your healthcare organization? What on-boarding training do you provide to your team members?

STRUCTURE – SETTING

So now you have hired the right candidate with the right attitude and you have trained them well on the expected behaviour for your Patient focused culture. The next question to address should be do you have the right operational process in place to support your Patient focused culture? I still come across clinics where they are still grappling with making operational decisions for example clinic opening times, these seeming to be more driven by the staff’s availability and convenience. This is an example of how sometimes clinical processes do not give enough thought to patient involvement and focus on element including the importance of communication strategies, particularly how they are non-existent here. It is important that when you are designing your processes, protocols you keep in mind the ultimate goal. That goal being to not only meet the expectations of your patients but exceed if possible.

Last but not least is the setting, it is important to be able to create the right ambiance for your patients through the healthcare facility you provide to them. You want to create a relaxing, positive and welcoming environment.

There are three key elements that will help you to achieve the right Patient Experience culture and these are your staff, your organisational structures/protocols and your setting. It is your responsibility as the manager of a healthcare facility to realise and that you need to “do the right things” in order to ultimately get the right result.

Where does Customer Care start?

Where does Customer Care start?

If you are taking the time to read this article you are probably one of those people who think that they provide good customer service.  You may also, by reading this article, want to make sure that you are doing everything that you can to stay up to date. But I would like to ask you if you are viewing your 21st century customer care through  an out of date a 20th century lens?

The expectations of a dental audience in 2018 are different from those of . twenty, ten  or even five years ago. Technology in particular is changing consumer and patient expectations about customer service.  Add to this mix the fact that when planning our practice’s services, we usually take as a starting point what we would like to offer our patients and even the level of service that we would like to receive ourselves if we were patients. Well, it is true that all patients have certain expectations and requirements which must be met if they are going to be satisfied with their experience. So perhaps reflecting on what would give us satisfaction is no bad place to start. But should it stop there? If we only think about what we would like we are in danger of ignoring the fact that our patients are not us and may be looking at things from a different angle and may indeed want something different.

We invest, or should be investing, in customer care training to make the patient experience a positive one, but our patients now usually come having pre-qualified our ability to provide the service they are looking for , either through the personal recommendation of other people like them, or increasingly through information they find online. And if they don’t like what they see, or cannot match what is on our online presence with what they are looking for, we don’t get the chance to make them our patients and experience this great customer service that we can offer.  Customer care therefore starts before the first visit to the practice, and this may mean our rethinking how we offer information about our services and indeed the information itself.

We need to reach out beyond the practice walls and consider our patients’ experience online as well as face to face and on the telephone.  Their expectations have already been set by the way we have looked after them by providing (or not) useful and accessible  information that they want about us and about their dental health.

If we are seriously interested in customer care we have to think about how people want to interact with us and not how we want to interact with them. We need to consider how we can get across the key concepts of how we will care for them using new domains.  What are your potential patients’ first impressions of your practice from your website?  The majority of internet access is now from a handheld device. You may have optimised your site for mobile use, but evidence now suggests that there is a clear preference for apps, with more than 80% of mobile minutes spent on apps rather than anything else, and usage growing by 6% year on year. Is it time to question how you are reaching out to your potential  patients to meet their needs and preferences?  .

Website or app,  it is vital that we know the type of information that is important to our potential customers which may be different from the type of information we think is important to them. An analysis of web landing and exit pages can be useful, but this is precisely the type of information and feedback that can be elicited in surveys, either online during website or app use or of patients after have joined our practice.

So what does all of this mean for us in dental practice?  After all, dentists are the ultimate face to face service deliverer.  At the very least we should stop and consider what our patients want, and how to develop systems that enhance their satisfaction and create a service-friendly environment inside the practice and online. The care,  concern and old-fashioned kindness which we might believe to be our practice offering needs to be extended beyond the face-to-face to all of our systems, old and new.  We need too,  to shift from being reactive to being proactive. Whilst many front desk teams  work really hard to respond to call and enquiries, and answer questions that patient and prospective  patients put to them, fewer practices have really thought through and are proactive in providing the sort of information that patients might want and tailoring it to them as individuals or groups.  Look at how similar the underlying  structure and design of many  dental practice websites actually is.

But we have moved from an era of mass production  to mass customisation.  In the 21st century, great customer care involves addressing patient concerns and queries before the patient even contacts us, and customising how they receive  it.  Customer care starts before a potential patient becomes an actual patient.   Looking through the 21st century lens means reviewing practice systems, but also at staff training to make sure that your team embraces the idea of what real engagement with a patient means – asking questions rather than just answering questions in order to tailor what your practice has to offer that particular individual.  Now,  consumers expect services to be customised to them and are less willing to fit into your systems.

Dentistry remains a people business but what people want is changing.  Are you ready to meet that challenge?

Fiona Stuart-Wilson

Clinic Manager to a Patient Experience Consultant ‘My Journey”

Clinic Manager to a Patient Experience Consultant ‘My Journey”

Clinic Manager to a Patient Experience Consultant ‘My Journey”
Author: Emma Louise Pym (Client Relationship Manager & Consultant)

Having been a Clinic Manager at a prestige Dental Clinic here in the UAE for the last 3 years and now starting my journey of becoming a Patient Experience Consultant, I have come to realize the mistakes and weaknesses that I made and had during my time as a Clinic Manager.

I focused all of my energy and knowledge on completing daily and monthly tasks with auditing, scheduling and policies instead of focusing on the most important factor the ‘Patient Experience’ I think it is fair to say that many Clinic Manager’s also focus on the same thing. If you are a Clinic Manager can you ask yourself what your daily routine involves? And where does the Patient Experience fall into this list?

I now understand the true importance of not only a Clinic Manager but also the entire team including Clinicians, Nurses, Receptionists and Treatment Coordinators, and how the main focus should be on creating an excellent Patient Experience for every patient, and not on completing daily reports etc. Don’t get me wrong our daily reports and long list of tasks to complete, are important, however it is our responsibility to manage a successful clinic and this comes from creating an EXCELLENT Patient Experience.

I have also realized other areas where I had made mistakes, for example as a Clinic Manager I purely focused on trying to get new patients, and completely lost sight of trying to improve our current patient loyalty amongst our many existing patients.

Now I am very excited to continue learning and helping Clinic Manager’s & Clinic Owner’s to understand how important focusing on the Patient Experience is, and how focusing on this will really help to increase Treatment Conversions & Patient Loyalty which all leads back to the bottom line and wanting our Clinic to be a success!

Leadership

Leadership

How you manage your Dental business can give you a significant advantage against other clinics. In this short management tip  I highlight a few ideas on how to be a strategic leader or meaningful leader as it called in “Funky Business” one of my favorite business book.

 

“People no longer passively fall in line, Intimidation and threats do not work. If they do work, you are dead because this means you hired the wrong people”
Funky business-meaningful leadership.

 

You as a strategic leader need to show Direction to your team. Destination is sometime unseen, feels unreachable but direction always needs to be clear. You as a strategic leader frequently need to communicate the  direction, vision of your business to your team.

Create innovative environment.  Experiment things or let your people experiment things in your practice. They can only fail, make sure they do fail fast and learn from the mistake.

Education-never ending learning. Make sure you put effort in to your and your staff`s education, continuous improvement. They will appreciate it and it can be your competitive weapon. You will have a stronger, more skilled team.

 

Here is your first exercise to get you closer to become a strategic leader-

Try a simple exercise of come up with 4 most important goal in your dental business –

  1. financial goal;
  2. marketing goal;
  3. clinical goal;
  4. human resources goal

– and constantly communicate it to your team as many different ways as possible.  Have practice meetings, put your goals to the staff room etc.

Do you have a clear vision in your practice? Does your team know about it?

Why do you need an accounting system for your dental practice?

Why do you need an accounting system for your dental practice?

“I don’t know how much money I’ve got…. I did ask the accountant how much it came to. I wrote it down on a bit of paper. But I’ve lost the bit of paper.”

John Lennon

Like this! We have this saying in Argentina: “ everyone needs an accountant and a lawyer”. Well, that’s pretty true actually. And applies from startups to multinationals. The fact is that the profile of the Accounting professional has changed along with the globalization. The Accountant today, is a restless spirit, who understands the management practices and gets fully involved in the Strategy of the company.

So… why do you need an accounting system if you already have the accountant? Good question.
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