Patient Experience

4 Things You Need in Your Practice to Improve Patient Experience

  • Positive patient experience is critical in your private physical therapy practice.
  • Great patient experience means referrals will follow.
  • Learn the four things you need in your practice to improve patient experience. 

Patient experience is something that is often overlooked. Typically, the clinics with the most patients walking through the doors are more focused on patient experience than referrals.

If your patient experience is great, referrals will follow. Word of mouth has a huge impact on your practice.

You are great at handling patient load and treating your patients, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Patient experience. This starts BEFORE your patients arrive! Think about how a patient may have heard about you. Someone (online, a consumer, or a physician) told them about you, and that’s why they called your office to make an appointment.

How did their conversation with the receptionist go? Do they understand their plan of care and the value of your treatment? Did they have any trouble finding your clinic? What was their impression of the appearance of your clinic? Did the front desk staff greet him/her with a smile? One thing could ruin a patient’s experience at your clinic and cause them to find another therapist or just stop going to therapy altogether. It’s important to ensure your patients are comfortable and happy at your clinic. 

Here are four critical things you need in your practice to improve the patient experience.

1. Products

Offering products in your private practice is a great way to help your patients and boost your revenue. Now, you don’t need to be pushy or salesy to be great at selling products. When you see a patient that could benefit from a certain product, offer it! Then thoroughly explain how to use it and the benefits of the product. Don’t push anything to your patients they don’t want or need.

Your patients might be looking for additional products anyway, and many will appreciate the convenience of purchasing directly after an appointment and taking it home right away.

Make sure your entire staff is knowledgeable about the products you offer and can assist any patients that may be interested in purchasing. Products create more value for your patients, your team, and your bottom line.

2. Technology

We all use technology in our practices one way or another, but there are some specific ways you can use it to improve patient experience.

Some of these useful tech tools include email, text messaging, tablets and video chatting. Check out this blog for more tips on using technology to improve patient experience.

Here are some ideas for using email, text, iPads and Zoom:

  • Email: All new patients have a bit of paperwork to fill out and this can slow everyone down before an appointment. Send an email to your patients with a link to an online form. Give your patients the opportunity to complete their paperwork before their appointment at their convenience.
  • Text messaging: Text is great for appointment reminders. This ultimately cuts down on appointment no-shows.
  • Tablets: iPads, for example, can be used in your clinic for patients to fill out paperwork electronically and quickly sign in for an appointment.
  • Video chatting: Video chatting (Ex. Zoom) is helpful among clinical staff as well as between a therapist and patient. Often the front desk is busy, and the receptionist needs to communicate with a therapist. Rather than getting up and walking away from the desk, the receptionist can Zoom the therapist from the desk and communicate quickly. Video chatting is also great for therapists to communicate with a patient at home. The therapist can give the patient information regarding therapy or help in an emergency situation via video.

3. Value-Adding Services

Value-adding services can be offered once a patient has graduated from therapy. This is a good way to retain patients and provide additional services, bringing in additional revenue.

You don’t have to say goodbye to your patient, say, “Congratulations on graduating therapy! You would also benefit from one of our wellness programs, would you like to try them out?”

Provide a boxing class or a yoga class for your patients. Your patients already trust you and will be willing to try other programs to maintain their health. “Value-added services eventually prove their effectiveness by increasing patient satisfaction, customer loyalty, and revenues,” (WebPT).

4. A Rock Star Front Desk

The front desk staff makes the BIGGEST impact on patient experience. It is a much more valuable position than most think.

In short, the front desk manager or admin manager is important in your organization because he/she controls everything from start to finish. The first voice your patients hear, the first face they see, and the last goodbye as they make their way out.

Have you ever walked into an office for an appointment and it was obvious the receptionist you first encountered was “inconvenienced” by your presence, or maybe he/she was having a bad day? Either way, you likely felt uncomfortable right away, perhaps, giving you a negative view of the office you were in. Not a good start.

Don’t let that happen in your practice! Train your front desk staff to be friendly, inviting, and knowledgeable on individual treatment plans and product knowledge. Proper training for your front desk staff will lead to better patient retention.

If a physical therapy patient is being difficult, they aren't getting the most out of their care plan with you. There are many reasons that may cause a patient to be unhappy, unmotivated, or combative. Perhaps they are in a lot of pain or not seeing the results they hoped for. Sometimes it may be reasons beyond your control, such as financial trouble, stress at work, or family issues causing your patient unhappiness.

While every physical therapist wants to help their patients and improve the patient experience, difficult patients are notoriously hard to manage and can feel impossible to work with. No matter what, you must do your best in every situation and give your patients the best experience possible. In the end, some will remain a challenge, but with these tips on how to handle a difficult physical therapy patient, and a little extra effort, you and your staff members may be able to turn a difficult physical therapy patient into a success story!

Avoid Confronting Difficult Patients

A patient who is having a bad experience in your clinic is already looking for a way to escalate their reaction. Clear, calm communication is the key to de-escalating the situation and improving the patient experience. While you may be tempted to defend your position, they are not in a place to hear what you have to say right now. The most important thing you can do in this situation is to talk it out with your difficult patient. When you’re having trouble with a patient or he/she seems unhappy, take the time to sit down and ask your patient some non-confrontational questions. Find out exactly why he/she is acting this way so you know if it’s a personal reason or if you or a staff member have made him/her unhappy.

It's imperative that you remain calm! Ask your patient to help you understand what is wrong, validate their concerns by repeating them back, and empathize with the situation.  An example of this sounds like, 'I understand that your appointment today was difficult. What I heard you say is [patient's reason]. Your experience matters to me, and I want to make an action plan to improve your future experience. This is my suggestion [idea for improvement], do you have anything you would like to add?' 

Help Difficult Patients Find a Solution

Once you know the cause of their dissatisfaction, you can identify a solution to the problem. If the patient has an issue with therapy or results, you can work with them to modify their treatment or offer further explanation as to why he/she must do certain exercises and what exactly to expect. Many patients become frustrated when their treatment doesn't yield the results they are expecting.  Be proactive and always work to educate patients on what success they might expect or what pitfalls they may encounter. Empathize with their frustration and offer action-based solutions that can help them identify small successes throughout the process. 

Keep in mind if the patient is facing issues outside of the clinic, there may not be much you can do to help. Still, be a good listener and offer a smile and sympathy when needed; sometimes, all a patient really needs is to be truly heard and understood amidst their challenges, and you can be an ally for them in a time of need.

Difficult Physical Therapy Patient? Don't Forget to Follow Up!

As a physical therapist, you already know that follow-up appointments are key to making progress, but the same rule applies to follow-up after a difficult encounter. After your initial discussion with this patient, make sure you or your receptionist follow up with the patient at their next appointment or by phone. This will give you an opportunity to find out if the situation has improved or if they’re still unhappy, and it also gives you the chance to build a bridge for a better connection. A phone call after clinic hours to let the patient know you have been thinking about them and that you want to check in and see how they are feeling now that they have had some time to process their appointment will go a long way! 

When to Know That You've Done Everything You Can for a Difficult Patient 

Some patients are simply challenging, may have circumstances outside of your control as their physical therapist, and may not be a good fit for your practice. If your patient is belligerent or abusive to you or your staff, you may want to consider terminating the relationship. Focus on doing the best you possibly can and holding the rest of your staff to the same high standard, it's okay to terminate a patient that isn't a good fit. Patient experience is a huge contributor to your success and the growth of your business. If you can create loyal fans of your practice, the rest is easy!

attract the right patients to your physical therapy practice with online reviews

Attract more of the right patients to your clinic with online reviews!

Learn how to ask patients to review their excellent experiences and how that translates into more of the right patients for your physical therapy practice. More than 63% of patients use online reviews to choose a provider. If you aren't taking advantage of the free tools available to you, you're missing out! Click Here to get your free guide to getting more patient reviews!

People Also Ask:

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3 Signs Your Patient is About to Drop Out of Therapy 

4 Things You Need in Your Practice to Improve Patient Experience

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