By Kirstan Cecil & Helen Combs
In today’s landscape of healthcare consumerism, where patient expectations mirror the convenience of Amazon and the high touch of a Ritz Carlton experience, healthcare organizations are challenged to redefine their approach to patient pathways and customer service.
Whether you are in a competitive area or the sole provider in the immediate area, it's important to recognize that in the dynamic landscape of healthcare, every medical practice, regardless of size or reputation, faces competition. The evolving needs of patients, advancements in care, and shifts in delivery models contribute to a continually changing environment. Leading with this mindset allows practices to stay at the forefront and make informed decisions that will benefit both their practice and their patients.
One tool available to meet this challenge is Customer Journey Mapping (CJM). This involves reviewing the current patient flow and envisioning ideal pathways that drive towards patient acquisition and satisfaction. CJM begins with the first point of contact through becoming a patient for the long term. It’s important to explore the significance of CJM for healthcare organizations and learn about its ability to identify service gaps, minimize leakage points, streamline patient flow, and ultimately increase engagement, positive reviews, and revenue. Working through this process will position your practice as an engaging leader in the space.
A View of the Current Landscape
Organizations must first understand the journey patients undertake in order to provide an exceptional healthcare experience. CJM enables providers to walk in the shoes of their patients to better understand the highs and lows of their journey with your organization. From the initial point of contact, such as online searches or social media engagement to navigating your website to scheduling appointments, to the actual patient visit and follow-up care, every touchpoint shapes the patient's perception of your organization.
Your first step is to map out your patient’s current flow. Think through how they hear about you. What are your calls to action? Where are you sending them for more information? How do they access your practice or schedule appointments? What is the process for new patients? What is the experience at their first visit? How do you continue to engage with them post visit? It’s a great idea to get team members from all areas involved, as each will look through a different lens and together you will create a full picture. Laying it all out can be a learning experience for your team and in most cases, areas for improvement will jump off the page.
Minimizing Leakage Points
Leakage points, where patients may drop out and seek services elsewhere, provide an opportunity for improvement. With the right data in hand, you may identify things like heavy web traffic, but minimal conversion; unanswered phone calls; reviews highlighting frustrations that go unanswered; appointment cancellations or low repeat visits. CJM helps organizations identify these potential exits and implement strategies to plug the leaks. By addressing these points of departure, your practice can enhance the patient experience, ensuring higher levels of engagement with your practice and increased acquisition and conversion.
Identifying Service Gaps
CJM allows organizations to pinpoint critical service gaps in the patient journey. By analyzing the current experience, healthcare providers can identify areas where patient needs may not be adequately met. Does your website clearly show office hours, contact information, and allow for online scheduling? When they call the office, how long do they sit on hold? Does your team provide a welcoming experience? What does your new patient process look like and are there ways to add personal touches? Are there areas in the process where you notice great success and conversion? Either way, you are beginning to create a clear picture that will help you focus on the right things.
Whether it's communication breakdowns, inefficient processes, or technology shortcomings, understanding these gaps is the first step toward delivering a more patient-centric experience.
Streamlining Patient Flow
Efficiency is key in healthcare delivery. CJM provides insights into the flow of patients through your practice, enabling you to streamline processes. Many times, practices will uncover duplicate work or areas that could be automated. From appointment scheduling to discharge procedures, a well-mapped patient journey ensures that each step is optimized for both the patient's convenience and the organization's operational efficiency.
Increasing Engagement and Positive Reviews
In the age of healthcare consumerism, patient satisfaction and engagement are cornerstones of success. Delivering a modern, digital patient experience used to be a competitive advantage. Now, it’s a business imperative. CJM helps practices tailor their services to meet patient expectations, fostering greater engagement. Research shows that patients prefer digital communication for five key interactions: scheduling appointments, filling out registration and other forms, accessing their medical record, paying their bill, and asking a question.
Creating these positive experiences not only leads to high levels of satisfaction, but also encourages patients to share their positive experiences through reviews and testimonials. These testimonials serve as powerful marketing tools, attracting new patients and building a positive brand.
Optimized Pathways to Success
As the expectations of healthcare consumers rise, the importance of CJM cannot be overstated. By taking the time to examine and optimize the pathways your patients must navigate, you can create an exceptional experience that goes beyond clinical care. This dedication to understanding the patient journey leads to increased preference, patient acquisition, and ultimately, revenue growth.
Helen Combs is the founder and CEO of HBC Consultancy, which specializes in strategic planning and growth, medical practice and clinical research development and expansion. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.