When doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners go on strike, that inevitably impacts the patient experience, creating additional challenges for healthcare organizations to overcome. But times of turbulence don’t have to contribute to negative sentiment, particularly if leaders take these five steps to ensure patient trust and loyalty, even during times of staffing upheaval.
#1: Understand the key drivers of patient experience
Organizations must be intentional and prioritize identifying their key drivers of patient experience. This requires examining all of the quantitative and qualitative patient experience data that’s available.
Traditionally, these have been sourced from patient experience feedback surveys that have historically been distributed via email and via paper in person, but this is changing. To make sure data that’s representative of the entire population being served gets collected, organizations are expanding the channels they use to check in with patients and caregivers before, during and after visits. This includes SMS messages, in-app surveys, survey popups on the provider’s website and HIPAA-compliant video technology.
In addition, savvy teams are leveraging other sources beyond surveys to ensure a broader range of patient and caregiver voices are being heard, including using AI-powered text and speech analytics to transcribe and analyze phone call, email, text message and live chat interactions between patients and the organization’s contact center. This technology can also examine patient and caregiver interactions via other channels, such as social media.
Combining and analyzing these data sets from text-based surveys, video-based feedback and additional sources, such as the contact center and social media interactions, provides organizations with a holistic picture that can be used to determine the top topics and themes that are shaping the patient experience.
#2: Focus on behaviors that enhance the patient experience to foster loyalty and trust
Analyzing patient experience data from across channels and sources enables organizations to pinpoint and prioritize behaviors or strategies that will contribute to patient loyalty and trust.
These behaviors and efforts must be incorporated into team members’ existing work and not be added on as additional responsibilities to create an extra lift for team members. If these activities aren’t integrated directly into daily work, there’s a risk that employees won’t get on board.
#3: Capture real-time patient feedback to evaluate sentiment
Many organizations keep track of net promoter score (NPS) to measure patient loyalty or evaluate patient satisfaction on an annual or quarterly basis, but if leaders want to do more to instill trust, they need to check in with patients on a more regular and ongoing basis.
As team members employ behaviors designed to drive trust, organizations can send post-visit surveys that ask patients to rate their level of trust on a five-point scale and share open-ended feedback to determine whether the steps being taken are having a positive impact. If not, leaders will need to step back and figure out why.
Leading organizations analyze both the quantitative data generated from these surveys and the qualitative feedback from open-ended survey questions to measure patient sentiment. AI-powered tools that use natural language processing can read and analyze written and video comments at scale to detect sentiment and trending topics. Looking at both qualitative and quantitative data will provide organizations with a more holistic picture of the patient experience.
#4: Democratize access to patient experience feedback and insights to optimize patient experience in the moment
As organizations begin collecting real-time patient feedback, these insights and takeaways should be shared with clinicians directly so they can understand what they’re doing to contribute to the patient and caregiver experience and double down on behaviors that are working.
Sharing patients’ video feedback can be incredibly impactful for team members — hearing their tone of voice and seeing their body language makes things truly personal and helps clinicians understand how patients feel.
#5: Foster meaningful, trustworthy communication with patients
Researchers have found that communicating with empathy with patients contributes to better patient outcomes and lower medical costs. Furthermore, it may only take as little as 40 seconds to make a difference. One study’s results are particularly striking: Patients who viewed a 40-second video with a compassionate message rated their provider as more caring and sensitive and reported less anxiety afterwards.
There are simple yet effective ways to put these learnings into practice. That may look like practitioners introducing themselves and using patients’ preferred names. Another approach clinicians can take is creating space for patients and caregivers to share their experiences right at the start of a visit. They can do this by letting the patient know they’ve reviewed their charts, explaining what they’ve learned and then asking the patient for any additional insights from their perspective. Taking a few seconds to listen to patients voice their concerns will help them feel heard.
It’s also essential that organizations take the time to find out patients’ preferred communication modes — whether that’s via SMS, phone call or email — for pre- and post-visit updates. Organizations should then be sure to follow through and use these channels to get video or text feedback from patients about any questions or concerns they have ahead of or after visits.
These insights should then be shared with clinicians to arm them with valuable information before they even meet with a patient for the first time. During the visit, healthcare professionals can reference anything patients have shared to guide the conversation. It’s equally important to follow up afterward, as we know that questions don’t always arise in the room but often come up once patients are back at home. Using technology in this way can help demonstrate that clinicians are listening, that they care and want their patients to have the best outcomes possible.
As staffing shortages and strikes disrupt healthcare settings across the country, organizations mustn’t lose sight of the patient experience. Leaders that lean into efforts to instill patient trust and loyalty will be best positioned to pivot and avoid disruptions to overall sentiment. As with any relationship, trust boils down to intentional, consistent communications, not just when patients are at a provider’s office but also throughout their daily lives.