Restoring Patient Trust: Increasing Satisfaction and Retention Rates

Updated on June 18, 2024

Improving the patient experience during the COVID-19 pandemic was extremely challenging and mostly deprioritized as clinicians turned their full attention to managing surges in disease and controlling the virus’ spread. Consequently, measures of patient-centric experiences during medical visits have declined significantly. According to a Leapfrog report, patient experience metrics dropped for the second consecutive year nationwide, with every state experiencing a notable decline between the fall of 2021 and 2023. 

Declining Patient Satisfaction in the U.S.

By 2022, three years into the pandemic, a mere 12% of adults in the U.S. felt that healthcare was handled ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ well in the country, as reported by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. This dissatisfaction is fueled by several factors, including rude or inattentive providers, long wait times, and difficulty in securing convenient appointments. While the pandemic increased exposure to on-demand healthcare, it also led to patient burnout, resulting in fewer adults maintaining primary care providers. This shift has opened the door for urgent care clinics to enhance the patient experience by offering more convenient, same-day services.

Examining the Patient Journey: Pre-visit, In-visit, and Post-visit

Pre-Visit: Setting the Tone:

The pre-visit phase is crucial in making a positive first impression and setting expectations with patients. Leveraging technology in urgent care clinics can significantly enhance this experience by providing visibility into estimated wait times through websites or dedicated patient queue pages that update automatically based on visit volume. This transparency allows patients to select convenient appointment times, reducing the uncertainty of wait times and giving them more control over their schedules. Additionally, text message updates and appointment reminders can reduce no-show rates, while chat functionalities on websites offer quicker and easier communication channels, especially for younger generations. Electronic pre-registration can further streamline the process, reducing wait times by up to 80%.

In-Visit: Improving Interaction and Efficiency:

During visits, patients often feel they lack time to ask questions or are not confident in their understanding of the health information being given to them, based on a study from the American Health Information Management Foundation. This issue can be addressed through operational efficiencies that reduce bottlenecks and increase time for providers to be available and more present for patient care concerns during appointments. Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Practice Management (PM) systems that simplify charting and charge capture can significantly cut down the time staff spend away from patients. For instance, 80% of common visits can be charted in under 60 seconds with a simplified solution and can provide real-time updates that enhance the patient experience by ensuring smoother, more efficient, and attentive care delivery.

Using a system that simplifies charting and provides real-time updates across multiple interfaces, significantly reduces the time that staff spend away from patients during a visit. This not only improves the efficiency of the clinic, but also ensures that patients feel heard and valued during their appointments. Tools that enable providers to focus on the patient and give them time to answer questions and concerns create a more human-centric approach to care, leaving the patient happier.

Post-Visit: Ensuring Continued Engagement:

Post-visit follow-ups are essential for retaining patients and understanding how to improve their experiences and those of patients to come. Effective follow-up communication can foster positive sentiments by demonstrating ongoing care and providing opportunities for patients to ask questions about their treatment plans. It also ensures the patient is following the expected disease treatment course. Any failures to improve can be flagged and addressed by the staff, improving medical care outcomes. This stage is also critical for reputation management; gathering feedback through surveys integrated into EHR systems and online reviews can offer valuable insights into patient satisfaction and ways a practice can improve the care experience from beginning to end. Utilizing patient engagement solutions to track and report survey responses also helps measure performance and address negative feedback promptly, further enhancing the overall patient experience.

Focusing on the Patient Experience to Improve Outcomes

The decline in patient satisfaction rates across the U.S. underscores the need for healthcare systems to re-evaluate and improve the patient experience. Patients are more likely to follow their prescribed treatment if they had a great experience, felt heard and respected. Improving the nation’s health is our ultimate goal. To do this our patients have to believe and trust in the care they receive. Urgent care clinics present viable solutions, as they offer convenient, same-day services that can bridge the gaps left by traditional healthcare settings. The shift towards more accessible and patient-friendly healthcare services is a necessary transformation to meet the evolving needs of patients in a post-pandemic world. By leveraging technology to streamline pre-visit, in-visit, and post-visit phases, urgent care clinics can significantly enhance patient satisfaction and produce positive outcomes both clinically and operationally.

Dr. Benjamin Barlow
Dr. Benjamin Barlow
Chief Medical Officer at Experity

Dr. Benjamin Barlow is Chief Medical Officer at Experity.