Simply put, patient access is and has always been a direct link to achieving an optimal consumer experience. When you think about the word “access”, what comes to mind is the ability to efficiently and effectively obtain the services, information and/or resources you want and/or need with ease. From a healthcare perspective, access is comprised of various administrative functions that include but are not limited to appointment scheduling, patient registration, insurance eligibility and financial clearance. However, the cornerstone of patient access is the consumer experience. The patient who is also a consumer, experience encompasses every interaction and every touchpoint of their healthcare journey. A patient’s pathway holds an extreme weight into shaping one’s perception of the quality of care received at any given healthcare facility.
As a patient myself, what I value the most is the ability to have access to my physician in more ways than I can imagine, but most importantly how the staff at my chosen healthcare facility engages with me during on and off the phone interactions. Whether it is calling to book an appointment, paying a bill or checking in for my office visit, every interaction has a reaction that impacts the perception of healthcare facilities in the eyes of the consumer. PWC’s survey, “Experience is everything” conducted in 2018 highlighted that positive experiences are most influential and significant in the healthcare industry. Additionally, a study conducted by Accenture in 2022, captured that patients with a positive experience are more likely to recommend a healthcare organization to friends & family and return for future care.
Ultimately to ensure that your facility’s patient access is in parallel with a consumer experience that achieves optimal outcomes, the winning formula for success relies in developing and monitoring key performance indicators that include but are not limited to a standardized quality assurance monitoring program, patient engagement metrics and a streamlined scheduling process.
Patient Access KPI’s:
- Quality Assurance: This metric tends to be proactive and preventive in nature. It plays a critical part in helping to identify, evaluate, correct and monitor all facets of patient care. It also provides support to ensure that patients who are also consumers receive patient-centered care that emphasizes active listening, courtesy, emotional support, assurance of help, better patient outcomes and increased satisfaction. In essence, the QA concept is ensuring your healthcare facility has a standardized quality assurance program in place that regularly monitors and provides ongoing feedback for all staff interactions with patients. In doing so, quality assurance monitoring aids to ensure accuracy, promotes effective use of resources, assesses problems, helps to make informed decisions to improve workflows and monitors progress along the way to create a better roadmap for consistent success.
- Patient Engagement Metrics: Patients have certain expectations for their experience. Ultimately, their satisfaction Is an important key performance indicator that measures the quality of care from the eyes of the beholder. Therefore, the key component to successful patient engagement is providing trouble-free access to providers and timely up to date information about their care. In essence, it is understanding and addressing a patient’s needs throughout their healthcare journey. Some useful ways to track patient engagement are through surveys, reviews and/or the patient’s lifecycle. Surveys and/or reviews are a great way for patients to provide anonymous feedback on what’s working well and where changes need to be made. In turn, it gives healthcare organizations valuable insight on ways to transform the consumer experience and deliver continuous but sustainable improvement. On the other hand, the patient’s lifecycle is a great strategy tool that examines a patient’s journey from their initial visit to every visit to their healthcare facility up to the most recent or last visit. It provides the opportunity to improve patient engagement through each stage by understanding the patients’ interactions and tailoring to fit their needs to achieve the best possible outcomes and ensure they return for future services.
- Streamlined Scheduling Process: Booking an appointment is one of the most important components of patient access connecting the consumer experience because it is the first point of contact patients have with a healthcare facility. According to a study conducted in October 2022 by Kyruus Health, the concept of a “digital front door” evolved to include a variety of entry points, from healthcare organization websites to mobile apps to Google. Kyruus Health research also pointed out that studies showed that consumers want a variety of access to care where 43% preferred to book appointments online vs. 48% prefer to schedule by phone. Furthermore, post COVID 19, increased patient demand for access coupled with staffing shortages continue to have a lasting negative impact on the consumer experience in which almost 20% report long hold times when calling to book an appointment and some are unsuccessful in their attempt to schedule their care and opted to seek care elsewhere which further delayed care all together. Therefore, it is highly necessary to streamline the scheduling process throughout your entire healthcare facility to give patients multiple avenues to access care. Whether it is through self-service options, a phone call to your provider’s office, automation or through live chat, patients must have the freedom to have multiple sources to obtain access to care when and how they need whenever they want it.
All in all, with patients as consumers, the overall experience which is the patient’s idea about a healthcare organization and their journey is influenced by their access to care. In order to not only match but rather exceed the needs of the patient, it is highly essential to structure access from the patients’ point of view. Nonetheless, the primary focus should be on providing a consumer driven experience at every touchpoint where there is convenience, accessible information, and a high level of customer service. In the end, when barriers are non-existent to patient access you achieved the ultimate connection to a positive consumer experience.