Making the Most of Every Patient Phone Call
Audiology patients today shop for providers instead of just seeing an audiologist down the road. They expect more from providers and aren’t shy to tell others when they’re not satisfied, often through online reviews. Those in the audiology industry must approach patients in a different way to meet those expectations. This Ask Fuel First article answers the following question: How can we provide an experience that meets the needs of health care consumers?
What Is Health Care Consumerism?
The world of health care is shifting. In the past, people would see a health care provider because they were in the neighborhood or because that’s just who their family had always seen. That’s a far cry from how people make decisions about their health care providers nowadays.
Today, it’s all about consumerism. Consumer behavior has been the rise and fall of many organizations outside of health care, such as big-box stores and online businesses. And now it’s encroaching on the audiology industry’s health care model of how we conduct business. Before a person walks through the practice’s door and becomes a patient, they are a consumer first.
Consumers are conditioned to think differently, and we must cater to that type of patient. Leaders must adjust their practices to follow the “What-How-Why” framework (Heath, 2019). Simon Sinek, author and inspirational speaker, called this framework the Golden Circle (Guerra, 2018) and said that organizations that want to be profitable need to consider “why” consumers purchase goods and services instead of focusing on the “what” (or the actual good or service). Patients already know their “what”—it’s quality health care. They want to know “how” you’ll give them your best, but most importantly, they want to know “why” you’re doing it. Is it just for money, or do you care about their health?
It All Starts Online
“81% of people use Google to evaluate local businesses” (Howarth, 2023). That means that many of your patients found your practice online before scheduling an appointment. They read reviews from previous patients and clicked on your website to learn more. They wanted to know “why” you do what you do. Something drew them to your practice.
Consumers Want More
Consumers want a positive patient experience. After an online search, they want that positive experience to continue as soon as they open the door to the practice, where they feel welcomed and valued by the staff they interact with. This fee-for-value model is starkly different than the previous fee-for-service model because the service is less important than the experience or the “why.”
The fee-for-value model has impacted the way some practices receive payment from insurance companies. Medicare has even implemented a fee-for-value pay structure, which, instead of just looking at the procedure conducted, now takes into account the overall patient experience based on patient reviews. Based on these reviews, Medicare can then determine a different pay structure for practices. For example, practices that have better reviews can expect a higher payout for services provided.
For practices to have the best chance of staying in business, they need to have high patient satisfaction rates. This creates loyal patients that keep coming back.
A Relationship Mindset
To connect with patients, even during a routine phone call, requires the development of a relationship mindset, not a transactional one, which is easier said than done. We’ve all been conditioned to focus on doing a really great job and being the best at our craft. But most of us are evaluated on how well we perform tasks, our efficiency and how much knowledge we have. The problem is this is different from how patients evaluate us.
Patients evaluate us at every touchpoint they experience, from searching online for our practice, arriving at our location, seeing a clinician and receiving a bill. Several more touchpoints make up that cycle, but you get the idea. Every time a patient interacts with some aspect of the practice, whether it’s the website, a person or an email, they’re evaluating their experience. You have an opportunity to set a positive tone for each touchpoint in each patient’s experience.
Service vs. Experience
Our Professional Development team was working with a team of Arizona patient care specialists and asked, “How would you know if you were successful at creating a positive patient experience?” One of the attendees gave the following answer:
“Well…if the patient is satisfied and I’ve done my job, then we are a success.”
This sounds nice, but it isn’t quite right. It’s easy to think that patients are evaluating us by how well we do our jobs, but this isn’t completely true. Patients rave about a memorable experience when we go beyond our usual job duties. Being a wizard at navigating the EHR system and scheduling patients is great, but that’s not what patients care about.
Patients want to make a connection, especially when they’re talking to someone on the phone. They want the scheduler to say, “I’m so sorry you have to deal with that right now. I’m glad you called so we can get you back to feeling better.” Or they may want to hear someone say, “It’s nice to hear from you again.” These comments build a connection because they show you care about the patient. Remember, the patient experience isn’t about completing the task of scheduling or checking patients in and out. It’s about engaging with the patients off-script and going beyond standard operating procedure.
As you go through your day, consider the patients you talk to on the phone. Are you going beyond your job duties to make lasting connections? Making those connections doesn’t usually take a lot of time; it just takes a little effort at the right time. Read the next Ask Fuel First article, “The Seven Second Difference,” for more information.
Heath, S. (6 June 2019). Understanding the path to strong provider, patient loyalty. Patient Engagement HIT. Xtelligent Healthcare Media. Accessed online 7 April 2023 from https://patientengagementhit.com/news/understanding-the-path-to-strong-provider-patient-loyalty
Guerra, J. (17 April 2018). Start with why—for your business or app. Medium. Accessed online 7 April 2023 from https://josephjguerra.medium.com/start-with-why-for-your-business-or-app-4ef2b17bd39d
Howarth, J. (9 January 2023). 81 online review statistics (New 2023 Data). Exploding Topics. Accessed online 7 April 2023 from https://explodingtopics.com/blog/online-review-stats