It’s well known that the winter season typically creates spikes in illness and, consequently, a surge in healthcare visits. What might not be so obvious is that this time of increased demand is also the ideal opportunity for healthcare organizations to prioritize building trust and improving experiences for patients, clinicians and team members.
Just as science grows more sophisticated each year, allowing practitioners to better treat a greater number of medical ailments, so should patient and team member experience efforts within the healthcare sector. That’s all the more true as the country now navigates a tripledemic, creating added stress for all parties.
So what can organizations do to rise to the challenge? Based on learnings from my 30+ year career in healthcare and from my current work guiding the world’s leading healthcare brands to improve their patient experiences, below are steps that healthcare organizations can follow to enhance patient experiences and overall trust during recurring cycles of seasonal sickness.
#1: Define what trust means for your organization
Key stakeholders within the organization must be on the same page about the meaning of trust. These leaders should be discussing what behaviors will be focused on to improve trust and how to evaluate whether any actions being taken are actually moving the needle.
For instance, some organizations may prioritize metrics like speed to care, behaviors such as smiling or making eye contact or efforts such as ensuring personalized and consistent patient experiences at every touchpoint. If there’s a specific behavior the organization is prioritizing to improve trust — such as calling patients and clinicians by their first name — is that behavior happening consistently across every patient interaction?
#2: Understand and honor patient, clinician and team member communication preferences
Patients, clinicians and team members share some common yet key communication preferences — they want to be communicated with in a consistent, proactive manner via their preferred communication channels, whatever those may be.
It’s up to healthcare organizations to find out what these preferred channels are and use them regularly, whether that’s via face-to-face updates, print communications, social media platforms, SMS, email, voice and video messaging, or even the company’s app or website. Meeting these communications expectations is integral to building trust.
#3: Look to patient interactions to pave the way for future trust-building and elevate standards of care during seasonal surges
Healthcare organizations should let internal data serve as a guide. Leaders can look at seasonal trends and learn from what’s happened in the past. They can also examine the same periods year over year and see what the organization did well and where there were friction points for patients, clinicians and team members. For example, what were the most common complaints, grievances and suggestions?
Ideally, organizations will take the time to review these insights ahead of a seasonal surge to prepare in advance. However, even if a seasonal wave is already underway, it’s still not too late to identify behaviors and actions that can be put into practice to enhance experiences.
Patient experience platforms can quickly sort through feedback from patients, clinicians and team members — both from years past and in near real-time — to uncover and segment top themes across demographic groups and geographical areas.
In addition to gathering feedback from surveys and online reviews, healthcare organizations can use voice and speech analytics to securely transcribe and analyze phone calls, video, emails, live chat and SMS conversations in compliance with HIPAA to identify additional trends and areas of concern.
#4: Proactively and seamlessly collect feedback across interactions
To augment annual patient and team member experience surveys, healthcare leaders should give these groups a way to share their experiences in real-time — via a persistent, always-on survey on the company’s app or website or at physical touchpoints within the facilities.
Let families and team members know that their voices matter and that the organization is taking action based on the comments received.
#5: Use insights to eliminate friction
Healthcare organizations should leverage the insights that are uncovered from patients, clinicians and team members along with the latest technology to make operations smoother, such as by facilitating faster appointment scheduling and faster post-visit follow-up. This can make it even easier for patients to get the care and help they need.
#6: Create a foundationally trusting environment for healthcare team members, as improving health outcomes for patients, families and communities ultimately starts with staff
It’s important for healthcare leaders to ensure that their workers feel safe enough to voice their experiences, share what is or isn’t going well and feel comfortable enough to make suggestions for improvement.
When team members are physically and mentally healthy, they’ll be in a better position to improve the patient experience and foster trust. Healthcare leaders have to take care of the people on the frontlines — both their physical and psychological well-being — so that they can truly take care of each and every patient.
When healthcare organizations succeed at creating trusting relationships with patients, patients and families will seek out care when needed and better adhere to treatment plans and therapies, which results in better health outcomes for all communities.
Given the stakes, there’s never been a better time to improve trust within healthcare organizations. Now is the time to ensure better patient experiences and health outcomes for all during the tripledemic and beyond, including future seasonal surges.
About Toni Land
Toni Land is Head of Clinical Healthcare Experience at Medallia, the pioneer and market leader in customer, employee, citizen and patient experience.