The rise of high-deductible health plans has breathed new life into an old healthcare consumer phenomenon: the search for value. That gives your hospital or health system-owned physician practices an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
We all know what patients want—excellent care that’s convenient and inexpensive, a goal that is extremely hard to meet 100 percent of the time. However, as patients increasingly choose insurance plans that require them to pay for more of their care out of pocket, they’re looking for the providers and practices that come the closest.
How can your health system’s physician practices take their patient appeal up a notch and win the battle for hearts, minds, and patient volume?
Consider these tips.
Make price a talking point, not a taboo topic.
High-deductible health plans have helped make price transparency a key issue in the healthcare industry. Last year, the reasearch nonprofit Public Agenda, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York State Health Foundation, published survey results that found approximately half of Americans have inquired about the price of medical care ahead of time. The more patients have to pay out of pocket, the more likely they are to ask about price up front.
Think of pricing inquiries from patients as an opportunity to burnish their opinion of your practices by being open and honest. Offer price ranges if providing an exact figure isn't feasible. When possible, post prices for common, basic services on your physician practices' websites.
Most importantly, remember that what patients want most is quality care. If they're confident of receiving that, price will be a secondary consideration.
Be consumed with convenience.
A crucial part of mastering patient appeal is realizing how difficult it can be to press "pause" on life to seek medical care, especially preventive services. Make it less burdensome by prioritizing convenience in as many ways as possible, such as trimming the number of limbs on your phone tree, extending office hours once or twice a week, streamlining the registration process by offering phone or digital options, and providing a robust, mobile-optimized patient portal for scheduling appointments, posting test results, and communicating with providers.
Become part of the community fabric.
It is important for patients to think of physician practices as vibrant, caring, engaged members of the area they call home, not as organizations detached from community life.
Physician practices can make outreach a central part of their mission by hosting monthly lunch-and-learn talks and Q&As at local hospitals, participating in meet-and-greets or screening booths at local farmer's markets, or by sponsoring local fitness and health-related races and events.
Take a page from pro sports’ playbook.
Professional sports franchises obsess over their fans’ game-day experience, from admission and concessions to sight lines and entertainment. Approach your patients’ “game day”—the office appointment—with the same attention to detail, starting with the surroundings.
Ensure the physician practice layout and décor are designed for comfort and efficiency. Strive to keep wait times to a minimum, and provide distractions for patients, such as WiFi for adults and a play area for children.
Above all, require that the staff greets patients as soon as they arrive, treats them with empathy and courtesy, and goes above and beyond to fulfil requests. Stress that every touchpoint matters. Your patients’ interactions with office staff could define their experience—and thanks to the power and reach of social media, these encounters can go a long way toward determining how their friends, families, coworkers, and acquaintances perceive your health system’s physician practices.
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