Are You Treating Your Patients or Your Software?
The use of technology has increased rapidly within the past decade, and the delivery of urgent care medicine has adapted along with it to keep up with demands. Though, often the desire to provide competent but quick care has come at the sacrifice of providing compassionate, patient-centric care. When a practice’s mantra is focused on meeting a “door-to-door” transit time, it’s not easy to develop a lasting or meaningful relationship with the ailing or injured patients at any point of the person’s interaction with your organization.
While we surely emphasize friendly customer service, it’s not the same as interacting with the person who is standing across from us at the reception desk or seated in a chair or exam table within the treatment room. The industry has slowly evolved a patient visit into a data mining expedition, and, to that end, technology tends to be the method we use. This technology also creates a barrier between fostering any sort of relationship with the patient. Too often, it puts the staff member—especially providers—at a distracted position focused on managing the software or application rather than engaging the patient.
In a society—and industry—with so much technology at our fingertips, the common complaint is that our phones and other forms of technology have invaded our everyday lives and are impeding our ability to interact on a face-to-face level. This is likely true as well within the healthcare industry where the patient’s experience is dictated by pushing a button to generate proper charting to produce optimal coding and the desire to be seen in a fast, yet efficient manner.
Yet, along with these overseeing trends, there remains the patient’s desire to receive medical care that is provided in a warm, inviting, and friendly environment. Recent patient satisfaction surveys reveal that prevailing complaints about their visit include the following:
- Lack of interaction with the provider
- Cold, clinical interaction by provider/clinical staff
- Lack of introduction by the provider
- Lack of eye contact with the provider
- The staff never looked up from their computer/tablet
- Lack of thorough explanation of condition or treatment plan
- The feeling of being rushed through the visit
- No personal “touch” and/or a general feeling of being treated like a number
While many patients readily admit that utilizing urgent care services does imply an expectation of a less than personalized experience, others state that—like with other on-demand service providers—a “higher quality” visit is becoming expected. More importantly, customer expectations related to the service or experience are now stronger determinants of whether a patient may choose one medical provider over another since fees, hours of availability, and service spectrum tend to all be similar.
So, how can we combat that when there is so much emphasis on proper (maximizing) documentation, charge capture, and proper registration all wrapped up in the future of our reimbursement system?
Consider trying the following:
- Position computers/provider workstations so that interaction allows for a face-to-face experience.
- Provide a portable laptop or tablet desk so providers can position themselves to face the patient.
- Providers can document after patient interaction/exam.
- Create templates that allow for quicker ease of documentation.
- Utilize scribes to free providers to interact more directly with patients.
- Make a conscious and specific effort to create “eye-contact” or other interactions with the patient while documenting exam notes.
Your team members can help enhance the client experience by improving their interaction with the patient. Although these behaviors do not involve changes in the use of technology, they are no less important in reducing the creation of a cold, callous, “fast-food” type of healthcare environment.
- Be sure to introduce yourself when entering the room, giving not only your name but your credentials (as appropriate).
- Address the patient by name (this also helps verify the identity of the patient to avoid any errors with treatment).
- Engage the patient briefly on their over-all health or on a health-related topic (but be careful of just making superfluous idle conversation as this may be misconstrued as a waste of their time).
- Be more familiar, if your knowledge of the patient warrants.
- Be sure to offer an opportunity for the patient to ask questions.
- Have the patient verbally repeat instructions back to you.
- Don’t be in a hurry to leave the exam room.
- Keep interruptions to a minimum – apologize for any necessary interruptions during your time with the patient.
While patient flow is certainly a priority, remain mindful of moving patients while staying attentive to the demands of your customers’ need to receive care on their schedule. The ability to integrate friendly, courteous, and focused care can be achieved with some simple effort. Being more aware that all your team members should pay attention to the patient while not totally neglecting the software or applications can be accomplished. This will take a deliberate effort to make this happen. The result will be a more satisfied patient who reflects their experience more positively as they comment to friends, family, or through social media and other forms of surveying.
Medical Practice Success, LLC is a premier full-service Revenue Cycle optimization organization that assists multi-specialty organizations with services that include physician coding and documentation training, medical practice analytics, managed care contracting analysis, credentialing, billing, practice enhancement initiatives, and so much more.
Patrice Pash, RN, BSN
Director of Client Operations
Medical Practice Success