The Biggest Problem With Patient Experience, And How You Can Fix

nurse and woman in wheelchair at the hospital

There’s a lot that goes into the experience we all have as patients seeking healthcare. From the moment we select a provider, to making it to an appointment (hopefully on time), waiting to be seen, receiving treatment and figuring out how to afford the bill. 

When we talk about Patient Experience, we’re referring to the full breadth of a patient’s interactions with their healthcare provider. Patient Experience is the end-to-end journey a patient takes from seeking to receiving the care they need. And, like every experience, there are opportunities and interactions that determine whether it’s a positive or negative experience.

At HFD, there are a few things we’d say every good patient experience includes:

Timely appointments
Nothing is worse than needing an appointment and having to wait weeks (or months) to be seen by a provider.

Easy access to information
No one wants to spend hours searching for a summary of their visit or have to deal with archaic systems for medical records

Good communication with providers
Want to chase away patients? Try having them repeat their story every time they’re transferred to a new person on the phone or see a new provider.

Affordable financing options
And, of course, affordable financing options. Nothing is worse than scheduling an appointment, seeing a doctor and then leaving without care because you can’t afford to pay cash and don’t have the prime credit needed to qualify for traditional healthcare finance options.

Understanding your patients’ experience is an important step to help move toward patient-centered care. When you understand all the different elements of Patient Experience, you can begin designing a system in your practice where patients feel seen, heard and met in ways that feel individualized and responsive to their preferences and needs. 

The further along the patient journey you progress, the more painful a negative interaction becomes. The biggest problem with Patient Experience is when a patient opts out of a procedure because they can’t afford the treatment. Usually, it’s because the patient doesn’t have personal means to pay and can’t qualify for financing because of poor credit. When patients opt out of care, it’s bad for everyone involved, both the patient and the healthcare provider.

The high cost of healthcare, particularly high out-of-pocket patient costs for elective treatments, is a well-known barrier to access. When patients can’t afford their prescribed treatments or find themselves having to choose between healthcare and paying for other bills like rent, mortgage, or food, they often opt out of healthcare. That’s especially the case when the treatments are considered “elective,” such as dental, orthodontic and audiology care.

And, let’s not forget the uncomfortable conversation office managers and treatment coordinators have to have when a patient applies for financing and isn’t approved or is only partially approved for their out-of-pocket costs. 

Few things cause as much shame and degrade Patient Experience as being declined due to poor credit. To prevent this from happening, many patients who have low credit scores know it and don’t even consider applying for financing out of fear of rejection.

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