How DMEPOS Providers can Enhance Patient Experience

Posted on in Growth Strategies, Business Operations

“All voices matter. Every interaction matters. Every patient matters. Patient experience matters.”

- Jason Wolf, president of the Beryl Institute

Patient experience. What is it? Why is it important? How can DMEPOS providers improve it? Regardless of where you’re providing service in the healthcare continuum, these are the questions every business owner should be asking themselves. In today’s post-acute healthcare environment, preference and loyalty are not solely determined by the quality of the product or service a patient and their caregiver(s) receive, it is how it is received and how it makes them feel.

In years past, a quality product or service, reasonable price and minimal competition is what would keep individuals coming through the door. Today, patients expect more than just a product or service. Patient experience is everything from the quality of interpersonal communication, to timely appointments and ease of scheduling, to noise levels, interactions with employees and easy to understand billing. It is the full attention a patient and their families receive with every interaction, with every associate. It is treating every single patient as an individual. An individual with a story, which if you heard would open your eyes to the person, not the patient, standing in front of you. The demand for patient experience will continue to grow and it is the businesses that master it who will have an advantage over their competitors. 

Why is patient experience important?

At the clinical level, patient experience has been linked with better health outcomes all around. Diabetic patients who reported positive interactions with their care providers demonstrated better management skills, and even quality of life. This was also true for patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack and showed that those who reported to have a positive experience with care had better health outcomes even a year after discharge.

Better outcomes are important because the pay for performance insurance reimbursement model is beginning to take over. Insurance payers are starting to ask for outcomes; Humana is a great example of this. They require tracked outcomes for mobility clients so they can validate that the reimbursed equipment is actually benefiting the patient by improving or sustaining his/her satisfaction in his/her mobility-related activities of daily living.

At a business level, it has shown that higher patient experience ratings are associated with higher profitability and a reduction in employee turnover. Deloitte recently published an article describing how hospitals with “excellent” Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient ratings between 2008 and 2014 had an average net margin of 4.7 percent, compared to the hospitals with “low” ratings 1.8 percent margin. On top of better net margins, employers who work to improve patient experience found that employee satisfaction also increased. This reduces employee turnover and cuts the cost of hiring and training new employees.

Another major reason for better patient experience is due to the fact that health system reimbursement is more closely tied to patient satisfaction than ever before. As patients fill out the HCAHPS, reimbursement to the hospital is determined by clinical performance guidelines and the patient’s reaction to the quality of care they received. Three quarters of the assessment is related to the quality of communication with nurses and doctors, responsiveness of staff, cleanliness and quietness, communication about medicine, quality of discharge information, and if they would recommend the hospital. This link between patient satisfaction, revenue and reimbursement is expected to strengthen in years to come which will only create a greater demand for better patient experiences not only in acute healthcare settings, but in post-acute settings and beyond.

What measures can you take to enhance patient experience?

Evaluate How You Operate

Whether it is new technology or improving outdated processes, take a look under the hood and map what a typical journey looks like for your patients and caregivers. Change is not easy, but if you focus on one or two things to improve at a time, it becomes much more manageable across your entire organization.

Operationalizing outcomes measurement is one critical area to consider. U.S. Rehab, a Complex Rehab Therapy membership community and division of VGM, developed the FMA Outcomes Program alongside experts at The University of Pittsburgh. U.S. Rehab and the University of Pittsburgh partnered to develop and continually improve the online FMA tool, which is the only outcomes tool of its kind. The team follows up with patients by phone on your behalf four times in the first year after they receive new equipment. This ensures that you catch issues, such as pressure wound development, before they cause additional costs to the health care system and your company. The FMA has many years of research behind it, and it now has more than five years of data collection that shows statistically significant measures of what we say and do, each and every day, helps patients and enhances patient experience.

Hire the Right People and Get Them All on the Same Page

When 300 business owners were asked if they had great service, around 80 percent said yes; but, at the same time when 3,000 of their customers were asked the same question, only eight percent said yes. This gap shows just how out of touch most business owners are with the true perception of the experience they are providing.

It is important to clearly communicate service standards and what they mean to employees so they know what your patient experience should feel like. Hire the kind of people your brand promise needs and get everyone on board for creating the patient experience you want to be known for. As you focus on the personal growth of every individual and create a working environment that supports empowerment, you will see them become well-rounded people and loyal employees. Give your people a reason to come to work every day so they become emotionally invested to contribute and add value for patients and caregivers whether they are clocked in or clocked out.

Create Easy to Use Feedback Channels and Close the Feedback Loop

Feedback is a simple and fantastic way to get in touch with what you are doing right and identify areas for improvement. Once you have determined your standard, create a system for feedback so you can measure results and develop a change management culture. You can start with finding your Net Promoter Score (NPS) to classify which customers are detractors, passives, or promotors. This valuable data will give you more insight into the loyalty of your patients. If this number is not where you want it to be, you must take the necessary steps to close the feedback loop by listening to your patients and implementing changes to improve.

Regardless of how a patient is accessing care or a product, whether in person, online, or over the phone, it is the relationship that must always be the focus when it comes to patient experience. Though technology will continue to disrupt the healthcare industry, it is your loyal patients and customers that keep you ahead of your competition. By giving every patient and family your full attention, continually improving communication and working tirelessly to close the feedback loop, you will have loyal customers who refer their family and friends to your business and also engaged employees that stick around and recommend open jobs to their networks. This competitive advantage will keep your business relevant in one of the most difficult environments in the healthcare continuum.