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Rising Consumerism in Healthcare Makes Process Improvement Key

Process improvement facilitates a better patient experience

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Video description & transcript

This webinar offers practical tips on how to succeed in improving medical practice operations and online reputation with patients. With consumerism in healthcare on the rise, health organizations must shift attention to process improvement to facilitate a better patient experience. The webinar is presented by two organizations that emphasize patient satisfaction: Vanguard Communications, a leader in healthcare process improvement and marketing, and Parlance, a solution for improving the first step of every caller’s journey.

The patient experience counts almost as much as care delivery these days, and this video will explain why that should matter to your health system or practice. It’s a new day for doctors as patients are empowered by choice. Patients no longer have to rely on PCP referrals to find specialists. Nor do they feel the need to be loyal to a practice where they don’t feel respected or cared for as a person.

Shifting perspective to the patient experience

To succeed in attracting and retaining patients, practices and providers need to turn their attention to creating a positive experience by shifting their perspective about what they do away from just providing medical care to a broader scope of delivering excellent customer service.

This shift in patient behavior can be attributed to that free global research tool known as the internet. With an abundance of websites such as WebMD, Healthgrades, Yelp and Google – not to mention individual practice websites – patients and their loved ones are empowered to conduct their own research online before contacting a provider.

A study of Google trends we conducted here at Vanguard shows that people search for information on symptoms, conditions and treatments 10x more often than looking for a provider. Armed with access to that health information, when patients do narrow their search for a provider, they are searching for that positive patient experience, evaluating the plethora of choices using ratings, reviews and social media.

Patient experience reflected in online reviews

Nowhere does that experience make itself more visible than patients’ online reviews of doctors and clinics. According to a 2015 patient survey, 77% of patients use online reviews like those on Yelp and Healthgrades as the first step in finding a new physician.

Eighty-eight percent of patients will read reviews about a provider, even after they’ve been referred by a physician, according to’s 2020 Customer Trends in Healthcare report.

That same study states that among all online resources, patients clearly prefer Google and other search engines to find a doctor (82.8%), with insurance websites coming in second place at (57.6%). So, patients are looking to sites like Yelp and Google to guide their decision when choosing a doctor.

That means a practice’s customer service can make or break its ability to attract new patients. Practices with a 4+ star rating out of 5 stars send a clear signal that patients will likely have a good experience, whereas a negative patient experience can easily turn into a negative online review, thereby losing valuable reputation points that could turn patients away.

For example, according to a report by Moz, a search data and support organization, businesses can lose up to 22% of potential customers from just one negative comment that shows up in search results, and that can double with two negative comments. A BrightLocal survey also showed that a single negative review can cost a business an average of 30 customers.

The takeaway: Online reviews are a big part of a practice’s ability to succeed, and reviews are driven by the patient experience. And what makes a good or bad patient experience? Let’s revisit this concept that practices need to shift to a larger customer service mindset.

Researching patient behavior for process improvement

At Vanguard Communications, we conduct research into patient behavior. One of our studies of nearly 35,000 online patient reviews revealed that 96% of patient complaints about doctors and practices actually stem from customer service-related experience complaints, not the care delivered.

Our process improvement division at Vanguard identifies common inefficiencies in academic and specialty practices that are the most common triggers for negative reviews and low star ratings. Phone issues are a big one. Others include:

  • Billing errors.
  • Rude staff.
  • Poor communication about next steps.
  • Not setting patient expectations in advance.
  • And long wait times for the provider.

In today’s digital age, a practice’s reputation hangs on how doctors and practice staff make a patient feel. Medicine is no different from retail and restaurants, and in fact consumers hold medical practices to a higher standard.

In a survey, 82% of people said they believe that the healthcare industry should consistently meet or exceed their expectations as a consumer, compared to just 46% expecting that of retail services.

Expectations tie directly into what the medical industry often refers to as “patient satisfaction.” Although this term is often used interchangeably with what we’re talking about, the patient experience, they aren’t quite the same thing.

The medical industry will often use patient satisfaction scoring systems, like H-Caps surveys, to evaluate if a practice is providing the bare minimum basic patient expectations like:

  • A proper diagnosis.
  • Appointment reminders.
  • Standard patient appointment flow.

While this might satisfy basic expectations, it will hardly lead to highly satisfied patients.

Above and beyond customer service

To create a truly positive patient experience, practices have to deliver above and beyond customer service to exceed the patient’s basic expectations. Patients notice when they receive superior service like personal attention from their provider and feeling like they have time for questions during their appointment.

Creating a meaningful, memorable patient experience and delivering something extra that other practices don’t will exceed a patient’s expectations and set your practice apart. The reality is a medical practice is a business, and it’s in competition against other practices and health systems to win patients.

Patients expect at minimum expert medical care. What will win them over is exceeding those expectations with 5-star customer service such as:

  • Friendly providers and staff.
  • Convenient scheduling.
  • Easy access to information.
  • Clear communication.
  • Streamlined billing.
  • Efficient appointments.

Make the choice clear: Provide excellent customer service to create happy patients. Happy patients will then share how you made them feel and tell others why they should choose YOUR practice.


About Vanguard Communications

Vanguard Communications has partnered with medical practices for nearly 30 years to attract and engage new patients. We provide two ways to grow: through proven specialty-specific marketing and through continual practice improvement. Our dedication to patient education and strategic reputation management helps us build our client practices’ success.

Media contact: Stephanie Wilson | 303-382-2999 | [email protected]

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