A 4-Phase Approach to Elevating Patient Experience Management Through Communication

by | Aug 6, 2021

Audit, Design, Align and Enhance Your Customer Communications to Improve Patient Experience Management

Following the intense disruption of 2020 and its impact on both healthcare providers and patients, research shows that patient experience will be a differentiating factor in both the recovery and future growth of the healthcare sector. But, how does patient experience management fit into this picture?

First, it is worth pointing out the difference between ‘patient experience’ and ‘patient experience management’:

  • Patient experience is the feeling a patient gets; it is the overall perception they have of a healthcare provider, as a sum of all their interactions and exposure with and to that brand.
  • Patient experience management is what the healthcare provider does to manage and optimize patient experience; it is a combination of all the strategies, processes, systems, and technologies that healthcare providers employ for this purpose.

For many organizations, across all sectors, the task of enhancing customer experience (CX) is a massive one, with implications that reach into all corners of the organization. Often, teams tasked with enhancing customer experience need a practical starting point and a plan that will move the dial on CX maturity. And the same applies for healthcare providers wanting to enhance patient experience.

Here is a 4-phase approach to improve patient experience management by making changes to your communication.

1. Conduct an Audit of Patient Communications

The first step in this 4-phase approach is aimed at sizing up the current status of your patient communications. This involves an audit of all communication that a patient receives. Select one or two customer journeys to target in your first pass, for example patient onboarding, treatment, billing, and payment.

For your target patient journeys, print out every communication in that journey and display them so you can get the full picture (on a huge surface or wall).  Place the communications in the order that the customer would receive them. Are you looking at a montage of assorted designs, tone differences and disparate calls to action?

Identify your best performing communication in the journey – not the one you like the most, but the one that gets the intended results. Have a quick discussion regarding the performance of this communication and the elements you believe to be the defining factors in its success.

Take your team on a walk-through of each customer journey from the perspective of the patient and note the points in the journey where communication is lacking or could be improved.

2. Design Your Communication Standard

Now that you have a better idea of the scope of the project: you know which communication has achieved the best results, and you’ve identified gaps/issues in your communications that must be addressed to enhance the patient experience.

The next step is to design your communication standard, placing priority on achieving the desired results (hence identifying your top performer), adhering to best practice guidelines on print and digital layout, plus accessibility and readability.

Make certain the design displays the pertinent information clearly and has a single, primary call-to-action. Not only should it be immediately clear what the communication is about, it should also be obvious to the patient what they are expected/encouraged to do.

Testing is an important part of design. Allocate plenty of time and resources for assessing adherence to design guidelines, accessibility requirements, and regulatory compliance. Use A/B testing to help you refine the message and the call-to-action, to get the best possible result.

3. Align All Your Communications

Now that you have a design template on which all future communication will be based, you need a plan to align all your communication, so it has a consistent brand voice and it’s immediately clear that it comes from your company.

Build out a plan to align the creative design and tone of content to create a consistent patient experience across all the target communications.

Alignment is also about getting the timing right. Review the frequency of communication across the patient journey. You want to avoid having too many communications in a brief period or long gaps between touch points.

The next is a tricky one, but vital – you need to align the objectives of all the teams involved in communication. To create a consistent patient experience, everyone must buy into the plan and adhere to the strategy.

4. Enhance Your Communication Performance

Your patient journey is now supported by communication that is fit for purpose, built to achieve the intended results, and aligned in design, tone, and frequency. To maintain this optimized CX, you need a strategy to continually enhance your communication.

Communication design needs to be refreshed regularly. When something becomes familiar, consumers stop paying attention. Design standards, best practice and regulatory requirements also evolve, and so a patient experience management enhancement plan must be updated accordingly.

Continually improve the performance of your communication by listening to what patients are telling you – both directly through patient feedback and how they interact with each  message. Build up your data, so that you can refine your communications to optimize the performance of each one.

Finally, if this process worked for the patient journey you selected, decide on your next target journeys, and apply the same approach.

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Jason Pothen
Regional Vice President, Utilities and Healthcare at Doxim.
Jason has 22+ years of experience serving a diverse array of industries, across a wide range of print and digital communication technologies. Prior to joining Doxim in July 2020, he was a Senior Client Services Manager at Taylor Communications. In his current position as Regional Vice President, Utilities, Jason is focused on developing long-term client relationships to facilitate account growth and expedient conflict resolution, He retains a key interest in communication management in other regulated industries, such as the Healthcare sector.

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