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Mark Hinton

Get Focused on What Your Patients Can Tell You About Improving Their Experience

You can’t know everything necessary to provide a superior and memorable ‘patient journey’ unless you ask.

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A WHILE AGO, WE tried to imagine everything necessary to provide a superior and memorable “Patient Journey” in our office. We soon realized without actually asking our patients what that would look like, we were only guessing.

So, we decided to host a focus group and invite 15 patients from a broad demographic, including the college kid, Gen Y and Z singles, couples with and without children, and retirees, as well as relatively new patients and those long established.

We had it catered in our office with nice linens, china, flowers and great food.

We thanked them with gift cards for movies, Amazon, and our local bookstore.

We designed questions to uncover what we could do better and had our attendees write their answers down. We felt it would avoid group bias, and it did.

We framed the questions “No holds barred!” to get them to be honest with us.

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Some of our questions included:

“Why did you choose our office to provide your eye health care?” “What could have been better?” “Where did we excel?” “Where did we fail you?” “During the pre-exam, what did you not understand?”

We asked one to go through our pre-exam testing, and asked each attendee to make notes of what made sense and what felt confusing to them. Where there was a previously undisclosed charge/co-pay for a screening, like iWellness, or retinal imaging, or MPOD, we asked how we might better convey the benefit — the Why? — of the screening or the cost. The answers were immensely helpful in rewriting our patient value dialogue.

We asked questions about their own exams and walked them all through the mock exam of a staff member asking them to score it and make notes where they needed more information or felt confused.

We handed the mock patient off to an optician and asked the attendees to make notes about the handoff as if they were the patient. This was especially eye opening, as in the end, the majority expressed that the doctor and optician were not on the same page. The advice during the exam was not conveyed clearly to the optician and that the optician “neglected” or “forgot” to follow some of what was expressed by the doctor. Even more felt like they were “being sold to” in the optical. Several expressed confusion between what was prescribed and what was merely a suggestion. In the end, we realized we were not prescribing or handing off specifically.

We understood from our group that “recommending” was less important than prescribing with a why; doctors were suggesting sunglasses or computer glasses, but not actually asking the best questions to see if a specific need could be met. As we discussed the attendee notes and grading, it became clear the questions “How have your eyes been doing?” and “What brings you in today?” were far too broad to help the patient give an answer that would be beneficial to them or the doctor.

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Ultimately, in pre-exam screenings, we found the patient only heard “option,” price, “Unfortunately, it’s not covered by your ‘insurance,’” and “Did you want to get it?” as if we were apologizing for the cost of an outstanding diagnostic that would improve the quality of the exam.

Once in the optical the overarching patient feeling was “unsure” and “not confident” about what to do following the exam.

We thanked our “trusted advisors” for their 2.5 hours, gave the gifts mentioned, as well as a 50 percent off their next non-vision plan eyewear, and learned they felt special being included and appreciated us for caring enough to be “brave.”

As a result, we rewrote our patient dialogs leading patients to opt-in instead of helping them opt-out. We rewrote our pre-exam history/lifestyle questions to gain more specific answers than “Yes” or “No.” We simplified our optical choices and stopped asking patients salesy questions, like “Would you be interested in…?” “Let me explain…!” “Have you ever considered…?” and “If you were thinking…”

And very important, we learned that if you don’t get the patient to buy-in to their own treatment plan in the exam room, the best you can hope for is … hope!

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