Professor’s Corner: Improve Patient Experience With PROs
A Note From CODE: Welcome to Professor’s Corner, a monthly series brought to you by CODE’s own Steve Wood, Ph.D. See previous Professor’s Corner articles here.
A recent MGMA article provided two very telling points for procedure-oriented physicians, they were: “Positive patient experience emerges when a patient is engaged with useful knowledge about his or her own condition” and “word of mouth can make or break a physician’s office with patients and referral sources.”
So how do Patient-Reported Outcome (PRO) surveys enable practices to accomplish the above objectives?
Creating a Positive Patient Experience
In procedure-focused practices, a positive patient experience is influenced by the interactions with staff and the physician, the communication of relevant and interpretable information to the patient, and of course the outcome of the procedure. The PRO survey information can contribute to all of those influencers.
To begin, the simple request for pre-op PRO survey completion, if done properly can signal interest and compassion from the practice. This survey should be presented with an explanation that addresses the importance of understanding the patient’s functional situation so that their physician and staff can develop the most effective treatment approach to achieve the best outcomes. Practices should develop engaging emails, cover letters or staff scripts to accomplish this in a consistent and engaging manner.
The pre-op survey information should be reviewed by the physician prior to seeing the patient to identify specific pain and/or functionality issues and address them with the patient. The physician can indicate where he/she believes the patient will improve and what activities will be necessary for the patient to achieve the desired results.
In some cases, there are diagnoses where the only viable solution is surgery – e.g., injections and rehabilitation will not adequately address the patient’s issue. In these cases where a patient may be hesitant to have a procedure, but surgery is the only viable treatment approach, the physician can use aggregated PRO outcome data to show the patient the improvement that may be expected.
PRO data can also be used to address lifestyle issues such as smoking or obesity. This can be done by referencing the PRO data and indicating that by adjusting these behaviors, if necessary, the outcomes can expect to be better than if not addressed. This indicates preparation and focus on the physician’s part, both are appreciated experience item by patients.
Word-of-Mouth Patient Marketing
Healthcare is one of, if not the, most amenable industry to word-of-mouth marketing. Whether in personal discussions with friends or family or social media channel communications, patients talk about their experiences and outcomes from medical provider encounters.
PRO data can again be used effectively to inspire positive communications by patients. As an example, personally discussing the post-op survey results in an effective way can lead to patients talking with others about how much and in what ways the procedure improved their lives. Going through the overall and sub-score data by the physician, or perhaps even the physician’s assistant, can inform the patient of the value received in many ways from the procedure.
Indicating to the patient that their score has increased “X%” from pre-survey gives them a metric to share and is based on their personal assessment of the outcome. Encouragement to share the results with others should be a part of the discussion.