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TestImproving Your Medical Practice’s Overall Patient Experience

Improving Your Medical Practice’s Overall Patient Experience

For decades, doctors could rely solely on outstanding medical care to build a successful practice and maintain a steady flow of patients. As the industry grows more competitive, however, providers today are being forced to upgrade their entire operations and improve their quality of service to retain their clientele — a necessity only exacerbated by the public’s increasing reliance on online reviews.

As leaders in the healthcare reputation management space, rater8 has long explored how practices can improve their services. We’ve even offered guides on managing waiting room expectations and retaining long-term patients. When it comes to improving the overall patient experience, however, we thought it would be best to turn to someone who interacts with patients on a daily basis. 

In this article, we explore insights from Joe Marino, practice administrator for Island Eye Surgery Specialists, a Staten Island-based ophthalmology practice with a long history of quality service. An intentional, detail-oriented leader, Mr. Marino shared his perspective on improving the overall patient experience, including staffing, patient feedback, and more.

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Medical practices are like Disneyland

When you think about it, the factors that impact the overall experience at a medical practice are not too different from those at Disneyland. While the character meet-and-greets, whimsical rides, and delicious treats are what most guests remember, the entire experience starts from two places: the aesthetics and the staff.

At Disneyland, the parking lots are always smooth, well-painted, and free of trash. From the moment a guest leaves their vehicle in the morning, until the moment they return at the end of the day, everywhere they go is guaranteed to be clean and welcoming. In the case they ever need help, guests are always just a few steps away from Disney’s Cast Members, employees meticulously trained in quality customer service.

By mastering these two components, the amusement park giant guarantees each visit starts off on a high note, giving each guest the opportunity for an exemplary experience.

Swap Space Mountain and the Teacups for treatments and check-ups and you have the same thing: experiences built on the foundations of appearance and human interaction. With this mindset, Mr. Marino shared with us how Island Eye uses its aesthetics and staffing to provide its patients with an exemplary experience from the get-go.

Parking lots, potholes, and painted walls

At Island Eye Surgery Specialists, there is a particular focus on the practice’s “flow”: the patient’s journey from their arrival until the conclusion of their visit.

To create a high-quality experience, Mr. Marino and his team ensure every touchpoint in Island Eye’s flow is clean and inviting — the parking lot is well-maintained and pothole free, the exam room is clean, the walls are painted, and so on.

“The overall experience starts with the aesthetics of the building. Are the windows clean? Is the parking lot lit at night? Do the doors open easily? That’s the first part of the experience when a person comes to the practice. It doesn’t matter if they are an existing patient, a new patient, or a patient that’s been coming here for 25 years.”

Importantly, this does not mean breaking the bank. Instead, Island Eye intentionally allocates funds based upon its needs and patient feedback — such as investing in new equipment, reupholstering waiting room chairs, and clearing their snowy parking lot. 

Providing a comfortable, clean environment for patients ensures every experience at Island Eye begins on the right foot. Additionally, by constantly investing in their facilities, the ophthalmology practice builds trust among their long-term patients, leading to greater retention.

Every patient is met with a smile

Whether it’s at Disneyland, a restaurant, or a doctor’s office, every person who walks into a place of business expects to be met with a smile and attentiveness. As a result, it’s imperative to build an empathetic team of providers and office staff members.

According to Mr. Marino, a medical practice is a lot like a chess set. Similar to the board game’s pieces, every staff member has a unique role and set of skills, from doctors to front desk representatives. Within this metaphor, Mr. Marino sees his role as the player, responsible for strategically using his team to provide the best possible patient experience.

In day-to-day life, this approach presents itself as a combination of meticulous planning and empathetic support. Mr. Marino, for example, developed a series of in-house tools to ensure his practice’s expectations are consistently met, such as standard operating procedures, flow charts, and administrator handbooks. This includes setting guidelines for his providers, who are united under the mutual belief that excellent patient care is the priority. 

Beyond supporting their job functions, the practice administrator also looks to meet his employees’ personal needs by providing consistent feedback, adequately staffing positions, rewarding quality performance, and more.

Addressing his teams’ functional and personal needs has allowed Mr. Marino to develop a staff that regularly receives top notch reviews from its patients, and, in turn, create a better overall experience.

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Prioritize your practice’s lines of communication

While aesthetics and staff matter, it’s important to remember that, for most people, the patient experience extends far beyond the office. Whether to schedule an appointment or to ask a question, many patients engage with their medical providers in between their visits.

With this in mind, Mr. Marino prioritizes his practice’s lines of communication: a call center and patient portal.

Island Eye Surgery Specialists’ call center is an in-house operation, managed directly by the practice administrator and his office managers. Using his chess-like approach to staffing, Mr. Marino has two or three trained staff members operating the phones at all times. For moments when the call center staff is overwhelmed, Mr. Marino created a workflow to send callers to other phones across the office — starting with the office manager and ending at his own phone.

As a nod to his attention to detail, Mr. Marino also stationed the call center away from the waiting room, ensuring guests are not bothered by any excessive ringing.

Male hand dialing an office phone.

Because of Mr. Marino’s approach, Island Eye provides patients with reliable, timely responses that meet their needs and empathize with their frustrations. This includes through the online portal, which is operated by the call center and boasts a 20-minute response time.

Overall, prioritizing his practice’s communication allows Mr. Marino to improve the overall experience, leading to more satisfied patients.

Tailor your experience to your clientele

From the posters on the waiting room wall to the online booking portal, there is no shortage of opportunities available to improve the overall patient experience. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that different demographics have different needs and expectations.

At Island Eye, Mr. Marino believes it is vital for every part of his practice to meet the needs of his clientele. The practice administrator uses this perspective to determine which improvements his practice should prioritize to give patients more enjoyable visits.

For example, while check-in kiosks are growing in popularity across the U.S., Mr. Marino is hesitant to invest in one. As an ophthalmology practice in New York City’s southwest borough, Island Eye’s demographic includes a sizable elderly population, who he feels may struggle with the self-service check-ins. 

You have to know your demographics, you have to have a certain kind of empathy, and you have to have caring people in the front… I would love to have a kiosk, but when you ask someone who just found out about electric cars to use one — you just can’t do that to people.”

Instead, Island Eye allocates their budget toward other investments, like maintaining a strong staff, keeping up to date on equipment, and providing a clean, comfortable waiting area. Mr. Marino is even eyeing a robot greeter — that way every patient is welcomed into the practice.

Tailoring Island Eye’s operation to its demographic means the practice has been able to consistently improve its operation in meaningful ways. In doing so, they not only continue to build trust among their patients, but maintain an exemplary experience.

Feedback is the key to success

While his insight and approach certainly deserve credit, Mr. Marino firmly believes that timely, relevant feedback is the key to Island Eye’s incredible patient experience. With patient reviews, the New York practice is able to address concerns in a timely, actionable manner — whether by replying to a comment or implementing new improvements to the practice. 

Further, the practice administrator uses patient feedback to prioritize projects, identify staffing opportunities, and better understand his patients. He even sends positive reviews to his doctors and staff to celebrate their hard work.

To obtain timely patient feedback, Island Eye Surgery Specialists uses rater8 — a tool Mr. Marino labeled the “invisible checkmate.”

rater8 patient satisfaction survey, designed to increase patient retention.

The only reputation management platform developed specifically for the healthcare industry, rater8 generates feedback for providers through automated patient satisfaction surveys, sent directly to patients at the conclusion of their visit. With an average response rate of 29%, the micro-surveys provide unmatched insights into the needs and concerns of patients — pivotal for improving the overall patient experience.

A true, multi-faceted solution, rater8 also helps providers foster a strong online presence by cultivating organic 5-star patient ratings and intelligently distributing them across every major healthcare review website.

To see how rater8 can transform your practice, schedule a live demo with our experts today!

A testament to their intentional approach, Island Eye Surgery Specialists boasts a 41% response rate for its post-visit surveys, as well as thousands of 5-star online reviews. Thank you to Joe Marino for providing valuable insight into elevating the overall patient experience!

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