Do you wish you could read your patients’ minds?
There are times when I think it would be helpful to know what my patients are thinking and feeling. I do my best to motivate interested prospects to make an appointment or patients to implement their plan of care. Too often I just don’t seem to connect with them and wonder what they’re thinking.
For instance, this might be what someone with back pain might be saying to themselves…
“Severe back pain just hit me again, and I’m anxious that I’ll have to take time off from work.
I can’t decide if I want to see a therapist or a chiropractor, I’ve heard good and bad things about both. Next, if I go with a therapist, I must decide who to go to.
I do a quick Google search and see there are two clinics the same distance from my work so I base my decision on which clinic has the easiest way to schedule an appointment; I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the phone.(which my boss hates)
An important factor for people like me when deciding where to get healthcare, is do I trust them. What’s their bedside manner like? How much time will it take? How much will cost? What will they do to me?
The problem for people like me is we don’t know what the experience will be like until we’re already there. That makes me a little anxious but this pain is killing me I’ve got to do something.
While I definitely prefer physical therapy to chiropractors, I value my time, and this is going to come out of my pocket because I haven’t met my deductible. I want the total experience to be something I can live with and afford.”
If a therapist was able to map out the main questions of their frequent patient they could quickly see an opportunity to capitalize on people who want to take the hassle out of healthcare. Creating a patient journey map can be one way to put yourself in your patient’s minds in order to create a remarkable patient experience.
Patient Journey Maps
Today, patients are more informed and demand more from of their appointments with healthcare providers. They are paying closer attention to the total experience they receive and want their money’s worth. Keep this top of mind as you carefully design a patient experience that’s truly remarkable.
A patient journey can be described as the quality of experience patients receive from the first point of contact all the way through to the last interaction with your practice. It includes every step from when they first hear about you to the time when they refer one of their friends. One way to analyze and streamline the path is through a patient journey map.
A patient journey map visualizes the path patients take in order to give your patients what they really want. We want our patients to achieve their goals and enjoy the experience every step of the way. As practice owners, we have goals and we want to enjoy the journey too. Your goal might be to create a practice referral machine that makes you less dependent on physician referrals. A journey map helps you to align what your patients want with what you want to accomplish in your business.
Get from Point A to Point B
Creating a patient journey map helps you identify how get from point A to point B, and the steps in between. It creates a repeatable pathway where website browsers can be transformed into loyal patients who promote your practice. You can chart your course to extraordinary service and a profitable business by carefully crafting every step in a journey map.
Most people are out of their comfort zone when encountering healthcare professionals. Their main reason for seeing us is usually something’s wrong in their body. The pain is making them uncomfortable enough to seek a solution. The goal of a patient journey map is to develop an empathetic perspective of what patients are experiencing from their point of view. A map helps to detail patients’ needs and expectations at each point of the journey.
At each step on the journey, the patient has different needs and expectations. Those needs can be as simple as getting their questions answered or making an appointment. You want to make the next step as clear and straightforward as possible. Our focus is to make every step count as patients move towards the outcomes they want.
A patient lifecycle describes the journey a patient goes through before, during after using your services. It helps to organize your contacts depending on what stage they are in. Interactions are optimized to streamline the series of steps taken by most people.
You should nurture relationships with browsers who have shown an interest in you. Address their concerns and questions while waiting for the right time to ask if they want to make an appointment. Prospects have demonstrated more interest in what you do than website browsers who are looking for information. Prospects have raised their hands and show a readiness to become patients.
Patients are those prospects who are a good fit for your practice. They make their first appointment and become paying clients. Promoters are those patients who become advocates for your practice. They often return for additional care and refer friends to you.
A patient lifecycle is a useful framework for organizing an email marketing strategy. It guides sending emails targeted towards specific goals that correspond to each stage. Each email creates momentum towards moving prospects down the path to becoming lifelong patients and promoters of your practice.
Create Your Patient Journey Map
There are many ways to create a patient journey map. Some people find it easiest to draw it out on a large whiteboard or poster boards. There are online tools to create mind maps or customer journey maps. The hardest part is just making the time to do it, use the simplest tool you need to get it done.
Below is a list of useful tools and templates:
Now it’s your turn
Now it’s time for you to diagram the steps patients go through when engaging with your practice. Include online and offline interactions to help you understand where and how your patients experience momentum and friction. Here are the simple steps to write a patient journey map.
- Before you create your journey map, you should have a patient type to focus on. I use browsers, prospects, patients, and promoters, choose one type to focus on.
- Write your client’s goals and your own goals. What does this specific client type expect to achieve as they experience each step in the patient lifecycle? What is the specific step you want them to take to grow your practice? These questions are vital because if you’re not meeting your clients’ needs they will get lost along the way. As a result, you won’t be generating more patients and reaching your income goals.
- Identify key touchpoints that occur before, during and after someone receives care at your clinic. You want to make every touchpoint a remarkable patient experience. First, brainstorm all of the possibilities to improve patient touchpoints. Try to put yourself in your patient’s shoes. Better yet ask current patients what you could do to make their experience better.
- Step back and look at the big picture. Visualize the flow through each stage of the patient journey. Look especially close at the points where clients navigate into the next phase. Browsers raise their hand and become prospects. Prospects take a step forward to set up their first appointment to become patients. Look for those key goal conversion points when both you and your clients are reaching your goals.
- Finally, you must prioritize. You can’t change every touchpoint at the same time. I’d suggest going after the low-hanging fruit. Prioritize the touchpoints that are the most cost-effective and easiest to optimize. For example, you might choose to send a welcome email after a prospect makes an appointment or make an orientation call to decrease no-shows. This would be a relatively quick change to make and easy to track its impact on your cancellation rates.
You’ll quickly learn that building customer journey map is challenging but well worth it.
Focus less on creating a “perfect” patient journey map, there isn’t one. Instead, be concerned with improving key patient touchpoints one at a time. Chunk the project down into manageable bite size steps. For most of the therapists I work with unless they break it down into small goals it never gets done. We’re all busy treating patients, writing notes and getting stuff done. Grow your practice one bite at a time.
If you’ve created a customer journey map, please share it with me in the comments or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to see your work.