Patient Journey Mapping: 4 Steps to Creating Great Patient Experiences

Karla Socci Somers | Last Updated : 30 Dec, 2021

Are you creating brand confusion with your healthcare practice?

Recently, I’ve written about branding your healthcare practice and the importance of creating an outstanding patient experience. The two go hand-in-hand when it comes to the patient journey mapping to avoid brand confusion and creating consistent experiences for your patients.

What is the perfect patient journey?

We’ll break down patient journey mapping into four smaller segments: Awareness. Rapport. Trust. Loyalty.

Step 1: Build awareness

The road to new patients discovering your healthcare practice begins with building awareness. Until visitors to your website find you, they are essentially strangers who don’t know you exist or what services you offer.

With up to 80% of consumers searching online for a new therapist, medical provider, and other health-related questions, your practice needs a strong online presence. You can create this through content that provides value to consumers that is also SEO-friendly—meaning their search terms can be easily directed to your web pages.

Step 2: Build rapport

Once your prospective patients find you and you make a good first impression with your website, you can begin to build rapport. Do this by providing content that resonates with them, such as explaining common symptoms, or offering a “Take the Quiz” feature to assess their health and wellness.

Remember, if patients are searching for a new therapist, hospital, or other type of healthcare organization online, it’s because they have internal reasons compelling them to do so. They are seeking to solve a healthcare concern, and through your website, you can let them know your practice can be the one to address these concerns.

You also want to make it very easy for patients to book an appointment online with your patient portal.

More than two-thirds of patients say they are more likely to choose a healthcare provider that offers the ability to book, change, and cancel appointments via the practice’s website.

If you don’t offer this feature, instead of building rapport along the patient journey, you may be causing frustration from the get-go, and patients will look elsewhere for the care they need.

Step 3: Build trust

Once you’ve begun to establish a new relationship with your prospective and brand new patients, the next step is to build trust. Start by ensuring your providers and team make a great first-impression.

As patients schedule their first appointment online, for example, send out a triggered email that welcomes them to the practice and let’s them know you value their selection of your practice over the many other choices they have in healthcare providers.

Many providers send a welcome email saying something like, “We’re glad you chose us!” or “Welcome to the practice family.” Personal messaging makes patients feel valued, and less like a number on your patient roster – an important factor in retaining business.

Continue to build trust by educating patients about the convenient services you offer, such as digital appointment reminders, online bill-pay, and telehealth appointments. Through consistent messaging and by providing services they want, you let patients know that your office is their new, trusted partner in their healthcare journey.

Step 4: Build loyalty

Once you’ve attracted new patients to your practice, be sure to offer an excellent patient experience. Then, ask your patients for reviews so other individuals at the first step of the patient journey can read about how great your practice has been for those with similar healthcare needs.

70% of consumers will leave a review when asked.

Source

Patients are happy to leave reviews when they have a great experience. It’s as simple as asking. A great way to ask for reviews is by automating the process. Send a text message or an email asking happy patients to take a minute to rate your practice. Make it so easy for them to leave feedback that all they need to do is click a link, select a star rating, and type a sentence or two.

Another way to build loyalty is through a referral program that rewards current patients for recommending your services to their friends and family. A gesture as simple as offering a gift card to a local coffee shop is a great way to express gratitude and build loyalty with existing patients. So, even once their current healthcare needs are fulfilled, they are more likely to contact you in the future should a new need arise. 

Think of these four steps—build awareness, build rapport, build trust, build loyalty—as a circular process in which you’re continually creating consistent messaging and branding, offering a positive patient experience, attracting new patients and luring current patients back.

Now, let’s go back to my original question:

Are you creating brand confusion?

Carefully consider each of these four steps with your patient journey mapping. At any step along the way, if your brand messaging is inconsistent, your patients have a less than wonderful experience, or more literally, the image you project in your marketing materials isn’t what your patients are receiving, you have some work to do.

To get started with your own assessment, ask these questions:

  1. Can prospective patients easily find us online?
  2. Is our practice website user-friendly and making a good first impression?
  3. Do we make it easy for patients to contact our office with questions or to request an appointment?
  4. Does our content (blogs, articles, emails, ads) answer common questions about the concerns patients are searching for?
  5. Do we appear helpful, trustworthy, and authoritative in our field of expertise?
  6. Are our scheduling team, phone staff, and providers welcoming, friendly, and knowledgeable?
  7. Do we truly value our patients, and if so, do we adequately express our gratitude?
  8. How is our email messaging? Do we need to create a better newsletter, triggered emails, or follow-up educational materials?
  9. Do we communicate consistently with emails, texts, and appointment reminders?
  10. Do we ask patients for feedback via text, email, or surveys?
  11. What areas of our practice need immediate improvement?
  12. Are we effectively using our happy patients to spread the word to friends and family?

Finally, consider what makes your healthcare practice stand out among the competition to all those entering the first step along the patient journey. Convey more of that. Do more of that – whatever it is – and you’ll begin to see a positive increase in your reputation as a provider of choice in your particular specialty.

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