Common Questions About Improving the Patient Experience

Last month, WebPT hosted a webinar on five metrics private practice rehab therapists can use to accurately gauge patient satisfaction. In addition to pinpointing key metrics you can calculate and track throughout the patient experience, Marketing Director Mike Manheimer and I also explained how to measure and use the resulting data to effect change within your business.

During the webinar, we received a lot of really great questions. For that reason, I thought it would be helpful to recap the most common questions here to serve as a resource for the entire PT community.

What are your recommendations for performing quality assurance monitoring of our clinical staff, including therapists and therapist assistants? How can we make sure they’re creating the best customer experience possible?

First off, I would suggest observing your therapists’ interactions with their patients at random intervals and scoring those interactions based on some kind of rating system. On top of that, you should take a proactive approach to creating positive customer experiences by providing some form of customer service training for all members of your staff—whether they answer phones, book appointments, or actually treat patients. During that training, make sure you set clear expectations for each employee and job role. And, as we discussed during the webinar, conducting a survey to determine your clinic’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great way to determine whether your staff is delivering on the expectations you’ve established.

I know there are certain HIPAA regulations governing proper use of patient email addresses. How can I make sure that my post-treatment patient satisfaction survey falls in line with those rules?

I recommend having new patients provide their email addresses during the intake process and then asking them to sign a consent form authorizing your practice to send them marketing emails. That way, you’re totally covered when it comes to distributing post-discharge surveys via email. To learn more about HIPAA-compliant marketing, check out this blog post.

As a clinic owner, how can I make my therapy staff understand just how crucial the patient experience is—especially when their primary focus is treating and healing their patients?

These two goals are not mutually exclusive; in fact, the patient experience has a lot to do with the outcomes patients achieve. Remember, the reason most people get therapy in the first place is to relieve their pain, heal their ailments and injuries, and return to their normal daily lives. If therapists can deliver on those needs, they’re already halfway there. Now, when it comes to getting therapists on board with other patient satisfaction efforts—like reducing wait times or improving phone call answer rate—be sure to stress that happy patients are good for everyone, not only in relation to your business’s bottom line, but also in terms of staff morale. A healthy business makes for a healthy—and happy—work atmosphere.

Is it okay for my clinic to close during lunch breaks?

Listen, you gotta eat, and breaks are essential when it comes to employee happiness—and your own happiness. That being said, lunch is precisely the time of day that many potential patients—who also are on their lunch breaks—will call your office to make appointments. If you don’t answer, they’re not going to wait around for you; chances are they’ll call another clinic. So, I recommend staggering employee breaks. That way, someone is always available to take calls. If that’s not possible, then consider using an answering service—or at the very least, a voicemail message that assures callers you’ll return their call before the end of the day.

Surprises during the billing process represent one of the most significant causes of patient dissatisfaction. How can we better educate patients upfront about what they should expect?

I recommend developing a collection policy for your practice. These guidelines should map out your practice’s entire billing process from the patient’s point of view. This policy should encourage patients to review their insurance benefits prior to treatment, and it should clearly state that patients are responsible for any amounts not covered by their health plans. After you provide patients with this policy, require them to sign off that they’ve read and understand it.

For additional collections tips, check out this blog post.

Where can I view the recorded webinar?

You can watch the full webinar and download the slide deck here.


Have more patient experience or metric questions? Send ’em my way in the comments section below, and I’ll respond with answers as soon as I can.

About the Author

Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L, Founder and COO of WebPT

As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She co-founded WebPT after recognizing the need for a more sophisticated industry-specific EMR platform and has guided the company through exponential growth, while garnering national recognition. Heidi brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and multi-clinic site director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent small businesses, speaks as a subject matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. Heidi is a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice physical therapy clinics.

Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a life-long fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences and Exercise Physiology, went on to earn her MPT at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida, and recently obtained her DPT through EIM. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.