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Turn That Frown Upside Down: Applying an Orthodontist's Best Practices to Primary Care

Turn That Frown Upside Down: Applying an Orthodontist's Best Practices to Primary Care Banner Image

I recently took my daughter to an orthodontic consultation and was very satisfied with our experience compared to the typical experience I have with my primary care doctor. It made me think about how the patient experience starts long before you get to the clinic and ends after you leave; it’s comprised of a whole series of interactions with multiple different touchpoints and at any point it can become unsatisfactory.

Since many of the Orthodontist’s patients are private pay, they need to provide a great experience to attract and retain patients.  In the emerging retail healthcare market, the same is becoming true for primary care providers.  Patients are becoming more savvy consumers as they shop for health insurance and providers.  The Advisory Board’s research has found that “competing on consumer experience requires understanding consumers’ expectations—and then exceeding them.”  This infographic shows the stages of building consumer loyalty through the patient experience. Applying these concepts through the perspective of my typical primary care visits against our Orthodontist visit showed a sharp contrast.

  • Transparent Search: As of 2014, only 10% of health systems offered patient scheduling.  While online appointment scheduling is increasingly more available – projected that over 65% of systems will have this in place by 2019, I still cannot use this feature in my healthcare system to schedule my annual wellness visit. For my daughter’s appointment I was able to search, find and request an appointment online!  Within a business day the orthodontist’s office contacted me and scheduled the consultation visit.  Then the new patient coordinator called me to explain what the visit would involve.
  • Convenient Access: A first for me, I was able to go to the orthodontist’s website and fill out my daughter’s health history online before the visit - no filling out paperwork on a clipboard in a waiting room!  As an added bonus, there was a self-check-in for patients once we arrived at the orthodontist’s office – appealing to the increasingly tech savvy consumer.
  • Positive Encounter:  In my opinion, not waiting for information is also a big part of creating a positive encounter.  At the orthodontic consultation, we instantly reviewed the digital X-Ray images taken just minutes before.  That helped us clearly understand my daughter’s teeth crowding and we didn’t have to wait to receive a diagnosis or treatment plan.  Conversely, during my last wellness appointment I had blood drawn at the end of the visit and had to wait several days for the results.  Not having that information prior to my visit required scheduling a follow up appointment to discuss the results with my physician, not a positive outcome in my mind. 
  • Durable Relationship:  The healthcare system I use for my primary care seems to have a lot of turn over.  Every year I see a new doctor at my annual wellness visit, making it difficult to build a relationship.  At the Orthodontist, patients are rewarded with points for following their treatment plan, keeping appointments and building a relationship with the practice.  If my doctor gave me points I could redeem for a gift card or prize, maybe I would actually look forward to my annual wellness visit. 

Many moments during the primary care physician visit can shape the consumer experience and perception of the organization. Small things like a personal phone call in advance to large structural changes like online reservations can help organizations set themselves apart. Our daughter arrived at her appointment anxious about the prospect of needing braces, but left saying she really wouldn’t mind as long as she could get blue sparkly bands. What does your healthcare provider do that makes it your provider of choice?


Robin Bio:
Super healthcare design nerd, passionate about the power of design to transform healthcare environments and experiences.  I read about, tweet and design patient experiences 5 days a week (I think about it on the weekends sometimes too).  In my role as a senior project architect and planner at EUA I focus on using Lean concepts in Healthcare design.  I strive to create efficiencies in healthcare design but also facilitate respect for the people who work at and visit these facilities every day.

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