We recently spoke with Signature Medical Group’s Director of Quality, Don Foster, and Melissa Gall, their Digital Marketing Strategist, to get insights into Signature’s recent effort to better understand patient experience across the organization’s more than 25 practices and 50 offices. To do this, they launched a two-pronged initiative using digital patient feedback and Binary Fountain’s technology platform to help manage and improve operations across each facility as well as to better inform patients researching their physicians online.
Here, Don and Melissa share lessons learned as well as their process for capturing post-care online feedback, implementing timely service recovery and using data analytics as a springboard for activating improvement initiatives across their practices and increasing physician engagement.
Q: Can you give us a little background on what drove the need for this initiative around patient feedback?
Melissa: We work with 150 doctors, so there is a lot being said about them online, on a regular basis. And unfortunately, we weren’t always able to keep up with all of the reviews coming in and respond to them as quickly as we would have liked to. We really wanted to get on top of reputation management in our organization.
Don: We determined that we wanted to get more information from our physician’s patients because we didn’t really know how they were performing from the patient experience standpoint.
Q: What steps did you take to address those needs and get this initiative going?
Melissa: It started off as a marketing initiative, and when we went to seek approval it turned out that there was a lot of opportunity to utilize surveys to our advantage, and for cross-functional teams to really make a difference. That meant working with a variety of practices and departments, from marketing to operations.
Don: To address these needs we started looking at the possibility of doing surveys and tying them to third-party review sites. We found opportunities to start surveying patients, which we had never done before, and began to discover patient experience issues that had remained hidden. We used the baseline data we received to start putting teams together and work with operations staff.
We also looked for best practices, and shared feedback about individual practices that were high scoring for all of our physicians. They have been very helpful in generating productive communication and operational improvements.
Q: What challenges did you face along the way? How did you address them?
Melissa: I often work with a lot of doctors who are just beginning their practice and building a patient base. Most of the younger doctors understand the tremendous value of analyzing digital patient feedback, while more veteran doctors don’t always appreciate the value in the same way because they have a more established patient base.
Don: It was definitely a challenge rolling out this initiative with so many practices. The biggest obstacle I had in getting started was the data itself. How do we gather all of this patient data in a meaningful way? We initially had to rely on office managers to do this, but today I can pull that information myself.
Office managers need to take ownership in making changes when opportunities are identified. Physicians are getting more involved in the process, which is what I have been trying to make happen. Although some accept these new methods more readily than others, I work with them to see the value in it—it’s an ongoing process.
Q: What has your patient feedback initiative allowed you to do?
Melissa: Patient reviews are impactful, and with them we’ve been able to pinpoint where to focus our energy. On the marketing side, we ran email campaigns with quotes from patient surveys. We also created videos by recording certain patient success stories. From those efforts we saw a considerable jump in referrals to our site from physician ratings sites. We would have never had those stories without the surveys. The initiative also helped us learn more about our physicians and which ones need help with collateral; their patients may not feel like they know enough before or after seeing a doctor.
Don: The patient feedback effort has allowed me to look at data trends so I could make improvements and manage issues in real time. For example, if a patient writes a negative comment, I can follow-up with the office manager of that practice and together we reach out to the patient and address the issue or concerns. This helps us provide the patient with a better experience—turning a negative into a positive.
Q: How is this initiative impacting the organization?
Don: It helped us to build the Signature Medical Group brand and increase the popularity of Signature practices. Because many practices were very individualized and not necessarily presenting the Signature Medical Group tagline or logo, that’s one of the things we’ve added to the surveys; this, in turn, strengthened our brand presence.
We also added Signature’s logo to emails and physician websites to drive people to our website. Patients can now easily go from one practice to another within the Signature group for different concerns because they know they can expect a great experience from practices within our organization.
Melissa: All in all, this meant we had a stronger reputation that could elevate our business and create more appointments. I also think it has broken down many barriers between practices and departments. We’ve seen a huge jump in referrals and in the future, we would like to include questions in the surveys asking how patients first heard about Signature Medical Group, and help us further derive ROI.
Q: What have the outcomes been to date?
Don: We’ve seen a tremendous increase in patient experience scores since we began this initiative. As I’ve talked with other practices, numbers and reviews have increased dramatically. Before we started this process our overall organization score in Binary Fountain was 3.4. Our current score has increased to 4.1. This increase is a result of the work of our entire team.
For instance, at one of the orthopedic practices, our scores have seen significant growth. Our first quarter average scores were in the mid-70s and went up to about 80 percent in the second quarter. Today, scores are in the mid-90s. We also identified that we did not have a high capture rate for our patients’ email addresses. A focus on this at one practice helped increase our email capture rates from about 50 percent to 90 percent.
The insights from the surveys has allowed us to pinpoint where we can make improvements. In one case, we identified there were issues with making appointments at one of our practices. We were able to dig deeper and discovered that the issue was the routing of calls in our phone room. We resolved that issue and now our patient experience scores have improved to over 90 percent.
We’ve seen that this gives doctors incentive to perform better as well. I use Binary Fountain’s ranking reports to rank the physicians within the practices and share it with the group. And nobody wants to be at the bottom of the reviews page with the lowest score, so there’s added motivation to make changes for the better. Doctors as well as office staff have already begun setting new performance expectations.
Melissa: We’ve had a big increase in traffic to online ratings sites. Practices are building patients and creating new revenue. Together, patients and physicians clearly see Signature Medical Group as a valuable brand.
Q: What has Binary Fountain’s technology platform helped you do?
Melissa: Binary Fountain’s products and services have helped our organization become more transparent in our advertising, both between practices and with each other. We’re able to talk to our patients and let them know what to expect when they see a Signature doctor. It’s really been phenomenal.
Don: I certainly agree with Melissa. Being able to pull the data in real time when surveys or comments come in has been very effective. It allows us to engage in conversations as soon as feedback arrives. It has also let us keep everything in one place and gives a quick snapshot of how we’re performing on a day to day basis. Because of this, the Binary Fountain platform has been incredibly impactful to our organization.
About the Author
Sabrina helps healthcare organizations better understand their healthcare consumer challenges and needs, in order to efficiently manage and improve patient satisfaction.