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Defining the patient journey

October 29, 2021
A provider connects with a patient during this step of the patient journey

The healthcare market is increasingly competitive as patients become more engaged in controlling their healthcare experiences. They no longer feel the need to visit the doctor or medical practice closest to their home and are instead looking for healthcare providers that offer a personalized, highly satisfying patient journey.

Patients are seeking options that reflect their personal needs and wants. This includes control over their data, budget-friendly care options, and access to educational and medical services that help them participate in their care.

Meeting these needs and creating a positive patient experience is a critical driver in attracting and retaining patients. When patients form positive relationships with your providers, they become more engaged in their care and develop a stronger loyalty to your practice.

Healthcare practices need to understand, map, and respond to the new patient journey to satisfy these changing demands.

What is the patient journey?

The patient journey is a chain of events a patient experiences when engaging with your practice. It includes a variety of encounters, ranging from seeking medical care to scheduling appointments to follow-up care instructions.

Generally, you divide the patient journey into three major categories pre-visit, visit, and post-visit.

Pre-visit

  • Trigger event (e.g., illness or injury)
  • Searching for the right provider
  • Scheduling the visit
  • Pre-visit history and paperwork
  • Checking in for the visit

Visit

  • Waiting area
  • History and vitals with a nurse
  • Patient encounter with the doctor
  • Blood tests/lab work
  • Understanding the diagnosis and follow up instructions

Post-visit

  • Checking out
  • Care plan/post-care instructions
  • Paying for medical treatment
  • Patient satisfaction feedback surveys
  • Clinical follow-up

Understanding the patient journey will help your practice identify potential pain points, gaps in care, and develop strategies to improve a patient’s experience with your organization.

How to map the patient's journey?

Your Patient Journey Map tracks the entire trip that a patient goes through when interacting with your practice. It outlines all the touchpoints from pre-visit, visit, and post-visit.

There are a few things to consider when creating your patient journey map.

Patient personas

Patient personas are profiles of your practice’s typical patient. They are used to help you understand key traits, behaviors, goals, responsibilities, and needs of a specific type of patient. Depending on your specialty, you could have multiple patient personas.

Patient goals

Gather information to understand your patient’s goals – what do they want to achieve at the end of their patient journey. Identifying the patient’s goal helps you verify the steps needed to accomplish it.

Patient journey stages 

These are the steps a patient takes toward achieving their goal. Start by using the outline above (pre-visit, visit, and post-visit) and add in any missing details specific to how you run your practice or interact with your patients. You want to consider all touchpoints when doing your patient journey mapping.

For example, if your practice is in an area with limited parking, this could be a focal point for your patient journey. You may want pre-visit instructions that help patients locate parking for a visit – eliminating this pain point from the patient journey.

Put the stages in a flow chart to help you visualize all the steps, and how they are interconnected.

Patient pain points

With the help of the information you have gathered in the previous step, identify the potential pain points your patient might experience in the journey as it exists today. Identify ways you can remove those pain points.

It could mean bringing in new people, resources, or technology to remove those barriers.

When done right, your patient journey map makes it easier to identify pain points, discover opportunities, and reimagine patient engagement strategies across your practice.

A smooth patient journey will result in a more engaged and satisfied patient. Happier patients mean repeat business and a steady revenue stream for your healthcare practice.

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