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The patient journey: why it is vital to fertility clinic success?

What is the patient journey?
Firstly, let’s consider the meaning of ‘the patient journey’. It is the entire sequence of events that begins when the patient first becomes aware of your clinic. That could be browsing your clinic website, interacting with your social media or noticing your marketing. The patient journey continues as awareness develops into active interest to make contact with your clinic and request an initial consultation. The patient journey further develops as they navigate their fertility treatment all the way through to after-care.

What are the stages of the patient journey?
The patient journey starts even before they set foot in your fertility clinic. The majority of IVF patients research clinics online, making your clinic website your digital front door. Whilst many clinics understand the importance of website optimization and invest in presenting themselves effectively online, did you know that how initial contact from a prospective patient is handled is just as important? That initial contact via your website chat, call center, email or in-person visit makes the first impression. So even before the prospective patient meets with a doctor, they’re experiencing the patient journey and forming an opinion of your clinic. The consultation and treatment stages of the patient journey are inevitably key to a clinic’s success. Bear in mind that during these stages, the patient interacts with not just doctors but also reception/admin staff, nursing staff and often, counsellors. Therefore, a consistent, positive experience is vital. As the patient moves from treatment to after-care (whether their treatment has resulted in pregnancy or not), their patient journey continues after their last clinic appointment. In the happy event of pregnancy, patients may well continue to have questions, particularly during their first trimester. In the unfortunate event of a failed IVF cycle, patients will inevitably have questions about what’s next for them on their journey. Every stage of the patient journey is vital to clinic success. How patients feel on their journey directly impacts patient satisfaction and thus, patient retention. It also impacts the likelihood that they’ll recommend your clinic to others.

What makes a ‘positive’ patient journey?
Having interviewed many fertility patients, I believe that the key factors of a positive patient journey include:
• Clear, consistent, trusted information.
• Continuity in care/treatment.
• Effective two-way communication where patients feel listened to and involved in decision-making.
• Respect for patient values and emotions.
• Competence at every touch-point with the clinic, from reception staff to nursing team to doctors.

Why is it important for fertility clinics to assess the success of their patient journey?
Quite simply, happy patients are unlikely to shift among clinics, even when they’ve experienced a failed IVF cycle. It is possible for a fertility patient to experience a positive patient journey even when their treatment does not result in pregnancy. How so? If a fertility patient experiences a positive patient journey, then they are more likely to feel invested in that clinic and the professionals offering them treatment there. They are more likely to stay and try another treatment cycle. Therefore, the patient journey directly impacts patient retention.

How can fertility clinics assess the success of their patient journey?
An effective starting point is to map the patient journey at your clinic. A patient journey map is a visual representation of the steps the patient takes as they engage with your clinic and receive treatment. Patient journey maps should capture pre-visit and post-visit touchpoints in addition to those that occur when the patient is onsite at your clinic.
The next step is to compile an inventory of all the touchpoints for which your clinic already collects patient feedback. Now, determine what’s missing. Envisage moving through the patient journey – when and at what point are patients asked for their feedback? Mapping your patient journey helps you to hone in on the areas where you may not be listening to your patients, but should be.
Patient journey mapping can uncover inconsistencies, gaps in care, and common ‘frustration points’. It’s often an effective way to optimize processes and increase patient satisfaction.
Mapping the patient journey transforms your patient care approach from a reactive to a proactive one.
Now it’s time to take action. Use the insights from all touchpoints along your patient journey to develop solutions to improve your patient action plan.

Authored by FC Consulting Partner Clare Goulty, who specializes in Patient Experience Optimisation. Please reach out if you’d like to hear more and discuss how Clare can assist your fertility organization become more patient-centric.

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