Home visits are highly unusual when you think about it. The whole health system is designed on the assumption that the patient visits the professional, whether that’s at a community clinic, private practice or a hospital. Though home visits are becoming more common, ‘patient-centred care’ is still usually delivered on professional turf.
So, as an allied health professional who believes in flexible, 21st-century healthcare that is truly patient-centric, how do you learn to do home visits well? How can you provide a great patient experience with in-home consults? Let's start by examining why that matters so much.
As a healthcare professional, you should care about patient experience for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, because you care about your patient. You want them to have a good experience of care. You know too that improving a patient’s experience of care can improve the quality and outcomes of that care.
Secondly, because you want your business to succeed. Today’s modern patients have high expectations of customer service. They also know that there are plenty of choices available to them and can easily look elsewhere if they’re not satisfied.
How to improve patient experience on home visits
The first step to improving home visits for patients is to think it through so you can plan ahead.
Before the visit
Clear communication from you before the visit helps the patient know what to do and prepare well.
Get in touch a few days before the visit to confirm the appointment and to give your patient guidance on:
Some of these details will vary depending on your profession. A private, undisturbed session may be vital if you’re a psychologist but less important if you’re a dietitian.
Then think about what you need to bring to the visit. Your laptop? Educational materials? A massage table? Make sure you’ve got it all with you.
During the visit
Punctuality, professionalism and pleasantness gets you a long way on your visit.
Send an SMS to the patient about 10 minutes before your arrival to give the patient time to get ready and to lock up any dogs.
Be on time because patients hate waiting. Indeed, nearly a third list waiting as the most frustrating part of visiting a healthcare professional. Plan your journey and add a little extra time to allow for unexpected traffic. You can always sit around the corner and review your notes if you arrive a few minutes early.
On your arrival, knock, greet the patient, introduce yourself and ask if you can come in and set up. Recognise that patients need to trust anyone they invite into their home so have some form of ID with you and be dressed in your uniform so that you look the part.
These days, you need to show the patient that you’re taking COVID precautions. So sanitise your hands on the way in and tell the patient that you’re going to touch as few surfaces as possible.
During a clinic visit, you spend the first few minutes welcoming the patient. Do the same thing on a home visit as you settle in. Particularly with a new patient, you need to find ways to make a connection. It’s worth taking time to establish a rapport. Make eye contact, compliment them on their lovely home, ask how their week has been.
Then explain how the home visit will work such as the care you’ll provide and the billing arrangements afterwards. Explain each step – ‘I’ll just set up the equipment now then get you to lie here while I examine your back’.
Concluding the visit
When the consultation finishes, you need to ensure that the patient understands what will happen next. Have you given them a written plan for their exercises or will you email one later on? Have you booked a return visit? Is there anything they need to do or not do in the meantime?
Don’t assume you’ve provided everything that’s needed – ask the patient if they have any questions or if they’d like you to go over anything again.
Soon after the visit, send the patient a short survey to generate feedback about the visit. You need to learn what worked well and what you could improve.
A simple 5-question survey through Survey Monkey or a similar group could provide valuable information that helps you measure patient experience and improve on it.
Having read this guide, where can you improve patient experience on your home visits? Which steps do you need to put into practice? And how will you measure its impact?
How Therago can help
Therago is a booking app that connects allied health professionals with patients who’d like home visits (or telehealth or after-hours consultations). It means you can gain experience in providing home visits and earn money at the same time. If you’d like to develop your home visit business then sign up to Therago.