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Dixon Davis

Practice Operations
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How to Create a Successful Patient Journey

How to Create a Successful Patient Journey

When patients decide to come to your practice, they are embarking on a journey with you. How they experience this journey will be instrumental in the ongoing success of your practice. Providing a great experience will help ensure your patients are happy and place their trust in the practice and its providers for many years to come. Satisfied patients are also likely to share their positive experiences with family and friends — representing the best source for new patient referrals.

To further underscore why you should put energy into ensuring each patient who steps foot in your practice has an unparalleled experience, click through the following customer satisfaction research findings.

These studies emphasize that providing the best possible experience for all your patients is key to successful patient loyalty and strong word-of-mouth referrals.

5 Steps of the Patient Journey

While each patient’s experience is colored by his or her unique perceptions, you can definitely work to ensure a successful encounter through proper training and utilizing best practice protocols at each touchpoint. By focusing on each step of the patient journey through your practice, you may find simple enhancements that can be implemented immediately.

With that in mind, let’s review five steps of a basic patient journey for a surgical practice. When performed well, each step can have an amazing impact on patient loyalty and the willingness to refer family and friends. To achieve this, there are a few specific elements you should consider as you evaluate each touchpoint of the patient journey in your practice.

  1. Patient Acquisition

Capturing and converting potential patient inquiries into an initial office visit and then future visits and procedures is the first step in a successful journey. Below are some best practices to follow to make that happen.

Phone call:

  • Use the “3-name” protocol by stating the practice name, name of the person answering the phone, and the caller’s name. 
  • Follow the “3-step” protocol by answering the caller’s questions, asking questions to engage the caller, and offering to make an appointment.
  • Offer to send additional information with the call taker's name and the clinic’s name if the caller declines an appointment. Also, thank the caller for his or her consideration.


  • Set an auto response or arrange for someone to respond within 5 minutes.
  • Send a personal response to each inquiry within 24 hours.
  • Call the potential patient promptly when permission is given and offer to make appointment.


  • Pre-register the patient 48 hours before the scheduled appointment.
  • Express excitement about having the patient in the clinic.
  • Credential the provider or services to highlight why your practice is the right choice.

2. Check-in / Reception

The reception area is important in setting the right tone for a patient’s visit. A positive first impression can reaffirm the patient’s selection of your practice and instill a desire to come back.


  • Provide a pleasant and inviting environment.
  • Make sure all areas are clean, fresh smelling, and well organized.
  • Ensure the temperature is comfortable.
  • Confirm that staff are professionally dressed.
  • Ensure retail areas are well organized with quality selection options.
  • Provide appropriate entertainment that appeals to your target market such as clean magazines; educational videos; uplifting music; free Wi-Fi; and simple, clean decorations.


  • Start the day by identifying who is coming in and what information is needed.
  • Encourage forms to be completed before patient arrival.
  • Require a personal, friendly welcome for each patient who enters, including eye contact and a smile.
  • Verify that protocols and training are in place to protect patient privacy.
  • Engage each patient, using his or her name and other personal tidbits (child’s birthday, hobby, etc.) to make the patient feel welcomed and at ease.

3. Exam / Consultation

The patient should trust the provider, understand his or her current condition and the benefits of any proposed treatment, and make an informed decision by the end of the office visit. To create this outcome, clinic staff should:

  • Make sure the exam area is clean, organized, and prepared for the patient.
  • Review patient information before entering the room.
  • Greet the patient warmly, make eye contact, and properly introduce themselves to a new patient.
  • Explain root causes for the patient’s concerns or conditions.
  • Use educational models and resources to inform and help the patient visualize treatment options.
  • Share professional recommendations.
  • Evaluate the patient’s understanding and confirm treatment options.
  • Detail next steps and gain commitment from the patient.

4. Procedure Scheduling (when applicable) / Checkout

The next step is to either schedule a time for the patient’s procedure or create a follow-up plan if the patient is not yet ready to schedule.  A poorly handled scheduling discussion or fee can cause doubt or confusion in the patient’s mind. To avoid that:

  • Provide well-organized training and protocols for procedure schedulers, including cost options, patient benefits, recovery time, and physician schedule information.
  • Present procedure options with associated costs and benefits for any premium options.
  • Provide payment options, including third-party financing opportunities.
  • Offer scheduling options to help the patient work around prior commitments.  
  • Supply written pre- and post-procedure instructions and educational materials.
  • Collect any fees for this appointment or any cash pay or premium services scheduled.
  • Set up a reminder for the patient through phone, text, or email.
  • Ascertain why a patient may choose not to schedule, provide your practice contact information, and offer to call back in a few days to follow up.
  • Thank the patient for his or her time and choosing your practice.
  • Send a follow-up email or text with a thank you.

5. Follow-up

The follow-up process is critical in keeping patients engaged with your clinic and involves communicating with patients between visits. Good follow-up techniques (listed below) improve patient retention and satisfaction and promote new patient referrals.

  • Call each patient post-procedure to see how he or she is doing.
  • Send thank-you notes signed by the provider.
  • Use a recall list to track when a patient should return for repeat or additional services.
  • Call or text the patient to confirm an upcoming visit and let the patient know you look forward to seeing him or her.
  • Invite every patient to complete a satisfaction survey or post a positive review online.
Small Changes Can Go a Long Way

While each practice and patient is different, the recommendations outlined here serve as a simple reminder of how you can create a memorable experience and reinforce your brand with each and every patient. Taking the time to regularly focus on each step of the patient journey and make simple improvements is well worth it. It will positively impact the long-term retention of patients who, in turn, will excitedly share their experience with others.



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