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Patient Experience

Patient experience is a term used broadly to describe the many touchpoints that a patient has with the healthcare system. This includes the quality of care that they experience when being treated for a condition or injury, and their interaction with each healthcare professional along the way. With value-based care models becoming more popular in the healthcare industry, it is also a critical factor in your patients’, staff’s, and organization’s success.

What Is the Definition of Patient Experience?

Patient experience is typically defined as the sum of all interactions and communications that a patient has with the health system. Specifically, it is a patient’s perception of how care is delivered by your healthcare organization. 

The Beryl Institute defines four key elements of patient experience—interactions, culture, perceptions, and continuum of care.

  • Interactions: The organized touchpoints between providers and patients.
  • Culture: The values, beliefs, and behaviors at your organization.
  • Perceptions: The way in which patients regard, understand, or interpret your organization and its culture; these vary depending on each patient’s individual experiences, beliefs, and values.
  • Continuum of care: The continuous sequence of patient care—including before, during, and after it is provided.

Each element must be addressed properly for clinicians to succeed at providing truly patient-centered care. 

What is the difference between patient experience and satisfaction?

While they are sometimes used interchangeably and their definitions do overlap, patient satisfaction and patient experience are not synonymous. However, both are equally important! 

What is patient satisfaction?

Patient satisfaction is the degree to which the patient is happy with the experience that their healthcare team provides.

While patient experience is how a patient perceives the quality of their care, patient satisfaction is how well a healthcare organization provides care compared to the patient’s expectation of the care they receive. 

How is it different from patient experience?

By addressing the patient’s condition—or conditions—and delivering top-notch care, your organization has the ability to not only meet a patient’s expectations, but to exceed them. To improve patient satisfaction ratings, a healthcare organization must leave the patient feeling heard, understood, and empowered. 

Why is the patient experience important?

Patient experience impacts many aspects of the care delivery model—including revenue, reputation, patient engagement, and patient outcomes. When your healthcare organization focuses on helping the patient first, all of these components of care will drastically improve.

Revenue

Better patient experience means better patient health outcomes, which equates to a better reputation. When patients are healthier thanks to their care team and satisfied with the overall quality of their care, they become an advocate for your healthcare facility and the services you provide. This, in turn, results in more patients and an increased ROI. 

Today’s value-based care model means that patients have more visibility into the quality of care within healthcare systems than ever before—and they aren’t afraid to “shop around” for other options, either. Retaining patients by leaving them healthier and happier than they arrived will lead to higher revenue down the road, every time. 

Reputation

The better the patient experience, the more likely patients are to recommend your healthcare organization to a friend or family member. Alternatively, a negative experience can result in a person telling 9–15 people about their dissatisfaction with your organization—online or otherwise. 

Healthcare businesses can’t afford to have negative testimonies blasted across the internet and social media platforms. Today’s value-based care models are challenging healthcare facilities to provide better care than ever before and creating more competition within the industry. If someone isn’t satisfied with their experience, they will not hesitate to go to your competitor—and may even convince others to do the same.

Patient engagement

Patients want to be heard. No matter the condition they are facing, they want to know that their care team is doing everything in their power to sincerely listen to their needs and help them. When patient engagement is a priority in the delivery of care, patients see physicians as their partners and trust them to make the best choices for their health. Improving communication can help improve both patient engagement and patient experience.

Patient outcomes

Patient outcome measures determine whether the healthcare services provided actually improved a patient’s health and well-being. Effective patient-physician communication and delivery of care play a direct role in improving patient outcomes. When a care team is doing everything they can to improve a patient’s experience, that patient will undoubtedly leave the care facility feeling better than when they arrived. 

How is patient experience measured?

In the past, healthcare organizations did not have an effective, accurate way to calculate patient experience measures. However, over the last decade, measuring methods have drastically improved, allowing patients’ experiences and patient satisfaction to fuel the value-based care movement. 

How patients measure their experience has changed

Patients are increasingly paying for their care out of pocket. In many situations, health insurance companies are not involved, so the patient becomes their own advocate and accountant. They are personally and financially invested in the quality of their care. Therefore, they are far more interested in the aspects of care that improve their overall experience. 

Three attributes, in particular, have become patient priorities:

  • Convenience: Patients want quality care that makes their lives easier, not harder. Improving the patient experience means making things simple and convenient for the patient so they can focus on what really matters—getting better. 
  • Affordability: It’s becoming more and more common for patients to pay for their own healthcare expenses, in full. Thus, they want to make sure that they are getting every penny’s worth and receiving top-notch, quality care. If they are paying outrageous prices for inadequate care, you will surely lose them as a repeat patient (and your reputation will soon follow suit).
  • Quality: Quality care is efficient, results-driven, and patient-centered. You can deliver quality care throughout a patient’s engagement with your healthcare organization by prioritizing whole-person care from start to finish, and always striving to improve the patient’s overall experience. 

CAHPS and HCAHPS

Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) is a program conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that helps healthcare organizations assess patient experience—and then use those results to aid in improving their quality of care. CAHPS surveys are available for both ambulatory and institutional settings and cover a variety of topics—including communication with healthcare professionals, access to care and information, customer service, and coordination of care.

Over the past ten years, CAHPS has incentivized the improvement of patient experience at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The results of these surveys are published and available for any patient or medical provider to see for themselves, so they can make more informed decisions. 

This encourages healthcare organizations to take a hard look at their care model and see how they compare to competitors. With this valuable information, organizations are able to make progressive steps toward improving patient experience at their facility. 

Hospital CAHPS (HCAHPS) is a national, standardized, publicly reported survey conducted by CMS. Since the program’s first published reports in 2008, HCAHPS scores have helped capture the patient experience at over 4,000 hospitals, each year. 

How do you improve patient experience?

When it comes to improving your patients’ experiences, there are actions you can take that will make a positive impact at your healthcare organization. Employ these tips and you will be on your way to better patient experience in no time.

  • Use analytics to drive decision-making.

The digital tools of today make it easier than ever to measure, collect, and analyze data points. Track patient satisfaction and patient engagement, then use the data to shepherd improvements within your medical care facility.

  • Evaluate entire care teams—not individual providers.

Flaws in the delivery of a positive patient experience are a reflection of your healthcare organization’s methodology and workflow, not the work ethic of a specific team member. Discover where the gaps in quality care are and make necessary improvements.

  • Improve employee engagement.

The Advisory Board Company’s 2015 Employee Engagement Survey reports that an organization’s overall hospital CAHPS rating increased by ⅓—and patients’ willingness to recommend the hospital increased by ¼ for every one percent that employee engagement increased. To provide the best quality care, staff must be engaged with their work. Make sure to take care of your team and ensure that their needs are being met, too. 

  • Leverage innovative technology.

From remote patient monitoring devices to Patient Relationship Management programs, innovative healthcare technology is changing the way that clinicians provide care. Utilize these digital health tools to automate surveys that measure patient experience, analyze data to improve efficiency, and more. 

To learn more about implementing patient relationship management technology at your healthcare organization and thereby improve patient experience, download our ebook How to Create Amazing Patient Experiences. With the right tools and techniques, your ratings will increase exponentially!