Patient Experience

Patient experience spans more than just one visit to a provider, just as patient satisfaction goes beyond whether patients will remain loyal to their provider or health system. Measuring both patient experience and patient satisfaction has become a major priority for healthcare organizations in recent years, especially as patient-centered care initiatives are increasing.

Think about it this way, patient experience is associated with a patient’s perception of care, while patient satisfaction is about the patient’s expectations for care. 

What is patient experience? 

There is no standardized definition of patient experience across health systems and clinical environments. In general, patient experience refers to the wide range of interactions patients have with the healthcare system. It can include: the patient’s passive perception of your brand. The care and communication provided by clinicians, nurses, staff, health plans, and other relevant parties. Or non-clinical elements like the quality of food, amount of parking, typical wait times, or online scheduling capabilities. In summary, the patient’s experience is the sum of every major and minor interaction with your organization. 

Despite how broad the patient’s experience can be, many organizations have managed to articulate the scope of the patient experience concisely. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), “patient experience includes several aspects of healthcare delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with healthcare providers.” 

The patient’s experience is a measurable concept, although accurately tracking it can be difficult due to the subjective nature of receiving care. CMS requires that health systems administer HCAHPS surveys, whose scores impact reimbursement. In 29 questions, the survey assesses patients’ perceptions about their care, including communication with nurses and doctors, staff responsiveness, cleanliness and quietness, and discharge process (where applicable). They are also asked to answer the Net Promoter Score question: Would you recommend this hospital? 

According to AHRQ, patient satisfaction has more to do with a patient’s expectations than the actual experience itself. When patients’ expectations — formulated based on past experiences, narratives, social cues, and many other factors — are met, they are satisfied with their care. 

Given the impact that HCAHPS have on reimbursement, Health systems must keep a pulse on patient satisfaction due to increasing consumerism in healthcare. Today’s patients are acutely aware of the cost of healthcare, and they want to be treated like the high-paying customers they are. By meeting patients’ care expectations, providers are more likely to increase loyalty and maximize patient lifetime value. 

Keep in mind that initiatives to improve patient satisfaction shouldn’t only target young people. Younger patients have more years ahead of them, but older patients are more loyal and likely to need higher acuity care sooner. 

Ultimately, patient satisfaction hinges on how your organization meets individual expectations throughout the entire care journey. By building highly detailed patient profiles as a byproduct of care delivery and other staff encounters, including contact center interactions, it’s possible to understand their needs and meet their expectations. 

Patient satisfaction and patient experience are often used interchangeably, but the two terms have entirely different meanings and implications for care quality. While the patient experience can be measured by asking patients whether their needs were met during the care encounter, patient satisfaction looks at whether the process of meeting those needs met their expectations. It’s important to fully understand the nuance behind these terms, as their meaning has significant implications for measurement. 

By tracking both areas separately and combining the insights, your organization will gain a greater understanding of the patient’s viewpoint. Once you’re equipped with this understanding, your health system will be able to open new avenues for business, improve your quality of care, and keep patients for life.

Medical Practice Success can assist your organization focus on the Human Experience today