What is the Patient Experience?

patient experience graphic

“Patient experience” has become a bit of a buzz phrase in recent years. Most often, the concept of patient experience is conflated with that of patient satisfaction, together creating more than just a smidge of anxiety as practices work to be sure their patients are happy with their care. The reality is that patient experience and patient satisfaction are a little bit different, and today we’re going to focus on what exactly patient experience means, both in definition and for your practice.

What is patient experience?

In its simplest terms, patient experience is the combination of all communications and interactions a patient has with the healthcare system. While this can be specific to a single practice or facility, it can also be as broad as the patient’s experience with the healthcare system at large, from their insurance company, to their doctors and other care providers, to the various organizations with which they interact. The interactions in question typically include important components of care delivery, like the ability to schedule convenient appointments, efficient access to health information, and open communication with providers.

5 Key Areas That Make Up the Patient Experience

The patient experience is made up of, literally, everything individuals within the healthcare industry say or do with regard to a patient. This is a pretty broad scope, so to be more specific, the University of Utah breaks down five elements of patient experience, and they are:

  • Caring – The care team must know the patient;
  • Listening – The care team must hear the patient;
  • Explaining – The care team must teach the patient;
  • Teamwork – The care team must work together to coordinate for and with the patient;
  • Efficiency – The care team should do their best to make it easy for the patient.

With each of these five elements in place, a patient is likely to have a positive experience.

How is patient experience different from patient satisfaction?

Patient experience encompasses what happened. Essentially, a patient experience is considered positive if everything that one would expect to take place in a healthcare setting did in fact take place. Patient satisfaction, however, is more about expectations and personal feelings. Experience is objective; either what needed to happen did happen, or it didn’t. Satisfaction is more subjective. It’s entirely possible that two patients could have identical experiences and one could be satisfied while the other was not.

For example, part of the patient experience is that a patient must provide their demographic and health information during check-in. If that information is collected, in any format, that part of the patient experience has been completed. However, this process can be stressful and time-consuming, and there is a better way than the traditional paper forms we’re all used to. By utilizing digital check-in, and allowing patients the opportunity to conveniently fill out their intake forms on their time, you’ve not only completed this piece of the patient experience, but also added to your patient’s satisfaction at the same time.

Why is the patient experience important?

First of all, as the patient experience is comprised of all that should happen in a healthcare setting, it would stand to reason that patient experience is essential for positive health outcomes. Secondly, even though patient experience is different from patient satisfaction, patient experience can lead to patient satisfaction. Today’s consumer-driven patients are looking for satisfactory experiences. You can see the cohesion between how a positive patient experience can lead to loyalty from patients, as well as a better reputation for your practice which could bring in more patients, all of which can ultimately help boost practice revenue while providing outstanding care.

The patient experience has been a prime focus in recent years in the healthcare industry, and for good reason. Investing time and resources into creating a positive patient experience is good for patient health outcomes, as well as the financial health of a practice. While it can seem daunting in the beginning, in today’s healthcare landscape it’s absolutely essential to put in the effort to elevate your patients’ experience in your practice. Over 72% of people search online for medical providers; this means it’s absolutely imperative to delight our patients, not only so they will stay, but also so they will rave about their care and new patients will follow.