The importance of patient experience

The patient experience is a key topic among health service managers due to several macro-trends: 


  • From quality to experience

Traditionally, hospitals focused their resources on the objective quality of their medical treatments leaving the perceived qualityin the background. More and more these days the concept of patient experience includes all those touchpoints that the patient established with the organization, from a call to arrange an appointment, to information about an operation. This paradigm shift has meant for health professionals going beyond the objective quality of the treatment, trying to provide a complete experience that keeps up to the patient's expectations.

  • From patient to patient/client

It is undeniable that a patient is not strictly speaking a client. In fact, an article in the Harvard Business Review clearly states that the latter does not decide to be ill and does not usually have the knowledge to make decisions autonomously. However, the role played by the patient is far from being passive during the treatment. In the same way a client has the freedom to decide, the patient has the power to choose which hospital or organization best suits his needs, which doctor entrust his care to, and finally whether or not he is satisfied with the treatment received. 

  • The growing trend to redistribute public resources according to patient satisfaction has also added salience to the topic.

A clear example of it is given by the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS). This patient satisfaction survey is in fact, used by the United States government to determine the distribution of available resources.

Why is improving the patient experience important?

"Improving the patient experience is key because it is directly connected to the outcomes of treatments for patients and financial results for hospitals, as several studies show."

In the case of patients, a good experience is very important and is directly related to better results of treatment. For example:

  • study of heart attack patients has shown that those patients with positive ratings respond better to treatment one year after leaving the hospital. (Fremont AM, Clearly PD, et al., J Gen Intern Med 2001)
  • Patient experience is positively related to disease prevention and treatment as well. For example, diabetic patients show greater self-management skills and quality of life when they have positive interactions with their doctors. (Greenfield S, Kaplan HS et al., J Gen Intern Med 1988)
  • Patient experience positively correlates with adherence to medical advice and treatment plans too. This is especially true among patients with chronic conditions, where a strong rapport between patient and physician is essential to achieving positive outcomes. (Beach MC, Keruly J et al., J Gen Intern Med 2006)

In the case of hospitals, patient experience is positively related to key financial indicators. For example:

  • study estimated that drops in patients satisfaction affect the likelihood that a hospital would be sued in a medical malpractice lawsuit. (Fullam F, Garman AN, et al., Med Care 2009)
  • Efforts to improve the patient experience also result in higher employee satisfaction, which reduces turnover. However, improving the experience of patients and their families requires improving work processes and systems. A focused effort to improve the patient experience at one hospital resulted in a 4.7% reduction in employee turnover. (Rave N, Geyer M, et al. J Ambul Care Manage 2003)
  • The quality of the patient-hospital relationship is a key factor in patient loyalty; a study found that patients who reported poorer-quality relationships with their doctors were three times more likely to voluntarily change the their doctors than patients with higher-quality relationships. (Safran DG, Montgomery JE, et al., J Fam Pract 2001)

In conclusion, there are three macro trends that have made patient experience an increasingly central element in managing the health service:

1. The patient experience goes beyond the quality of treatment.
2. A patient, just like a client, has the decision-making power to choose which hospital or organization best suits their needs.
3. The redistribution of public resources according to patient satisfaction.

In addition, it has been shown that improving the experience will be important for the patient to achieve better health outcomes and for the hospital to achieve better financial results.
Now that you have learned about the importance of the patient experience, do you want to adopt the most advanced system for its measurement at your hospital? Contact us and we will be happy to explain how we can help you.

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Related articles:
- Fremont AM, Clearly PD, Hargraves JL, et al. Patient-centered processes of care and long-term outcomes of acute myocardial infarction. J Gen Intern Med 2001;14:800-8. 
- Fullam F, Garman AN, Johnson TJ, et al. The use of patient satisfaction surveys and alternate coding procedures to predict malpractice risk. Med Care 2009 May;47(5):1-7. 
- Greenfield S, Kaplan HS, Ware JE Jr, et al. Patients' participation in medical care: Effects on blood sugar control and quality of life in diabetes. J Gen Intern Med 1988;3:448-57.
- Rave N, Geyer M, Reeder B, et al. Radical systems change: Innovative strategies to improve patient satisfaction. J Ambul Care Manage 2003;26(2):159-74. 
- Safran DG, Montgomery JE, Chang H, et al. Switching doctors: Predictors of voluntary disenrollment from a primary physician's practice. J Family Practice 2001;50(2):130-6.

Female doctor visiting patient in hospital room by Jacob Lund Photography from Noun Project

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