What is Patient Experience? Here’s What You Need to Know
Patient experience encompasses every interaction that a patient has with your health care organization, including engaging with health plans, to talking with doctors, nurses, and staff. Ideally, a practice that has a strong focus on patient experience also has a focus on patient safety and leaves their patients feeling heard, understood, and inspired about their health outcomes.
Patient experience and patient satisfaction are a crucial part of health care quality. This can include several different aspects that patients value when they’re looking for medical care, from scheduling appointments to accessing their medical information.
Healthcare organizations that do not have a strong and consistent focus on their patient experience risk:
Seeing a decrease in their online reputation
Declining patient engagement
Decreasing patient health outcomes
That’s why, as a practice manager for a small or midsize practice, you need to take a look at what your practice is doing to improve and maintain your patient experience.
The difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction
Patient experience and patient satisfaction are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same thing. Patient satisfaction differs from patient experience because patient satisfaction is about whether or not their expectations have been met; it’s more about patient perception.
You might provide the exact same level of patient experience to two patients experiencing very similar issues, but one might leave very satisfied while the other might leave less satisfied because their expectations are different.
Because patient satisfaction is more subjective than patient experience, it’s harder to measure. That’s why it’s important to run your own patient satisfaction surveys after every visit to determine whether or not the patient experience you’re providing is meeting your patients’ expectations. These surveys should be your own and focused on the type of services you provide.
Some questions to ask:
Did a staff member schedule a post-operative appointment before discharging you?
Were post-discharge communications delivered to the correct email address?
Why you should care about patient experience
Patient experience goes beyond just meeting your patients’ basic needs. If your practice has a strong focus on patient experience, then your patients will have a greater peace of mind about their health outcomes and less fear and confusion. This ultimately leads to greater patient satisfaction and more recommendations for your healthcare organization.
Americans spend, on average, over $12,000 annually on healthcare, so losing patients can lead to large losses of revenue. Additionally, the cost to acquire new patients is often much higher than the cost of retaining current patients, so it’s important to keep patients around by providing excellent patient experience.
One of the best ways to help improve your practice’s patient experience is with the use of technology.
The top two picks for this question, communication with doctor(s) (55%) and accessing health care data (51%), speak to patients’ increased desire for control over their own health care experience.
This is great news for doctors. Evidence has shown that when patients take on a more active role in the decision-making process, patient care and outcomes improve. Which means investing in tools like patient portals that encourage patients to be more engaged with their health care is a great way to enhance the overall patient experience.
Start by focusing on the various different aspects of the patient experience and how they interact with your practice. Take an honest look at your practice to see if you’re actually focusing on patient experience. By doing this, you’ll be able to tell which patients are receiving care that is responsive and catered to that individual patients’ experience, preferences, needs, and values.
Not only have we outlined the different areas of patient experience to focus on, but we’ve also offered to-do recommendations.
Having a focus on patient experience improves your practice
Focusing on continually improving your patient experience is, more than ever, a crucial aspect of growing and improving your practice. If it’s not one of your top priorities, it should be as a focus on patient experience can help your practice in a number of ways.
Increased patient experience boosts your bottom line
Your patients are taking patient surveys like the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), and those results impact revenue. Hospitals with higher patient ratings saw a 0.2% increase in net operating profit margin for every one-point increase in hospital rating. Additionally, removing critical access hospitals from the dataset doubled the margin to a 0.4% increase per point.
According to that same report, when hospitals provide greater patient experience, they report better safety records, technical quality, length of stay, and readmission rates. It also showed that a 5-point increase in hospital rating increases profit margin by 1%.
That might not sound like a lot, but it adds up quickly, especially when you consider that not meeting HCAHPS survey results goals can have the opposite effect.
The best way to maintain and improve your patient experience is to participate in as many patient experience surveys (like the HCAHPS) as you can. That way, you can continually monitor, maintain, and improve your patient experience measures. Finding out where you’re lacking or excelling can help you convince your practice owner about which decisions will actually impact patient experience in a meaningful way instead of just guessing at what might work.
Increased patient experience improves your reputation
According to our survey[**] 65% of patients say they sometimes or often consult review websites when evaluating the quality of a healthcare professional, so your online reputation is often the first impression you make on many potential patients.
If you compare these results to our research back in 2013 when only 25% of patients used online reviews to evaluate doctors, it is obvious that online reviews have become a trusted and essential tool for the vast majority of patients.
This shows that your patients are developing more awareness of health care quality and reputation as time goes on. We can’t stress this enough: Having a better patient experience will lead to a better reputation, thus increasing your practice being recommended more frequently by your patients.
Tips to maintain and improve your reputation:
Designate or hire a staff member to monitor and manage online reviews for the practice at large as well as for individual physicians.
Evaluate software programs that integrate with practice management systems to automate the process of recruiting reviews.
Keep the patient experience in mind from intake to diagnosis making all communications courteous and clear along the way.
In some fields, software such as picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) and radiology information systems can help maintain open communication with the patient through diagnosis and beyond.
Increased patient experience inspires patient engagement
Patient experience ties directly into patient engagement because a patient who feels dismissed, unheard, insulted, or isolated is never going to engage with the health plan you prescribe because they don’t feel supported. Increasing patient engagement ties directly into increasing clinical outcomes which is the entire point of providing healthcare.
When patients get access to resources like patient portals, they’re way more likely to feel supported throughout the care plan and will be more likely to trust their healthcare provider with their well-being. Access to patient portals means better communication between you and your patients, more streamlined patient activation and administrative tasks, and improved clinical outcomes because of the functionality that patient portals bring to the table.
When using software or other healthcare technology like remote patient monitoring devices or telemedicine, it’s crucial to educate your patients on their use and importance early and often. If your patients don’t understand the technology and how it’s important, they are never going to use it, and, therefore, will be less engaged.
If you want more information about telemedicine and what telemedicine software might cost your practice, check out the Telemedicine Pricing Guide.
Increased patient experience enhances health outcomes
We’ve mentioned it before, but patients who feel heard and cared for by their doctors will become more actively involved in their own health outcomes. Engaged patients take more ownership over their health and are more likely to stick with the care plan you have developed together.
Additionally, improved health outcomes and patient experience go hand in hand with the value-based care model of healthcare because it requires healthcare providers to be more efficient and strategic with the quality care they offer during each patient visit. It rewards you for delving deeper into the underlying problems your patients may be experiencing instead of running several tests which can be costly, stressful, and uncomfortable for the patients without a lot of tangible benefits.
Patients who stick to their care plan reduce the number of return visits, saving themselves money and increasing not only their own health, but ensuring they’re satisfied with the care they were provided.
If you’ve never considered adopting a value-based care payment model, you might want to consider it because it’s one of the fastest ways to improve patient engagement, patient experience, and increase patient health outcomes. In fact, the government is offering incentives to providers to make the change, so there’s never been a better time to consider the switch.
Improving your patient experience will strengthen your practice
Remember that patient experience touches nearly every aspect of your healthcare organization. From scheduling to when your patient is discharged, every step of that process needs to account for patient experience.
To recap, here are the the key benefits when you improve your patient experience:
Boosts your bottom line
Improves your reputation
Inspires patient engagement
Enhances health outcomes
Now that you know the aspects of your practice that patient experience touches, you’re more equipped than ever to make sure you’re increasing revenue, maintaining a strong reputation, and improving patient health outcomes by increasing their engagement.
The best way to monitor and maintain patient experience is to invest in software. Whether that’s patient engagement software, electronic medical records software, patient portals, scheduling software, or something else, you’ll want to start to think about software critically to improve patient experience.
Through one-on-one conversation and personalized recommendations, Software Advice guides you through your software search. In as little as 15 minutes, our software advisors can help you pick the right software for your practice’s needs, so you can feel confident in your choice. Click here to chat with an advisor or schedule a call.
* Software Advice Healthcare Tech Survey, 2021: To collect the data presented in this report, we surveyed 1,296 patients within the U.S. in May 2021. We used screening questions to narrow the respondents down to 1,001 with the relevant and timely experience needed to provide accurate answers to these survey questions.
** Master Patient Experience Survey, 2020: We surveyed over 1,000 patients in the United States. We used screening questions to narrow the number of respondents down to 990 with relevant histories and experiences. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.
1. The National Health Expenditure Accounts, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
2. The consumer benefits of patient shared decision making, The Healthcare Value Hub
3. When patient experience and employee engagement both improve, hospitals’ ratings and profits climb, Harvard Business Publishing
4. What’s MACRA?, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services