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What Is Patient Experience And Why Is It Important?

Feb 14, 2023

Patient experience refers to the many varied interactions that patients have with the healthcare system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other healthcare facilities.

The framework of patient experience is supported by four elements, including:

  • Interactions: Touchpoints of people, processes, policies, communications, actions, and environment.
  • Culture: Vision, values, people and community in the healthcare facility.
  • Perceptions: What is recognized, understood, and remembered by patients and family members.
  • Continuum of care: Experiences before, during, and after the delivery of care.

Patient Experience vs. Patient Satisfaction

The difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction is slight, but an important distinction. Mercury Healthcare describes that “patient experience is associated with a patient’s perception of care, while patient satisfaction is about the patient’s expectations for care.” These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. In order to assess patient experience, a healthcare professional must learn from patients if something that should have happened in a healthcare setting in fact did happen.

Patient satisfaction refers simply to whether a patient’s expectations about a healthcare visit were met. In other words, two people can receive the exact same care, but they may have completely different expectations for how that care should be administered. Inevitably, these patients will give very different satisfaction ratings to identical care. Experience is objective while satisfaction is subjective. 

Why Is Patient Experience Important?

Having a mission of delivering excellent patient experience allows hospitals and healthcare facilities to increase their rate of positive interactions and outcomes. It also helps to standardize the level of care patients should receive, protects hospitals from legal trouble, helps generate revenue, and improves care quality. The main benefits of investing in patient experience include: 

  • Increased revenue
  • Improved reputation
  • More efficiency
  • Fewer lawsuits
  • Better patient retention
  • Increased staff satisfaction
  • Improved patient satisfaction
  • Greater adherence to patient treatment plans
  • Better patient outcomes

10 Ways to Improve Patient Experience

Creating a positive patient experience involves more than just providing excellent, patient-centered care. There’s a lot that goes into patient experience and there are many minor changes hospital leadership can make to facilitate major improvements. Here are some actionable steps a healthcare facility and its professionals can take to build a more positive patient experience:

1. Manage your Online Presence

A great patient experience starts even before a patient sets foot in the hospital, which is why your online presence needs your attention. The website should act as a digital hub for patients and project an accurate brand. To help patients get a good idea about what to expect when visiting your facility, the website should include important information in the “About Us,” “Services,” and “Contact Page” tabs. It should also include high resolution photos of the facility so that patients can get a feel for the physical space before they arrive. It can also be a trust building opportunity by including testimonials and information on your vision and values. 

2. Provide Online Scheduling

A good patient experience is a modern experience. It should be easy for patients to make appointments by offering a user-friendly online portal where they can manage their visits. Every year the number of patients who prefer to book appointments online increases, so the sooner they have the option of online scheduling, the sooner they can enjoy a positive experience.  

3. Use Appointment Reminders and Confirmations

Patients are busy and struggle to keep track of all of life’s to-dos. Sending appointment confirmations at the time of booking and automated reminders as the appointment date gets closer makes it a little easier on them. Not only will this be a huge help to patients, but it will also protect the hospital from costly no-shows.

Almost 70% of patients want to receive a reminder for an upcoming appointment via text message.  

4. Provide Online Paperwork

Out of respect for patients’ time, they should be offered the option to view and fill out intake paperwork before they arrive at their appointment. Of surveyed patients, more than 60% said they preferred a digital method to filling out registration and other forms. This allows patients to complete their paperwork when it’s convenient for them.

5. Set Expectations for Office Staff

Hospital visits are never going to be hospital patients’ idea of fun. In fact, for patients who are struggling with disease or injuries, it can be a dreadful task. This is why it’s important that when they do have to make a visit, they’re warmly greeted by friendly staff. About 50% of patients say that a welcoming staff is most important from their healthcare provider, second only to quality, patient-centered care.

6. Have a Comfortable Waiting Room

There are many easy ways to create a comfortable waiting room within a hospital or healthcare facility. 

  • Offer a variety of comfortable, well-maintained seating, like chairs, sofas, and benches, to accommodate patients with different needs. 
  • Provide bright, warm lighting to create an inviting atmosphere. Avoid harsh or flickering lights that can be distracting or uncomfortable.
  • Make sure the waiting room has enough space for patients to move around comfortably, even when it’s crowded.
  • Incorporate plants, fresh flowers, or other natural elements to create a calming environment.
  • Minimize noise and distractions by controlling the volume of televisions, music, and other background noises.
  • Provide patients with access to amenities such as water dispensers, coffee, and snacks to make their wait more comfortable.
  • Ensure the waiting room is kept clean and tidy to maintain a positive and hygienic environment.

7. Reduce Wait Times

Long wait times are a major factor in your patients’ experience of your facility. Luckily, there are quite a few areas you can address to improve wait times. One important way is by utilizing technology. Offering easy-to-use systems like electronic check-in streamlines the process as soon as the patient walks through the door. Another way to improve wait times is by adding staff where needed as well as making sure staff are trained to the existing standards. Finally, implementing an effective triage system that prioritizes patients based on their level of need can help reduce wait times for those in urgent need of care.

8. Work on Bedside Manner

Another important aspect of the patient experience is how they experience your healthcare facility in face-to-face interactions. Staff should be properly trained to sympathize with patients by encouraging active listening, empowering clinicians to have autonomy in their roles, fostering a positive workplace culture, regularly evaluating performance, and encouraging self-reflection of staff members. 

9. Use Surveys

The only guaranteed way to measure patient experience is by asking the patients themselves! After each visit, they should receive an automated patient satisfaction survey through text or email asking them to rate their experience. The sooner they get the survey following their visit, the more likely they are to submit their feedback. 

10. Respond to Feedback

Responding to feedback is just as important as collecting it in the first place because it shows patients that their feelings and experiences matter. Thoughtful responses build trust with patients and allows a chance to thank them for their time and share a plan to make improvements where necessary.

Careers in Patient Experience

Those interested in playing an important role in improving patient experience can seek a career as a patient experience manager. The first step to taking on this career is to get a BS in Health Services Coordination, a Master of Health Leadership degree, or an MBA in Healthcare Management.

Become a Patient Experience Manager with a Degree From WGU

As a patient experience manager, you’ll be empowered to help healthcare organizations create an all-around better environment for patients. You’ll be skilled at communicating with patients and understanding their wide range of needs. 

If you’re passionate about the intersection between treatment modalities and advocating for patient care, then the job of a patient experience manager could be an incredibly fulfilling career path.  

 WGU offers a variety of healthcare degrees that will prepare you for this career. Learn more by visiting our Patient Experience Manager career page.

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