Patient Experience – What It is, Why It Matters & How To Improve It

Posted by Susan Berndt on September 24th, 2020
Author
Susan Berndt
Susan is a creative marketing professional with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. Susan joined Smart Data Solutions in 2016 focusing on marketing strategy, campaign execution and creating an inbound marketing funnel. She has over 10 years of marketing/advertising experience and over 12 years of customer service experience.

When it comes to healthcare—whether providing services or facilitating the process of those services, providing patient-centered care means understanding the full patient experience, and knowing how to ensure it remains positive. So what is patient experience, and why does it matter?

What is Patient Experience?

Patient experience includes all interactions a patient has, from enrolling into a company-provided insurance health plan, waiting in a clinic waiting room and being seen by a physician to viewing EOBs and paying bills. Every step along the way encompasses their experience. Therefore, each of these steps should be seen as a significant part of patient experiences within the healthcare system as a whole.

When receiving care, patients are looking for convenient appointment scheduling, easy navigation to their appointments, and seamless communication with providers. Everyone from the care team at a healthcare facility to their insurance carrier’s customer service team plays a part in a patient’s care. A helpful and positive environment at each step can have a huge impact on the overall patient experience. 

There are many components used to evaluate and measure a patient’s satisfaction or value from each interaction they have—whether with their nurse, doctor, or other staff members. One must take into account the effectiveness of their care, safety measures, and how their needs are being met. Only then can one fully understand the magnitude patient experience has on an individual and, in turn, an organization.

The Difference Between Patient Experience and Satisfaction.

Patient experience and patient satisfaction are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Patient satisfaction is a measurement that would explain how well a patient’s visit or exchange with a healthcare professional met their expectations.

Were they able to park easily? Was the staff friendly and answered their questions appropriately? Did they receive the proper forms? These are all questions that relate directly to the patient’s overall satisfaction of a visit. 

Patient experience differs from this in that it is not a one-off measurement of meeting expectations. It’s a culmination of all aspects of interaction and whether it is consistent across all areas, and not lacking in any area. 

For example, good communication, professional customer service, and proper treatment are things that are a must-have during a patient care experience. Their experience should always include these things, as they are crucial aspects that shape a patient’s lasting impression. 

Quality improvement can be applied to both experience and satisfaction, but they should be approached much differently. To improve the patient experience, you can implement better and more consistent protocols at an organizational level. To improve patient satisfaction, you can implement features making day-to-day tasks easier, such as appointment check-ins, add more amenities to waiting rooms, or validate parking.

Why is Patient Experience Important?

Patient experience is essential because it directly links to future engagement and satisfaction, and in turn, can also have an effect on the overall success of the health organizations involved. 

Patient experience should shift as trends shift. For example, as people become more accustomed to going digital in various formats, patients expect their health care quality and accessibility to reflect those advancements in technology. Whether it is an easy-to-use platform to access their records and appointments or having secure video-call appointments, patients expect more out of their healthcare than ever before.

Healthcare organizations must still focus on care quality, information security, and the well-being of their patients. But, they also must be willing to shift and change processes to meet and exceed the expectations patients have each year.

Patient experience is also important because it can create more of a catered approach to healthcare. Providing advanced options, without leaving patients who prefer paper documents and “old-school” care in the dust, just allows for more options for those patients striving to more easily access their healthcare.

Healthcare organizations can also benefit from taking a look at other industries to learn how they can shift their care to better cater to updated expectations. Take mobile banking, for example. Of course, there is still a need for customers to come into a branch to make their deposits, withdrawals, or other banking actions. But, as technology advances, people want the ability to do all their banking via computer or smartphone. This shift to mobile banking ensures a quality experience for all customers by catering to shifting trends, but not changing the entire make-up of the organization.

By continually improving the patient experience, you’ll see increases in revenue, customer retention, and the overall positive reputation of the company.

Ways to Improve Patient Experience.

The first step to improving patient experience is nailing down customer expectations and healthcare trends. Focus on quality improvement and take the following patient experience measures for improvement.

Set standard procedures that will be followed across the organization.

Make sure you maintain consistency across your organization by creating standard operating procedures that are followed by all employees, in every area of your company. For example, you wouldn’t want your organization to give the same patient two very different experiences across multiple visits. Regardless of where they are, or when they visited, the experiences should remain consistent.

Make yourselves more approachable.

If a patient is visiting your clinic, it can be as simple as making your space inviting and approachable with decor, positive energy, and an overall sense of welcoming, to make them feel comfortable. Working behind the scenes at an insurance company or in the medical claims processing field, this can be more challenging. Although they do not directly interact with the patients, like in a clinic, they still have many visitors come to their facility every year. These visitors can see how your process’ are working and determine if you are providing the highest efficiency to turn around their medical claims and correspondence, which in turn affects the patient. Regardless of who is visiting your facility, it is important to go above and beyond for the visitor’s experience because they all directly or indirectly link back to the patient.

Make communication a top priority.

Poor communication or lack of communication can make or break the care a patient receives at any given juncture. Patients shouldn’t have to chase down information or be responsible for all interactions of communication. Setting procedures that ensure following up with patients on appointment reminders, lab results, post-surgical check-ins, etc. can make them feel more at ease and boost their experience of care.

Increase accessibility for patients.

One form of accessibility for patients means having easy access to appointment scheduling and multiple options for a variety of scheduling needs, ensuring the patient is able to come and go in their allotted time. Many patient experiences can be tainted by missed appointment slots or having appointments run long. They should be able to quickly and easily check their appointment times, change them, or cancel them without hassle.

Many healthcare systems have opened up patient portals that allow for more accessibility to their own care. No longer do they need to call and be put on hold to check lab results, appointment times, or have correspondence with their doctor. Instead, they can just check all of that information from their smartphone or computer. In a time where we have easy access to everything right from the palm of our hands, our healthcare should be no different. Putting more accessibility in the hands of your patients can increase their experience ten-fold.

Adopt a patient-centered care approach.

Adopting and committing to a patient-centered care approach in the healthcare system leads to a better patient experience. Patient-centered care is a customized solution to patient care. It has proven to deliver advances in overall patient satisfaction, more trust, building better reputations for clinics, and boosting morale for care teams and other health care staff.

Patient-centered care means fewer restrictions on things like family visitations, communication with Providers, and treatments or medications. Patients can have more control and say in their treatments and care. By building closer, limit-free relationships with their caregivers, they can feel more of the focus and energy put on them. This helps to build trust and ensures caregivers are committed to each unique patient situation. 

A patient-centered approach not only improves all aspects of the patient experience, but it can significantly enhance the reputation and success of any healthcare facility or company. For more information, check out this helpful article explaining the benefits of patient-centered care.

 

We work more behind the scenes here at Smart Data Solutions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a hand in affecting patient experience. By assisting and supporting our clients who send patient claims to us, process payments, and have a hand in other critical touchpoints in the claims processing workflows, we can support the patient experience. We can alleviate the need for tedious tasks for our clients so they can spend more time catering to patient care and their overall satisfaction. For more information on how you can streamline your workflows to put your focus towards your patients, contact us here.

We look forward to connecting with you!

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