Quality Control

A Complete Guide to Patient Experience

Learn what it covers, how to measure it, and practical strategies for improving patient experience.
January 15, 2024
8min

Measuring and improving patient experience is more than just about providing good medical care — it's about understanding and enhancing the entire patient’s journey through the healthcare system. 

In this article, we delve into the nuances of patient experience. We will explain what it covers, discuss how to measure it, and explore practical strategies healthcare providers can apply to deliver an exceptional patient experience for each and every patient. 

What is patient experience?

Patient experience encompasses all interactions that a patient has with a healthcare provider, from the initial contact to the final follow-up. It's a critical component of quality control, as it reflects not only the clinical aspects of care but also the emotional and psychological support provided. 

A well-managed patient experience can improve health outcomes, increase patient trust, and build a stronger clinic reputation. 

Patient experience often gets confused with patient satisfaction. While similar, these two terms represent different concepts. Patient experience is focused on the actual occurrences in a healthcare setting — like what actions were or were not taken. Satisfaction, in contrast, is subjective, centered on whether the care provided met a patient's expectations. 

For instance, a patient might have a smooth and efficient hospital stay (a positive patient experience) but still feel dissatisfied if their personal expectations, like having more detailed discussions with their doctor, were not met.

In practical terms, two individuals receiving identical care (and hence having identical patient experience) may report varying satisfaction levels because they had very different expectations coming into the clinic.

How to effectively measure patient experience?

The Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys are an effective tool for measuring patient experience. These surveys are designed to capture a wide range of patient perspectives on aspects such as communication with doctors, understanding of medication instructions, and the responsiveness of hospital staff.

CAHSP report example for hospice care.
CAHSP report example for hospice care. Source: SHP

Besides CAHPS surveys, other methods for assessing patient experience include:

  • Focus groups: Gather qualitative insights by engaging small groups of patients in discussions about their healthcare experiences.
  • One-on-one interviews: Offer an in-depth understanding of individual patient experiences, revealing specific areas for improvement.
  • Patient feedback forms: Collect immediate and direct feedback from patients, often covering specific aspects of their visit or treatment.
  • Mystery patient visits: Employ individuals to experience and evaluate the healthcare process as patients, providing an unbiased assessment of the service quality.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring patient experience, and the key lies in gathering timely and accurate data with minimal bias. A comprehensive evaluation requires both qualitative data, offering detailed insights into patient perceptions, and quantitative data, providing measurable and comparable metrics. 

Consequently, the most effective strategy for assessing patient experience is to combine various methods that are able to capture the diverse nature of patient interactions and experiences.

What to measure? The five elements of patient experience 

Patient experience is an all-encompassing term. In order to measure it, we need to break it down into specific elements.

In 2010, the University of Utah Health, in an effort to study patient experience, was one of the first to switch from paper to electronic patient surveys. Patients immediately started to share their stories in more detail — their worries, happy moments, problems they faced with the healthcare system, and difficulties with their illnesses, as well the great care they received from their doctors and support staff.

A few years later, they did the following:

In 2014, the team pulled a sample of 10,000 comments from various care settings — inpatient, outpatient services, primary care, specialty care, emergency care — and analyzed them by service line. Each comment was read, categorized, sent back to service line leadership as feedback, and then brought back to the group for discussion.

During the analyses, they noticed 5 consistent themes which you can see in the image below.

The five main elements of patient experience according to the University of Utah Health.

While the open-ended patient surveys they used were able to gather a lot of helpful feedback, their unstructured narrative took a lot of time to analyze. 

Private clinics and hospitals can leverage this framework to build more targeted surveys and try to analyze each area separately. 

7 tips for delivering exceptional patient experience

Improving patient experience is a dynamic and ongoing process, essential for any healthcare provider dedicated to excellence. Here are some practical and straightforward tips clinics can use to improve different aspects of patient care.

1. Implement patient feedback loops

A robust feedback collection system like InsiderCX provides a foundation for understanding and improving the overall patient experience. By diving into patients’ complaints, praises, and suggestions, quality managers can quickly identify inefficient processes and other quality gaps.

Continuous improvement based on patient feedback is vital for maintaining and enhancing the quality of care and building stronger relationships with patients. Healthcare providers should regularly review patient suggestions and implement changes where necessary. 

2. Offer personalized and responsive care

Personalization in healthcare is key to meeting the unique needs and preferences of each patient. This involves understanding their circumstances, knowledge, skills and ability to self-manage. A great way to personalize care is to run PAM surveys, adjusting the care approach and recommendations based on the activation level of each patient.

Responsiveness is equally important. It ensures that patient inquiries and concerns are addressed promptly and efficiently, spotting and stopping health problems before they develop into more serious issues. 

A part of being responsive means ensuring low waiting times for appointments and being attentive to patient needs during their hospital stay. Check out our tips for improving patient intake efficiency to learn more.

3. Improve your communication

Clear, empathetic communication is a cornerstone of a positive patient experience. Effective communication means conveying medical information in a way that is easy to understand and follow, as well as actively listening to and addressing patient concerns. 

This creates a trusting environment which is essential for a successful healthcare journey. Transparency in communication also helps patients feel more in control and involved in their care, which can lead to better outcomes and a more satisfying experience.

Here are some practical tips clinics can use to improve their communication:

  1. Use plain language: Avoid medical jargon and use simple, clear language. Ensure that explanations of diagnoses, procedures, and care plans are understandable to someone without a medical background.
  2. Actively listen to patients: Encourage medical staff to practice active listening. This includes fully concentrating on what the patient is saying, paying attention to non-verbal cues, and responding thoughtfully.
  3. Provide educational materials: Provide written or digital materials that explain conditions and treatments in an easy-to-understand format. Include visuals like diagrams or videos where appropriate.
  4. Encourage questions: Create an environment where patients feel comfortable asking questions. This could be through verbal encouragement or providing a list of suggested questions related to their care.
  5. Ensure proper follow-ups: Implement a system for follow-up communication. This can include check-in calls or messages to see how patients are doing post-visit or post-treatment.
  6. Utilize technology: Leverage technology like patient portals or mobile apps for two-way communication, allowing patients to access their health information, ask questions, and schedule appointments online.

4. Create a comfortable environment

The environment of a healthcare facility — a welcoming, clean, and calming space — can greatly alleviate patient anxiety and contribute positively to their overall experience. Attention to details like lighting, temperature control, seating comfort, and maintaining privacy is key to creating a relaxing environment.

A well-designed and properly maintained healthcare facility also reflects the provider's commitment to patient care and comfort. Facilities that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing can have a profound impact on patient mood and perception of the quality of care received. 

5. Streamline administrative processes

Nobody likes paperwork. Efficient administrative processes should aim to simplify tasks such as registration, appointment scheduling, and billing — as this can significantly reduce patient stress and frustration.

The good news is that technology can solve all of those problems. There are plenty of software solutions clinics can implement to allow online pre-registration and check-in, offer the ability to schedule and reschedule appointments online, and automate the billing process. 

Transparent administrative procedures, combined with clear communication regarding appointments, costs, and procedures, are necessary to help patients successfully navigate through the complexities of the healthcare system. 

6. Ensure proper post-care support

Providing comprehensive post-care support is an important element of a holistic healthcare approach. This includes actions like:

  • appointment reminders and follow-up calls to check on patients’ recovery
  • accessible support lines for any post-treatment queries or concerns
  • patient portals that can be used to access health records, ask questions, schedule appointments, and receive test results
  • post-discharge medication management assistance 

Continued care of this type demonstrates the healthcare provider's commitment to the patient's long-term health and well-being. Additionally, effective post-care support builds lasting relationships with patients, creating a loyal patient base that feels cared for and valued even after they leave the facility. 

7. Commit to continuous improvement

For the healthcare sector, continuous improvement involves regularly evaluating and updating care practices, embracing digital technologies, actively collecting and analyzing patient feedback, and proactively looking for quality gaps. 

Such an ongoing effort is bound to improve the online reputation of your clinic and position it as a leader in a very competitive market.

Start improving patient experience today with InsiderCX

InsiderCX is a patient experience platform that helps clinics and hospitals track and improve patient experience and satisfaction.

It automates the complex process of gathering and analyzing feedback, being a huge time-saver for any quality manager. It can also integrate into existing CRM and healthcare systems, allowing clinics to track all patient insights from one centralized location.

Integrating InsiderCX into your healthcare practice is a big step not just for keeping up with care standards, but for setting new benchmarks in healthcare quality and patient satisfaction.

InsiderCX Editorial Team
This article was researched, written, polished, and published by the InsiderCX editorial team.

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