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Understanding & improving the patient experience

Last updated

27 June 2023

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Dovetail Editorial Team

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Boosting patient experience is a high priority in the healthcare industry. As innovative digital technologies continue storming the scene, people are increasingly accustomed to patient-centered care.

Personalized, effective, and efficient care services are game-changers in today's competitive healthcare landscape. Let’s learn more about improving patient experience and its benefits.

What is patient experience?

A range of interactions affects the patient experience and their healthcare perceptions. Your facility's culture heavily shapes your patients' well-being, thoughts, and feelings.

Patient experience is at the core of healthcare quality as other components hinge on it, like safety of care. It encompasses various valuable aspects, such as timely appointments and stress-free communication.

Focusing on patient experience encourages patient-first approaches. When curating their care plan, an organization considers the patient's values, preferences, and needs.

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How is patient experience different from patient satisfaction?

While most people often use these two terms interchangeably, they’re different. 

Patient experience determines if things happen as they should during a healthcare encounter. Examples include easy access to information or timely appointments. 

It's often objective, as you can use methods like the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey to determine it.

On the other hand, patient satisfaction is about whether a healthcare encounter went according to a person's expectations. 

Expectations usually differ, so patient satisfaction is typically subjective.

What are the themes of patient experience?

An in-depth dive into the definition of patient experience reveals the following elements:

Culture

A healthcare organization's culture involves its values, people, vision, and community. These dimensions can make or break your patient experience.

A strong culture's ingredients include: 

  • Robust patient-focused care

  • Leadership style

  • Information systems

  • Accountability

  • Inter-organizational relationships

  • HR practices

Perceptions

Perceptions include everything the patient recognizes, understands, and remembers. Differing cultural backgrounds, values, and beliefs can impact their perceptions.

In the past, studies about patients' perceptions were rare. But today's survey measures, such as Picker and CAHPS surveys, are changing the story for the better. 

These surveys allow the industry to understand how patients view organizations based on their needs, concerns, and values.

A secondary data analysis in 11 countries revealed that patient engagement initiatives are crucial in healthcare quality measures since you can rely on patients' reports and feedback. 

The research identified a direct relationship between perceived care coordination and self-reported errors.

Patient-centered services boost the quality of care, experience, and clinical outcomes.

Continuum of care

A continuum of care involves an integrated health system that monitors and guides patients through comprehensive care services. It encompasses all the services before, during, and after the care encounter.

Your patient should experience uninterrupted, stellar services throughout their recovery—from major surgery to home-based nursing. 

Interactions

Interactions involve well-coordinated touchpoints of healthcare settings, processes, people, and communications. 

It's good practice to finesse these aspects of care with five evidence-based actions:

Thorough preparation

Take time to know your patient before meeting them. Go through their medical documents and messages thoroughly without any interruption.

Active listening

Have an in-person meeting with the patient and listen to them keenly.

Body language awareness

Study your patient's emotional cues to understand them better. They'll trust you more if you acknowledge and validate them.

Forging deeper connection

Empathize with them and their situation. Acknowledge the steps they've taken to recover and congratulate them for their past successes.

Prioritizing clinical practices

Identify and tailor the most crucial interventions for your patient. Ensure your care plan and interaction prioritizes those practices.

That's how you employ evidence-based interactions in your care encounters with every patient.

What's the importance of patient experience in healthcare?

Positive care experience can put organizations ahead of the pack. 

Here are just some of its benefits:

Boosted bottom line

More people are choosing organizations with positive patient experiences. Aside from employing cost-cutting measures to increase profits, ensure a fantastic patient experience.

Accenture studied the relationship between margin data and patient experience scores. It revealed that superior scores could boost your organization's net margins by 50% or more.

More care facilities are gathering huge chunks of medical records and data, allowing them to benchmark their performance with reputable organizations. 

A Press Ganey study found that robust patient experience leads to shortened stays and repeat customers. Plus, a five-point jump in an organization's rating is linked to a 1% rise in its profit margin.

Enhanced reputation

People are becoming more aware of what healthcare technical quality should mean. 

In fact, a study by the National Research Corporation found a close relationship between an organization's reputation and patient experience. 

Personalization is a game changer when it comes to cementing a reputation. The research revealed that discharged patients highly recommended organizations with the most personalized healthcare. 

Other crucial reputation indicators include nurses, safety, accommodations, and quality care.

Inspired patient engagement

Ideal patient experience and positive interactions between patients and staff members ignite engagement and encourage patients to comply with the care plan. 

On the other hand, engagement drops when a person feels the provider insulted or ignored them.

It's crucial to support patients from the time they contact your organization until they recover at home. Ensure they can comfortably access and use crucial resources, including health technologies.

Improved health outcomes

Actively involving patients in their care encounters improves health outcomes and slashes expenses. 

A forward-looking hospital helps patients develop the skills and knowledge they need to play active roles in healthcare decisions.

Boosting patient engagement inspires patients to own health-related decisions. But how can you increase their interest in their health? The trick lies in spicing up your patient's experience with their beliefs, values, and behaviors. 

According to Healthtrust reports, a lack of health self-management skills and willingness can cost patients up to 21% more than if they had these characteristics.

So, how do you measure patient experience?

Here's how to know where you stand in improving patient experience:

Employ CAHPS and HCAHPS surveys

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) usually takes Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys to enable care facilities to measure patient experience and boost quality. 

These surveys cover: 

  • Coordination of care

  • Customer service

  • Communication

  • Information access

  • And other areas

CAHPS results are free for any facility looking to make informed decisions regarding patient experience. You can even use them to compare your practice against your rivals and reputable organizations. It saves you the burden of researching everything from the ground.

The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) carry out Hospital CAHPS (HCAHPS). Every year, more than 4,000 hospitals use this standardized survey as a crucial compass on the journey towards a first-class patient experience.

Get insights into factors affecting patient experience

How can you grasp the factors shaping patient satisfaction? The trick is understanding the whole patient journey, from the inquiry call to home-based patient care and follow-ups. 

Some factors include:

  • Healthcare services

  • Communication with healthcare providers

  • The service's costs

  • Branding

  • Clinician referrals

  • Primary care visits

But no two organizations are equal. So before investing in patient experience for your healthcare facility, pinpoint the factors that matter most to your patients. 

Well-run focus groups and surveys will help you achieve success.

How to improve patient experience

You're a few steps from a robust patient experience. Follow these tips to improve your organization’s patient experience:

Collect and use data insights

Data is a powerful asset. Improve your data-gathering game with these best practices:

Monitor patients in real-time

The use of remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These technologies give engaged patients virtual care while care providers receive real-time data. That means you can bid farewell to logistics-based interruptions to data collection

The result is faster, more efficient outcomes.

Have a platform that supports EHR/EMR integration

Outdated EMR workflows usually have challenges that interfere with data transfer, leading to errors and data loss.

According to Computerland, at least 50% of clinicians complain about burnout partly because of workloads related to such workflows. 

Scheduling a CT scan through an EHR record can gulp up to 45 minutes of a clinician's time. Seeking insurance cover for the scan is another time-consuming task.

Clinicians should try to focus more on patient care and less on documentation. Employing a care management platform supercharges stress-free and clear care delivery.

Employ focus groups and care surveys

Surveys and focus groups can enrich your data collection with quantitative and qualitative insights. Incentives such as discounts can encourage patients to give their responses.

It’s crucial to avoid influencing their feedback. Interviews in unfamiliar settings (such as clinical care facilities) or at home might lead to courtesy bias: Respondents may end up praising the hospital instead of sharing their negative experiences.

Going from patient feedback to patient experience

Armed with patient data, it's time to boost patient experience measures.

The following practices set forward-looking healthcare providers apart from the crowd:

Streamline patient communication

Integrating EMR/EHR, patient portals, and alerts boost interaction with your patient as they journey through your service. You can communicate everything from examination outcomes to follow-ups and health industry updates.

Integration also helps tailor the experience based on the patient’s preferences, needs, and beliefs. For instance, you can deliver messages via whatever communication channels they prefer, deepening their trust in you.

Assess the entire healthcare teams

Improving patient experience isn't a one-person show—it's teamwork. Set relevant goals and periodically evaluate your teams' KPIs.

Focus groups and surveys will help you evaluate your team's effectiveness, efficiency, and cohesiveness. That way, you can pinpoint what doesn't work on the road toward patient satisfaction and patient experience.

Inspire team engagement

Trying to engage patients before hospital staff is like putting a cart before a horse. Satisfied and engaged team members score highly on all quality measures, causing a trickle-down effect in patient experience and satisfaction.

According to a Gallup survey, customer loyalty in organizations with best-in-class employee engagement was 10% higher than in hospitals with poor team engagement. 

Harvard Business Review revealed that a 1%+ improvement in employee engagement could skyrocket the overall organization's rating by six points.

Use innovative technology

Weaving together these tips can be a time-consuming, 24/7 task, so how about leveraging the latest care management technology to boost your healthcare systems?

Ensure you have a one-stop platform for all patient data, communication, and resources. Remember to secure against cybercriminals or unauthorized access.

Power your patient experience insights with Dovetail

You're now up to speed with patient experience. The next step is gathering and storing patient data and insights. 

That's where Dovetail comes in. Our platform can help you analyze your patient data and uncover actionable insights, helping you get the full picture of healthcare in your organization. 

FAQs

What is the four Ps model?

The four Ps model in medical care represents the cornerstones of patient experience and includes:

  • Preventive

  • Predictive

  • Personalized

  • Participative 

When patients participate in health decisions, all four Ps fall into place.

Why is it important to know your patient?

Knowing your patient helps tailor a plan with suitable recommendations. The result is a positive patient experience that boosts trust. 

Other benefits from the gained trust include repeat customers, referrals, a positive reputation, and increased revenue.

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