What is patient experience?

patient experience

When one hears ‘patient experience’, they automatically think of the experience of the patient  with their doctor. While this criteria,without any doubt, reigns supreme over any,it is surely not the only one which would ensure a holistic patient experience.

With all the chaos that ensued with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus has now shifted from just a good doctor-patient experience to providing patients with a feeling of safety and security. Creating an atmosphere where patients have a pleasant experience is a very important aspect and is the responsibility of healthcare providers.

From the time a patient enters the hospital or clinic to the time they leave, having the guarantee of a good experience will help not only solidify  patient retention but also demonstrate to the patients that you care. 

According to a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “substantial evidence points to a positive association between various aspects of patient experience, such as good communication between providers and patients, and several important health care processes and outcomes.”

A patient experience encompasses their interaction with the healthcare system in various capacities.This includes,their interactions with healthcare facilities online, with doctors,nurses,health plans etc. 

 

Patient experience vs patient satisfaction 

 

Though often used interchangeably patient experience and patient satisfaction signify different meanings. While patient experience is the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care, patient satisfaction is a measure of whether a patient’s expectations regarding his/her experience were met. 

Guessing each patient’s expectation and catering to these different expectations might be a difficult task. Ensuring a good patient experience however, is something you can oversee  and guarantee. Follow these simple rules to provide your patients with a good experience. 

 

Ways to Improve Patient Experience

 

Imagine you are a patient looking to go to a healthcare provider. Let’s follow your journey and see how your experience goes and  find ways to make your experience better if necessary.  

Checking the website ; – You open a hospital website to confirm the  timings and to see whether you can book an appointment online. You see that you can indeed book an appointment online and proceed to book a slot for yourself. So far you’re happy because a scheduled appointment means you wouldn’t have to wait a long time to meet up with your doctor. It’s been a while, but you haven’t received a confirmation for your appointment. This frustrates you a bit , so you call the hospital helpline to try and get a confirmation. It’s taking a long time and you seem to get transferred from one department to another,finally you get through to an agent who informs you that your appointment has indeed been confirmed. So while your query has been resolved it took you a long time to get a satisfactory answer. How could this experience have been better?

  • Provisions for online booking are a great feature that needs to be leveraged properly. Receiving an immediate response on one’s booking is highly desirable.Failure to do so resulted in contacting the helpine where you had to wait an even longer time. All these misfortunes can be avoided by using an AI based answering service which would smartly communicate with the patient. It can give immediate responses on the booking status and solve all your queries related to scheduling,cancellation, payment etc,.Learn more  about how this technology can be leveraged here.

Reaching the Hospital – You reach the hospital and go to the waiting area.The employees at the reception seem to be occupied and do not pay heed to you.You wanted to inform them of their appointment but to no avail. After sometime you walk to the reception and inform them about your appointment. They say you’ll have to wait because the doctor had an emergency. Obviously it upsets you , because you would have expected to be informed about the same. You decide you have no other choice but to wait. What could have made this better?

  • Studies have shown that outcome measures focused on improving communication and interaction were more successful than outcome measures focused on changing processes for better patient experience. So training your staff to be courteous and attentive to the patients should be a priority. The patients need to be assured that you are attentive towards them.
  • With recent times, it is also important that communication about safety standards and rules are also conveyed to the patient. Ensuring that everyone wears a mask and the easy availability of sanitisation stations  are uncompromisable in a healthcare facility. Ensuring these would instill a feeling of safety in the patients. 
  • News about the unavailability of the doctor or the change in schedule could have also been easily conveyed to the patient in prior by the use of an answering service . Emitrr’s text based 2 way answering service has features to inform patients of such changes. 

Meeting the Doctor – You are about to meet the doctor but you have to yet again fill a form. Afterwards you meet up with the doctor who asks you some details you just filled up in your form. The doctor keeps the conversation to the point and  inquires about your health.He/She doesn’t pay much heed to niceties. What can be improved?

  • Switching to an online system where patients are able to auto fill their answers would be a good way to try and improve patient experience. If you’re copying or scanning their insurance information into the computer, is it necessary to ask them to hand-write that information on multiple forms?
  • As discussed earlier, improving communication with the patient is the biggest indicator of good patient experience. Physician-patient relationships can have profound positive and negative implications on clinical care. Stronger physician-patient relationships are correlated with improved patient outcomes. Studies have shown the approach taken by physicians to communicate information is equally important as the actual information that is being communicated. So it is important that doctors take an empathetic and caring approach towards their patients.

Leaving the hospital – You are now done with your consultation and start to head home. What can be done to improve your after consultation experience?

  • The patient is sure to take note of a follow up that has occured after his/her visit. When you call your patient simply to ask how someone is doing after an appointment, it adds to a good patient experience.
  • Asking patients to leave feedback after they are done with their consultation , would insure him/her that providing them with good patient experience is something you take seriously and that their input is valuable to you. This can again be accomplished by using an automated system like Emitrr that asks patients to rate their experience or leave feedback.

Maintaining a comfortable waiting area where the patients can feel relaxed is also one of the ways which adds to patient experience. Providing some magazines, some eatables and creating a soothing environment can help ease patients.

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