Patient Experience: your complete guide
Since the start of 2020, healthcare around the world has modernized at an incredible rate, with patient experience at the heart of the transformation. Find out what patient experience is, how you can improve it, and how it’s helping healthcare organizations re-imagine the experiences they deliver to their patients.
What is patient experience?
The complete patient experience measures how pleased or dissatisfied patients are during their entire journey through their treatment in the healthcare industry.
In other words, as defined by The Beryl Institute Patient experience is:
The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions along the continuum of care
There are four critical components of that definition that we’ll dive into:
The sum of all interactions
A patient’s perceptions about their healthcare provider isn't decided by a single interaction or touchpoint but is influenced by all the touchpoints along the patient journey, with each one playing its part in influencing their perceptions. Understanding how each one can be improved to improve the overall experience is essential to a patient experience program.
An organization’s culture
The vision and values at every level of an organization play a vital role in the delivery of safe, convenient, and competent healthcare. From nurses and physicians on the frontlines, to contact center agents, and back-office staff, every healthcare employee has a role to play.
This covers what is recognized, understood, and remembered by patients. It’s important to remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all — each patient’s perceptions will be impacted by their own circumstances, beliefs, values, and cultural background.
The continuum of care
Often when organizations look to measure the patient experience they focus on a clinical setting like a physician or clinic visit. However, a patient’s experience with the healthcare system starts long before they even need care, and continues long after clinical outcomes or interactions. World-class patient experience programs understand the role of a healthcare provider before, during, and aftercare and respond to patients’ needs at every stage along that journey
Is anyone really ‘satisfied’ with healthcare?
We’re often asked about the difference between patient satisfaction and patient experience. Patient satisfaction however is an outdated concept — a measurement of a single point in time interaction that uses a metric more applicable to buying a product from Amazon, or streaming a film on Netflix.
It ignores all the other interactions outside of that one where a patient was surveyed and doesn’t truly link to patients’ expectations of a healthcare provider.
Let’s face it, nobody needs to be ‘satisfied’ with their healthcare — they want safe, convenient, and competent care. That’s the bar that healthcare providers should set out to meet, and therefore measure how they’re performing against.
None of those are measured by asking ‘how satisfied were you with your hospital visit today?’
Instead, taking a patient-centered care approach and considering the holistic experience patients have across their journey with a provider provides much more actionable insights, at every level of the organization that, when acted upon can help improve safety, convenience, and quality of care.
Going from patient feedback to patient experience
Every healthcare provider gets patient feedback. After all, funding and reimbursements depend on it - so measurement is nothing new in the industry. But measurement is not the goal.
Are you listening on the right channels, across the entire patient journey?
Does every team and department in the organization understand how they impact the patient experience?
And are those teams and people able to take action on insights to have a meaningful impact on the perception of your patients?
If the answer to all three questions is ‘yes’, then you've created a positive patient experience — well done.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of healthcare organizations don’t do that. At Qualtrics, we work with hundreds of healthcare organizations to help them modernize their feedback programs, and transform how they operate to put patients and families at the heart of every decision.
It comes down to three key things — listen, understand, and act.
Listen to patients across the entire patient journey
We know that a single interaction isn’t the only factor that influences patient perception. And today, patients interact with healthcare across myriad platforms, from social media, apps, and websites to more traditional settings like contact centers, clinics, and hospitals.
In any one journey, they’re most likely to use multiple channels. Whether that’s reading online reviews in their search for a new provider, phoning to make an appointment or to check their coverage, receiving healthcare advice virtually, or actually visiting a physical location to receive care.
Every one of those touchpoints come together to impact their perception and not meeting their expectations on any one of those channels can impact their experience.
The challenge for many healthcare providers is that traditionally, each channel has existed in a silo.
Modern patient experience programs break down those silos by installing listening posts across all your channels, and bringing the data together into a single system.
It means you can understand, across the entire journey, how each interaction contributes to patient perceptions, and identify actions right across the organization that you can take to improve.
Understand your patients, and tailor the experience
Having all your patient feedback in one place is a great starting point, but you need to be able to mine that patient experience data for rich insights.
First, you need to be able to analyze it all as a single data set. Whether it’s structured data from your regulatory surveys, unstructured data from open text feedback like online reviews or chatbot interactions, or operational data from your electronic medical record (EMR), you need to be able to make sense of it all.
Modern patient experience platforms like the Experience Management Platform leverage powerful, text, statistical, key driver, and predictive analytics to make sense of large datasets, bringing together all your structured and unstructured feedback together with your operational data to uncover deep insights across the patient journey.
It means you’re not only breaking down silos to get a complete view of the experience, you’re able to understand how it all comes together. So you can see, for every patient or patient segment, how each touchpoint is performing in helping to deliver on their expectations, and crucially what action you can take to improve them.
It also opens up the ability to personalize the experience for your patients by understanding at a granular level what each person’s expectations and motivations are, so you can tailor the experiences you deliver at every touchpoint to ensure you meet their needs.
Act on insights at every level
In many organizations, this is where a lot of feedback programs fall short. Insights are often delivered long after an interaction has occurred, when it’s probably too late to act on them, and often to senior leaders rather than the people who can do something about it. Typical patient experience surveys can take you only so far.
We’ve seen over the past year, as the industry responded to the challenges of COVID-19 just how vital it is that healthcare organizations are able to take action quickly as patient needs change.
A patient experience program needs to provide real-time insights at every level of the organization, alerting individuals to actions they can take in the moment to improve the experience for patients.
Incorporating this healthcare research is something the most successful B2C companies do well, closing the loop with unhappy customers after a negative interaction to rectify the issue and recover that customer.
And it’s something healthcare organizations can do, too.
Through closed-loop follow-up, you can alert the right person in the organization to a negative experience, and automatically trigger an action for them to follow up with the patient.
For example, if a patient has an issue with a prescription after a visit to a clinic, that negative experience can be resolved immediately by triggering a call from a contact center agent who can rectify the situation the same day.
These one-to-one interactions are known as the ‘inner loop’ — individual, real-time follow-up that enables you to step in and improve the experience.
But there’s also the ‘outer-loop’ too — the more strategic actions that happen at an organization-wide level to solve the root cause of bad experiences.
Take our prescription issue again. Perhaps it was caused by a processing error that could potentially affect multiple patients.
As well as closing the loop to resolve it at an individual level, you can also drive action at an organization level, using the same insights to get the root cause and taking action to solve it and prevent that being a problem for other patients in the future.
Imagine that in a system where reports are received once a year and delivered to a handful of senior executives — the same prescription issue would rear its head time and time again, impacting the experience of more patients, and costing the provider a small fortune in recovery costs. That’s if the insights ever even made it to the right teams of course!
How a culture of action drives patient experience
Having the systems in place to empower individuals in the organization, at every level, to take action helps drive a cultural change too, where everybody understands and has the tools to deliver on, patient expectations.
Your people, whether it’s nurses at the bedside, clinic administrators managing operations, or contact center agents, need to be able to access insights, and feel empowered to act on them.
But beyond that, they need to share the values and vision of the organization and have the resources to be able to deliver on it.
This all contributes to patients’ perceptions of the experience. If the staff understand the expectations, and have the training, resources, and are empowered to deliver on them, then you’re far more likely to deliver a good experience for patients.
As such, patient experience and employee experience go hand-in-hand. It’s the same approach with staff as it is with patients — gather feedback at every stage in the employee journey, understand the key drivers of the experience, and take action to improve them.
Whether that’s improving manager effectiveness and employee engagement, or identifying opportunities to improve key stages in the employee journey like onboarding or training, it all comes down to knowing which actions to take, at what stage, to help your people be more successful.
It’s a key part of Experience Management, both in healthcare and other industries. At Qualtrics, we understand that no experience exists in a silo — engaged, motivated, and enabled staff are the interface between patients and the healthcare system. When staff have a good experience, patients are more likely to have the same.
An exciting time to be in healthcare
The healthcare industry has come a long way in the last decade. And in the past year, the pace of change has accelerated as the industry demonstrated that it is willing and able to respond quickly to the needs of patients.
The momentum we’ve built up is the starting point of a new era of healthcare where every decision is taken with patients’ experiences in mind.
We have the tools, technology, and the desire to deliver more patient-centric experiences than ever before and at Qualtrics, we’re all in on helping our customers lead the charge.
Our dedicated healthcare team already works with over 400 healthcare organizations around the world to help them design and improve the experiences they deliver for staff and patients, and we’ve seen some incredible success stories of how, with patients at the center, organizations are re-thinking and re-defining the experiences they deliver.
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