As a consumer, you’ve had hundreds of thousands of interactions with numerous organizations throughout your lifetime. These interactions, whether good, bad, or indifferent, make up the customer experience, or CX. Because the healthcare industry is so unique, these interactions are generally referred to as a patient experience versus a customer experience. However, the idea is the same: the patient experience encompasses all the interactions between a healthcare organization and a patient over the duration of their relationship.
The Patient Experience in Healthcare Today
Today, most people have more choices than ever when it comes to choosing healthcare providers. And with many providers making the switch to value-based care, the patient experience is more important than ever.
To begin enhancing patient experience, healthcare providers need to evaluate the various interactions that patients have with the health care system. This includes the care they receive from their health plans, as well as care from doctors, nurses, hospital staff, physician practices, and other healthcare facilities.
Components of Patient Care
Components of patient care include providers performing each of the following to a certain standard:
- Providing care that is collaborative, coordinated, and accessible
- Focusing on physical comfort as well as emotional well-being
- Working to achieve effective results and pain management
- Following safe medical practices and guidelines
- Providing clear communication and medical information
- Providing access to the latest medical devices and equipment
- Responding in a timely fashion to patient needs
With a solid understanding of these and other components of the patient experience, and taking the appropriate steps to improve patient satisfaction in healthcare, providers can begin to move toward patient-centered care. The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centered care as “Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” This approach requires a true partnership between individuals and their healthcare providers, and is considered the “gold standard” of care that each provider should strive for.
So why is patient experience important? Many experts believe that in order to remain competitive and successful in the future, patient-centered care must be a priority. “There is a real risk of business performance suffering because patients are going to move to get care where their needs are being met,” warns Dr. Thomas H. Lee, Chief Medical Officer at Press Ganey Associates, a healthcare company known for developing and distributing patient satisfaction surveys.
Five Ways to Improve the Patient Experience in Healthcare
There are many small but important ways healthcare practices can begin enhancing the patient experience, such as customer service. A few examples of excellent customer service in healthcare include, creating an online presence, offering online scheduling, and keeping wait times to a minimum. However, to truly achieve patient-centered care, healthcare providers need to look at the bigger picture. There are five strategic ways to get there.
1. Treat Patient Satisfaction in Healthcare as a Process Measure
It’s important to understand that improving the processes won’t always improve outcomes. For example, a cancer patient may be happy with their provider and the care they’re receiving, but may still wind up with a negative outcome, such as a cancer recurrence. Another example would be a hospital trying to reduce its typical length of stay for women in labor; the facility may believe shortening their stay is an improvement, but a new mother may feel a rush to be discharged, negatively impacting her experience.
By using patient satisfaction as a process measure, and not a driver of outcomes, healthcare systems can continue to make patient experience improvements while recognizing the potential negative outcomes in other areas.
2. Evaluate Care Teams And Individual Providers
It’s common for healthcare systems to look at individual providers and their patients’ satisfaction levels with them. However, rather than just evaluate a single provider, the entire care team needs to be looked at as a whole to understand the effectiveness of everyone involved in the patient experience. To determine this, patient satisfaction surveys should ask questions such as “How did your nurses and physicians get along?” and “Was there strong communication between various team members during your hospital stay?”
“These are the big drivers of a patient’s likelihood to recommend,” says Dr. Lee. “Do patients feel teamwork is good, communication is good, empathy is real?” A New England Journal of Medicine story also highlights this, stating: “When analyzing all the factors influencing overall patient-experience scores in hospital settings, we found that aspects of nursing care and communication were more predictive than interactions with physicians” and that “limiting patient experience measurement to a single dimension excludes the interactions that most strongly affect experiences and outcomes.”
3. Improve Healthcare Employee Engagement
A strategy that complements #2, improving healthcare employee engagement has been shown to positively impact the patient experience. In fact, an HR Solutions case study using nearly 29,000 healthcare employee opinion surveys revealed that employee engagement has a direct link to patient satisfaction in healthcare, determining that:
- 85% of engaged employees displayed a genuinely caring attitude toward patients, compared to only 38% of disengaged employees.
- 91% of engaged employees recognize their workplace as dedicated to patient care, compared to only 42% of disengaged employees.
- 82% of engaged employees would want to use the facility where they work as a healthcare provider, compared to only 22% of disengaged employees.
To improve healthcare employee engagement, healthcare systems need to empower staff with the ability to make certain decisions, provide regular feedback and assessments, listen to staff suggestions and recommendations, focus on team building, and invest in new technologies that can make providers’ jobs easier.
4. Invest in Patient Engagement Software
Many healthcare systems have a wealth of patient data, but it’s typically not well-managed and often inaccessible to some providers within the system. By shifting from siloed patient data to a centralized hub using healthcare analytics and patient engagement software, providers can begin to identify relationships between patient experience, clinical outcomes, and employee satisfaction.
Some software systems also make hyper-personalization a priority, which improves the patient experience in healthcare. For example, some AI-powered software can analyze patient data and make recommendations while taking into account health history, allergies, health risks, and more. There is a wide variety of HIPAA-compliant patient engagement software already available; check out these reviews on peer review site G2
5. Take Advantage of New Technologies
From real-time location service technology that improves patient flow and reduces wait times to artificial intelligence that can diagnose diseases and reduce medical errors, innovations in healthcare technology are advancing rapidly.
Of course, some providers may hesitate to adopt new technologies. “By and large, particularly in my field, people are pretty conservative, and they are not early adopters of technology,” Dr. Shant Vartanian, Assistant Professor with UCSF’s Department of Surgery, said in a recent BIOMEDevice panel. “A lot of people don’t want to expose themselves to risk.”
While it’s natural for providers to have some hesitancy when it comes to new products, those that take advantage of them, after vetting for safety and efficacy, can revolutionize their patient experience.
The Patient Experience in Healthcare: A “Perfect Storm” for Healthcare Systems and Medical Device Startups
Healthcare systems that shift their perspectives to focus on how to improve the patient experience position themselves for success in today’s environment. “The [patient experience in today’s healthcare environment] is huge,” states Dr. Lee. “…As we deal with the effects of tremendous medical progress, aging of our population, and economic challenges, we have a perfect storm of good things that create pressure for change.”
In addition, this is an opportune time for medical device startups and other new healthcare innovators to get their products or services in front of healthcare providers. If their technologies can help with improving patient satisfaction and patient outcomes, providers are likely to show interest. Of course, for them, it’s all about matching these new technologies to the needs and wants of the provider.
If you’re a medical device startup looking to take advantage of this “perfect storm” impacting the patient experience in healthcare and want a professional consultant on your side, or need help with medical device marketing, you need Diberin Solutions. You can read more about our company here or contact us today.