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What is Patient Experience?

Patient experience is an increasingly important part of delivering quality care. In a two-part series, we’ll dive into definitions, why it matters, and strategies for improving patient experience.

What Is Patient Experience?

There isn’t one clear definition of patient experience as it means different things to different members of a patient’s care team. However, here are three definitions to start with:

The Beryl Institute says patient experience is “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines patient experience in the following way:

Patient experience encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with the health care system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other health care facilities. As an integral component of health care quality, patient experience includes several aspects of health care delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with health care providers.

The Society of Hospital Medicine Patient Experience Committee defines patient experience as “everything we say and do that affects our patients’ thoughts, feelings, and well-being.”

A common thread between each of these definitions is a focus on the interactions between patients and providers, and how those interactions shape a patient’s perception and experience within the larger healthcare system.

How Is Patient Experience Different than Patient Satisfaction?

Patient experience and patient satisfaction are often used interchangeably, but there are notable differences between these two terms. Patient satisfaction is about a patient’s expectations during a care encounter and whether those expectations were met. It’s more subjective as patients have different expectations.

On the other hand, patient experience is more about what happened during a care encounter, reducing patient suffering (both inherent and avoidable), and sparking quality improvement. Patient experience also tends to be more objective, with options like a CAHPS survey as a way to measure it.

Why Is Patient Experience Important?

AHRQ has emphasized the importance of patient experience when providing quality care:

Understanding patient experience is a key step in moving toward patient-centered care. By looking at various aspects of patient experience, one can assess the extent to which patients are receiving care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values. Evaluating patient experience along with other components such as effectiveness and safety of care is essential to providing a complete picture of health care quality.

Thomas H. Lee, MD, and Chief Medical Officer at Press Ganey said in an interview with Medical Economics that patient experience is an important aspect when defining what care teams are trying to accomplish in healthcare. Patient experience goes beyond trying to meet a patients’ basic needs—because among their needs is peace of mind and minimizing fear and anguish from confusion and chaos.

Lee suggested that peace of mind can be an outcome, particularly for patients with complex or incurable diseases whose health cannot be perfectly restored. He went on to discuss how organizations with better patient experience also have better technical quality, safety records, and staff engagement.

Check out part two, which looks at specific strategies and the future of patient experience.

Brittany Eastman
Content Marketing Specialist