HealthWare Systems Blog

Patient Experience: The Major Focus in Healthcare for 2014

Posted on Fri, Mar 21, 2014

According to a 2013 survey, patient experience and patient satisfaction will be the most important priorities for hospitals and health systems through 2016. The focus on patient perspectives ranks above other major priorities—including quality of care, patient safety, and cost management—by a significant margin. It has even been dubbed the “holy grail of healthcare.”

Why Does Patient Experience Matter?

For one thing, the government has been mandating patient perception measures since 2002.  Most recently, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is in effect to comply with CMS mandates and certain aspects of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.  Comparative data is available at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, so the public can find and weigh different hospital options.  (CGCAHPS is a similar survey for physician groups.)

More broadly, the focus on patient experience is tied to a major cultural movement created by consumers, the Internet, and social media. Rather than accept the limitations of local facilities or local physicians, today’s patients are copying the success of online students, online shoppers, and other online communities that can now easily expand their options. Hospitals and practices can’t afford to ignore the conversations that occur among patients and competitors. These are now key opportunities to build loyalty and referrals.

But most important, patient experience plays a proven role in positive health outcomes.  Patient adherence studies indicate that satisfied patients are more likely to complete their treatment plans and cooperate in care efforts. So in the process of improving patients’ experiences, health systems are also learning to listen, communicate, and heal people better.

What Does a Positive Patient Experience Look Like?

Interestingly, more than half of the healthcare organizations surveyed still don’t have a formal definition in place for what “patient experience” actually means.

Most facilities focus on the different phases and departments that are involved in each patient encounter—starting with registration. Waiting room delays and redundant paperwork are huge sources of frustration for many patients. Increasingly, hospitals are implementing patient arrival/patient tracking tools to provide faster, more accurate service. Expediting the discharge/final registration process is also a key factor.

But identifying what patients want isn’t the hard part. In terms of patient experience obstacles, the lack of necessary resources was cited by 26 percent of organizations surveyed. This figure is up from 23 percent in 2011. With administrators being pulled in so many different directions, many health systems are missing out on simple patient experience solutions.

Who’s in Charge of Patient Experience?

Chief nursing officers, chief experience officers (CXOs), chief quality officers, and representative committees are some of the folks tasked with improving patient experience.

Many facilities use third-party vendors to administer surveys, which is fast becoming an outdated approach. Experts predict the tools and technology now available through social media, mobile, and email will help to streamline all types of patient engagement—including surveys.  Already we have document management solutions in place that can securely connect with individual EMRs.

How Is Patient Experience Being Measured?

HCAHPS scores are still the most important metric. On a priority scale of one to six, healthcare facilities gave HCAHPS a 2.4. And in fact, 38 percent of them are focusing their patient satisfaction efforts on specific domains in the Consumer Assessment ranking. (The HCAHPS survey asks patients 27 questions related to nursing care, physician care, the facility environment, pain control, and more.) Many hospitals also conduct their own patient experience surveys—either at bedside, through the mail, or as post-care phone calls.

What’s Next in Patient Experience?

Planning to attend the Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Conference in Chicago?  Let us know!

One of the keynotes we’ll be keeping an eye on is due from Dr. Joseph Michelli. His talk,
Patient Experience Excellence: The Balancing Act of Why and How, promises to address what’s really going on behind the numbers.