The Patient Experience
The patient experience is ever-changing in the healthcare world. Advances in technology, paired with the rising costs of healthcare, are changing the expectations of what patient care should be. The patient experience has been defined by the Beryl Institute as, “The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” In layman’s terms, the patient experience is influenced by the interactions they have with the people and the environment during the entire healthcare process from the moment they make an appointment to the resolution of their medical concerns, and their impressions of those interactions. According to an article from Healthcare IT News, Christine Holt of Holy Redeemer Health System links these changes in patients’ expectations of care to the changes in the way we pay for healthcare these days. Due to higher premiums and deductibles, people pay more out of pocket for healthcare, which in turn, raises their expectations of the care they receive for their money. This makes people more likely to look for the best patient experience for the cost. Personally I think this new emphasis on the patient experience is a welcome improvement.
Often it seems that every visit to the doctor is all about efficiency and getting through as many appointments as possible throughout the day. There is nothing wrong with efficiency but when it is at the expense of a patient getting the care they need then it becomes a problem. I can tell you from personal experience that there have been several times where I felt more like a car going in for a diagnostic than a person needing medical attention. Doctors seem all too preoccupied with fitting as many patients in as possible that they sometimes seem to forget we are people. This can often lead to a larger issue because they do not take the time to listen to all of the factors before making a diagnosis, or sometimes they will automatically push for what they think is best instead of asking the patient what it is they want. I understand doctors are busy, but when they take the time to listen to their patients concerns or get to know them beyond why they came in that day, it can not only lead to a better understanding of the patient, but also help them feel more comfortable and increase their likelihood of returning to that same doctor again. Holt also stated that, “the entire patient experience paradigm must include an emotional connection that produces loyalty.” When doctors spend time getting to know their patients, the more likely patients are to remain with that doctor.
Another contributor to the patient experience is the environment they are in. For instance, if patients are made to wait a long time before their appointment begins, then they are more likely to feel irritable; or if the office staff is inattentive, then patients will not feel very welcome or comfortable. This is where technology can be a helpful aid in improving patient care. Automated reminders for one, while sometimes viewed as impersonal, can actually help improve the patient experience. By giving patients reminders and updates about their appointments they are more likely to show up on time. When patients aren’t calling in to try and find out what time their appointment is, or attempting to cancel or reschedule it, the staff has more time to make sure the office is running efficiently. This means shorter processing times, shorter wait times, and patients that are arriving for their appointments are able to get more dedicated attention from the office staff. These changes can drastically improve the patient experience and automatically improve a patient’s demeanor, making them feel more comfortable and less irritable.
Overall, it is clear that the key to a better patient experience in is within the word healthcare itself, “care.” By showing more genuine care and concern, doctors will be providing a better healthcare experience for their patients. Patients want to feel taken care of by their doctors and not simply “fixed” when they go in for a health concern. Creating an experience unique to every patient will help create that personal connection that fosters loyalty and will keep them coming back.