Patient experience and patient satisfaction are two standards of quality that healthcare organizations are becoming increasingly cognizant of. They may sound similar and are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct and measure different aspects of the healthcare experience. Patient experience is defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as “the range of interactions that patients have with the healthcare system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other healthcare facilities.” It is a broad definition but ultimately boils down to – Are the things that should be happening in healthcare actually happening? Patient satisfaction is defined as the patient’s expectations of their healthcare encounter and whether those expectations were met. Two patients who have the exact same care experience can have vastly different satisfaction ratings because they had different expectations of how their encounter would go.
Research shows that a combination of improving patient experiences, person centered communication and building strong patient-care team relationships lead to healthier outcomes. However, a common pitfall is the conflation that organizations need to make big changes to see big improvements. Patients notice small nuances in their interactions with providers. In a paper by Finefrock, Patel, Zodda et al., simple, observable non-clinical behaviors that were centered around the patient were correlated with increases of over 50% in PressGaney (PG) patient experience scores.
Top Tips for Person-Centered Communication:
- Pause before entering
- Smile and make eye contact, don’t turn your back to the patient
- Shake hands
- Ask open-ended person centric questions like “What Matters to You?”
- Explain what the patient can expect from their visit and any follow-up
- Create a meaningful connection and don’t just focus on the diagnosis
- Do at least 1 nonmedical gesture, like bringing them water, a blanket, etc.
- Thank the patient
Care teams who integrated these top tips into their workflow maximized their PG scores. There are clear benefits to investing into the patient-care team relationship, such as developing trust, fostering long-term relationships, reducing ER visits, and patients are more likely to adhere to their treatment plans, amongst others. It is easy to underestimate how much the little things make big impacts. The benefits don’t just stop at the patients too. goShadow data shows that out of 1163 responses, patient satisfaction and experience are among the top priorities for providers as well. Providers feel good knowing that they provided quality care and that patients felt safe.
One of the main barriers for providers to make that a priority is that many feel they don’t have the time to spend on non-essential tasks in patient care. To facilitate a workflow that can foster patient-care team relationships, co-design tools such as shadowing, “What Matters to You?” surveying, pulse surveys, and team-building are essential to identify what the specific barriers are and co-produce sustainable solutions quickly. Doing so can reduce staff burnout by up to 30%, build resilience and motivation in your organization.
Understanding patient experience and satisfaction are the cornerstones to a person centric care model. Having a crystal clear picture of what an experience should look like and what the big patient satisfiers are, is essential to a highly reliable and high quality healthcare experience. This all culminates in the end-goal of a healthcare system that is tailored to an individual's preferences and needs.
Visit goshadow.org to learn more about goShadow’s work in this area and for free resources and toolkits to help your organization build strong relationships.
Source: Finefrock, D., Patel, S., Zodda, D., Nyirenda, T., Nierenberg, R., Feldman, J., & Ogedegbe, C. (2018). Patient-centered communication behaviors that correlate with higher patient satisfaction scores. Journal of Patient Experience, 5(3), 231–235. https://doi.org/10.1177/2374373517750414
February 4, 2022