Recognising the true value of patient experience is vital for successful studies and future research engagement.
The term "patient experience" encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with the healthcare system. The Beryl Institute’s current definition for patient experience is “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care.” Essentially, patient experience is what the process of receiving care feels like for the patient, their family, and their carers. For example, the way a phone is answered, how a physician examines them or how a nurse might explain what is happening. In the UK, the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement recently described patient experience as: "if safe care and clinical excellence are the ‘what’ of healthcare, then experience is the ‘how.'"
Patient experience is a key component of healthcare quality and includes several aspects of healthcare delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with healthcare providers. Overall, listening to patients and designing processes to meet their needs results in an environment where patients feel cared for and supported – that’s what creates a positive patient experience.
Understanding patient experience is a key step in moving toward patient-centred care and research. By evaluating each interaction between a healthcare provider and patients, improvements can be made in the safety of care and overall patient experience. Therefore, getting feedback from service users wherever possible is vital to understanding their needs, how to support them better, and ways to improve how they feel about the interactions they have.
There are many ways to collect patient feedback to understand their experience. A few examples are as follows:
The National Health Service in the UK (NHS), released a public document in October 2011 disclosing the framework they use to measure patient experience. The framework outlines key elements which are critical to patient experience as a whole, including respect for patient-centred values, preferences and expressed issues like culture, dignity, and privacy. Also included: elements like physical comfort and emotional support.
Patient experience has been shown to affect all aspects of care and research, from cost and reputation to patient engagement and satisfaction. According to NHS England, it is one of three key components of quality, along with safety and effectiveness. Some advantages of improved patient experience are as follows:
Better patient experience = Better health outcomes
Research has shown a link between patient experience and health outcomes. Those who have a better experience of care generally also have better health outcomes overall.
A better staff experience
The relationship between staff and patients is strained when patients are having a poor experience. In cases where patients are feeling confident that their experience is good, it has a positive impact on staff experience too.
Lower cost of care
Poor experiences generally lead to higher costs as patients may have poorer outcomes, require longer stays or need to be admitted for further treatment.
A golden reputation
Patient experience has a significant influence on an organisation's reputation. If patients have a poor experience, it can seriously damage an organisation's reputation.
Patient experience is connected to the effectiveness of healthcare, as well as for research engagement and participation. Measuring patient experience and assessing person-centred care is a key step towards ensuring accountability and improving overall quality of care.
Improving patient experience is not always simple, particularly for large-scale organisations with multiple points of contact for a single platient. However, with a receptive culture and a concrete approach to collecting, analysing, using, and learning from patient feedback, it can be done.
Every interaction between a patient and an organisation should be evaluated. Understanding what is important to the patient, and viewing the interaction through their eyes is vital to determining what can be improved. The best ways to understand the current patient experience within an organisation is to get direct feedback from them.
There are also proven ways to improve patient experience in general. For example, involving patients in shared decision-making regarding their treatment and empowering patients with appropriate information and education are classic ways to ensure patients feel respected and valued. In addition, managing expectations is key to relieving anxiety, and addressing day-to-day operational issues such as waiting times can make a big difference in patient experience.
Overall, patient experience has always been a key aspect of care, though it has come into focus in recent years. Every experience a patient has, from when a receptionist answers the phone, through to treatment and discharge, impacts how they feel about the care they've been provided. In turn, this can affect treatment success, staff experience, and even cost to a healthcare provider or organisation. Improving patient experience it isn't simple, but with clear communication and person-centred care, it can have a major impact on patients and healthcare providers alike.