Power to the Patient! Today’s healthcare providers vie to deliver the best patient experience, exceed patient expectations and find the most engaging way to get their patients to actively participate in their own healthcare. What we are really talking about is patient experience, patient satisfaction and patient engagement. But do we really understand the difference?
Most people would be surprised to learn that these are not three terms for the same concept. They may sound similar–and they are–but each is distinct from the others. However, it’s easy to confuse the three, which is exactly what many people do. Perhaps more importantly, each requires different strategies to improve.
Let’s clear up the confusion among these three terms. First up: patient experience.
What Is Patient Experience?
Patient experience, as defined by the Beryl Institute, is “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perception across the continuum of care.” That means that everything a practice does, every single touchpoint, every time a patient or prospective patient even thinks about their healthcare provider, is all part of the patient experience.
Where does patient experience start? Considering that almost three quarters of patients use online reviews to find a new doctor, and another one in five use them to validate their choice, there’s a good chance that the patient experience of any practice starts on the internet. That’s right: Patients haven’t even set foot in the office before they start forming their opinions about a medical organization.
The good news is, providers have control over most aspects of their patient experience. Some–like a bad parking situation–may be harder to control than others, but there are options. Online reputation management, customer service training for staff, an intuitive website and phone tree, and improvements to the scheduling process can all improve patient experience, and all are within reach.
What Is Patient Satisfaction?
Patient experience and patient satisfaction may seem like the same thing–after all, having a good experience is satisfying. Except that’s not entirely true.
A patient could have a great experience–parking was a snap, there was little wait time, the front office staff was polite and helpful and the doctor had an easy and caring bedside manner–and still be unsatisfied. If, for example, the patient wanted an MRI the doctor felt was unwarranted, or if the patient didn’t realize the office was out of network, that could lead to poor patient satisfaction despite all other touchpoints being optimized.
That’s because patient satisfaction revolves around patient expectations. It’s a subjective measure; two patients could receive the same care but have differing levels of satisfaction. For this reason, patient satisfaction can be hard to get right and difficult to measure. Many practices use patient satisfaction surveys to determine how well the patient’s expectations have been met. However, to truly measure a patient’s satisfaction, surveys would have to be refined dependent on the answers to previous surveys. This would allow a practice or hospital system to drill down to the core of a patient’s expectation vs delivery of service. Most practices prefer to focus on patient experience, which is generally more objective, but in this age of healthcare consumerism, patient satisfaction is just as important.
What is Patient Engagement?
Finally we come to patient engagement. If patient experience is the sum of all touchpoints in the continuum of care, and patient satisfaction is about expectations, then patient engagement is the willingness of patients to interact with a healthcare provider voluntarily. Patient engagement doesn’t always have to be related to the patient’s treatment and can be proactive, reactive or retroactive in nature.
Proactive patient engagement, for instance, could be the willingness of a patient to seek out or receive education to become more healthy. When a patient ‘likes’ a practice’s Facebook post, this is a type of reactive patient engagement, and may have nothing to do with that patient’s treatment or health status. Leaving a review on a practice’s site is considered a retroactive or retrospective type of patient engagement.
The reasons why, and the ways in which, a patient engages are myriad. They may be situational or generational. Patient engagement also shows how much people are attached to a practice and brand. Do they comment on and share posts? Do they recommend a doctor to their friends? Do they leave reviews on Google or Healthgrades? Common to all, however, is the underlying notion that an engaged patient is one who wants to be “on the team,” so to speak, to be a decision maker and to have a measure of control when it comes to his or her health. Positive patient engagement can lead to an improved patient experience and increased patient satisfaction– all of which can boost your practice’s revenue.
At Points Group, we’re experts in helping to create patient-centered practices. We can provide a roadmap to improve patient experience, administer and help you interpret patient satisfaction surveys and assist you in connecting with your patients on a meaningful level. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.