Patient Experience – Top of the Mind for Healthcare Organizations

October 29, 2012 - 1 Comment

Back in September, I had the opportunity to attend HIMSS APJC in Singapore and was really excited to learn more about the key trends in that part of the world, which houses some of the largest economies, populations, and economic growth.  After talking with several customers and listening to several panel discussions, one common theme kept recurring – patient experience.  It was my belief that patient experience was more of a USA hot-button as healthcare organizations in the USA are being forced by patient “consumerism”, whereby patients want their money’s worth and have a certain level of expectation.  I was surprised to learn that patient experience is more of a global trend and that got me thinking as to what exactly is patient experience and how healthcare organizations are addressing it.

After talking with customers on a world-wide basis, I have learned that customers really do not have a standard definition for “patient experience”.  In fact each one of them has a different interpretation and there are widely divergent views in the healthcare industry.  The 2009 HealthLeaders Media Patient Experience Leadership Survey — covering more than 200 healthcare CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CNOs, directors, senior vice presidents, and other C-suite high-ranking healthcare officials — found that 33.5% of respondents said the patient experience is their “top priority,” and 54.5% said it’s “among their top five priorities.” And most responders thought it would be a priority in the future as well: 45% said it would be their top priority five years from now, and 50.5% said it would be in their top five priorities.

Based on those responses, you might think that providers could agree on what exactly makes up the patient experience. But as stated above, the survey also shows that when it comes to defining the patient experience, there are widely divergent views within the healthcare industry.  As shown in Figure 1 below, 34.5% agreed that the patient experience equals “patient-centered care,” 29% agreed it was “an orchestrated set of activities that is meaningfully customized for each patient,” and 23% said it involved “providing excellent customer service.” The rest agreed that the patient experience meant “creating a healing environment,” was “consistent with what’s measured by HCAHPS,” or was something “other” than the options provided in the survey.

 Figure 1: How do you define patient experience?


Source: 2009 HealthLeaders Media Patient Experience Leadership Survey

From my perspective there is good news and bad news when it comes to patient experience.  The good news is that healthcare executives consider this to be one of their top-of-the-mind issues and the bad news is that there is no common definition around what exactly patient experience is, which could potentially make it harder to have quantifiable metrics.  Additionally financial considerations weigh quite heavily on the minds of healthcare executives when it comes to offering enhanced patient experience.  In fact this theme kept recurring during the HIMSS APJC conference in Singapore and was highlighted as a top barrier to offer enhanced patient experience. 

While we can debate about the exact definition about patient experience, one thing that is non-debatable is that healthcare is very personal and most of the time involves an emotional attachment between the care providers and patients.  I believe the key to addressing and measuring patient experience is ultimately going to come down to healthcare organizations ability to provide patient-centric services (ex: telehealth, excellent customer/guest services, etc.) in an economically viable way and doing so in a compassionate and caring way.  I believe that technology can play a key role in enabling healthcare organizations to provide superior patient experience at a cost-effective price point.  I also believe that innovation has to play a key role in this arena – both from a technology integration perspective as well as thinking outside the box to tackle age-old problems with creative approaches.

What do you think?

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  1. Tapan
    I’d agree with your view that patient experience (others call it patient centricity) is now a global objective for healthcare organisations.
    However, if you want to explore definitions of what this ambition actually means in practice, you need to add the opinions and experiences of patients (and carers) themselves into your Figure 1 list.
    I’ve spent 8 years researching how people living with chronic health conditions define their needs and the degree to which they’re being met. Whilst some of the needs are “clinical outcomes”, the majority are far more holistic, involving support from patient groups, community support workers and beyond.

    Healthcare professionals undoubtedly have the patients’ interests at heart, but their perspective is typically narrowed to the clinical field they specialise in, and do not see the wider patient journey (much divorced from official patient pathways).

    On a more detailed point, contrary to the hype in the industry, I’ve heard very few patients crying out for “tele heath”. Instead, they’d simply like to see some “joined-up” healthcare first, such as not having to run around the county to different facilities, hoping that their patient records will be there when they arrive! Joined-up also means clinicians having a better integrated understanding of how patient co-morbidities can be managed, rather than seeing health conditions as independent challenges to be tackled.