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Patient satisfaction. Patient experience. Patient engagement. Patient-centered care. Patient retention. 

There are so many patient-focused phrases in healthcare that it can be difficult to differentiate between them. Perhaps the most confusing, though, is deciphering between patient experience and patient satisfaction, especially because both drive patient-centered care. 

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), patient experience consists of the range of interactions patients have with the healthcare system, including the care they receive from physicians, nurses, and health plans along with staff in hospitals and health systems, medical groups, and other healthcare facilities.  

Basically, a patient’s experience is based on what should happen during their appointment and whether that actually occurred. It’s their perception of the care they receive. Not only can it be impacted by the way physicians engage with them, but it also is often influenced by non-clinical elements, such as typical wait times, online scheduling capabilities, availability of parking, and other seemingly non-essential components. 

Patient satisfaction, conversely, points to whether a patient’s expectations of what should happen were adequately met. Here’s where it gets a little tricky: two patients might have different levels of satisfaction, even if they received the same care. Why? Because they had varying subjective expectations. 

Now that you know the primary differences between these two ways of measuring how a patient views the care he or she receives, we’ll delve into each one a little more. We’ll also identify how your healthcare organization can improve both. 

The Ins and Outs of Patient Experience 

Positive patient experiences don’t occur by chance. They require meeting a patient’s preferences, not rushing them, and making them feel like they’re being listened to. A favorable patient experience also includes providing them the option to schedule an appointment online, check-in for their visit, and make payments. 

What’s one of the biggest parts of promoting a positive patient experience? Communication. Effective provider-patient communication improves quality of care while reducing the cost of it, decreases clinician stress and burnout, promotes staff teamwork and collaboration, and results in fewer complaints and readmissions. On the opposite side, long wait times, an unclean waiting room, a feeling of being rushed by the clinician, and a seemingly inefficient front-office staff all have the potential to ruin a patient’s experience with your practice. 

Ensuring your patients have a good experience does more than result in positive reviews. As AHRQ notes, patients with better care experiences often have better health outcomes. They’re also more likely to adhere to your medical advice and treatment plans, utilize fewer healthcare services, and engage in prevention and disease management processes of care. That means more loyal patients for your medical group — not to mention higher sustained revenue and reimbursement. 

Unfortunately, a negative patient experience has the potential to cost your medical group through a lower retention rate, a damaged reputation, and decreased profitability. After a bad experience, some patients will quit making appointments with your practice — especially if they experience lengthy wait times. They may cancel scheduled appointments or not show up for them at all. Plus, patients with negative experiences will most likely tell family and friends about it through word-of-mouth or bad online reviews. 

Promoting Patient Satisfaction 

The most common method used by the healthcare industry for measuring patient satisfaction is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which is backed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It gives healthcare providers insight into various aspects of medicine, including the effectiveness of their care and their level of empathy. 

There are many factors that have the potential to impact patient satisfaction, including expectations of care, communication with and responsiveness of the provider and his or her staff, pain management, cleanliness, timeliness of phone calls, appointments, and test results. 

Satisfied patients provide a boon to your medical group in a variety of ways, from less physician burnout to a more financially and operationally sustainable practice. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that practices that act on patient satisfaction data can:

  • Inform quality improvement efforts
  • Make informed staffing decisions
  • Gain a competitive edge
  • Improve patients’ health, compliance, and confidence in treatment
  • Inform contract negotiations
  • Use the information to contradict negative ratings/profiles
  • Give patients a constructive outlet to provide feedback on their experience
  • Reduce malpractice suits
  • Prepare for and improve performance on federal and private initiatives
  • Show patients that their physicians care about their input.

Failing to promote patient satisfaction can cost you — a lot. Industry estimates put the loss of a patient due to dissatisfaction at more than $200,000 in income over the lifetime of a practice. 

Keys to Ensuring a Favorable Patient Experience to Improve Satisfaction 

There are many ways to improve your patients’ satisfaction and ensure they routinely have a positive patient experience. As we explained in a previous blog, five easy-to-implement recommendations include: making a positive first impression, providing patient-centered care, communicating effectively, being transparent about price, and prioritizing privacy and security. 

Boosting patient satisfaction and experience also requires supporting technologies, especially in a digitally-dominant world where healthcare consumerism is pivotal. When your medical group optimally deploys digital tools that streamline patient tasks like scheduling, registration, and payment, you comply with patient preferences that hugely impact satisfaction and experience — and engagement. 

If your goal is to keep your patients engaged and connected by bringing together services in a way that’s seamless, fast, convenient, and accessible, Epion Health and Kyruus have you covered. We provide a seamless search, scheduling, and digital patient intake offering to fully digitize the patient experience and boost patient satisfaction. Contact a member of our team to learn more!