What Is Patient Experience?
Patient Experience Defined
Patient experience encompasses 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. As an integral component of healthcare quality, patient experience 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 health care providers.
Understanding patient experience is a key step in moving toward patient-centered care. By looking at various aspects of patient experience, one can assess the extent to which patients are receiving care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values. Evaluating patient experience along with other components such as effectiveness and safety of care is essential to providing a complete picture of health care quality.
Patient Experience Differs from Patient Satisfaction
The terms patient satisfaction and patient experience are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. To assess patient experience, one must find out from patients whether something that should happen in a healthcare setting (such as clear communication with a provider) actually happened or how often it happened.
Satisfaction, on the other hand, is about whether a patient’s expectations about a health encounter were met. Two people who receive the exact same care, but who have different expectations for how that care is supposed to be delivered, can give different satisfaction ratings because of their different expectations.
CAHPS Surveys Measure Patient Experience
While there are various ways to gather information on patient experience, CAHPS surveys have become critical tools for organizations interested in assessing the patient-centeredness of the care they deliver and identifying areas for improvement. CAHPS surveys do not ask patients how satisfied they were with their care; rather, they ask patients to report on the aspects of their experiences that are important to them and for which they are the best, and sometimes the only source of information. Because the surveys ask well-tested questions using a consistent methodology across a large sample of respondents, they generate standardized and validated measures of patient experience that providers, consumers, and others can rely on.
Learn more: How CAHPS Surveys Measure Patient Experience— An interview of Susan Edgman-Levitan, PA, Executive Director, John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-principal investigator of the Yale CAHPS team.
Relating Patient Experience to Other Quality Measures
A positive patient experience is an important goal in its own right. Moreover, substantial evidence points to a positive association between various aspects of patient experience, such as good communication between providers and patients, and several important healthcare processes and outcomes. These processes and outcomes include patient adherence to medical advice, better clinical outcomes, improved patient safety practices, and lower utilization of unnecessary healthcare services.
Some studies show no association between patient experience and clinical processes and outcomes, but this is not surprising. Many factors other than patient experience can influence processes and outcomes. This is part of the reason why combining patient experience measures with other measures of quality is critical to creating an overall picture of performance.
CAHPS Surveys: Sorting Fact From Fiction—An interview of Rebecca Anhang-Price, Policy Researcher; Associate Director, Health Services Delivery Systems, RAND.
Interview with Susan Edgman-Levitan on patient-experience measures and their relationship to health outcomes—Audio interview of Susan Edgman-Levitan, executive director of the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital. Supplement to the N Engl J Med 2013; 368:201-203.
Cleary PD. Evolving Concepts of Patient-Centered Care and the Assessment of Patient Care Experiences: Optimism and Opposition. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 2016. 41(4):675–96.
Anhang Price R, Elliott MN, Zaslavsky AM, et al. Examining the Role of Patient Experience Surveys in Measuring Health Care Quality. Medical Care Research and Review 2014 July. 71(5):522–54.
Shaller D. Patient-Centered Care: What Does It Take? The Commonwealth Fund, October 2007.