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Good patient experience can lead to better health

When you enter a doctor’s office, what kind of experience do you have? Does the staff treat you with respect? Does your doctor listen to you and seem to know your medical history? Are you able to get a timely appointment when you need it? Do you get reminders for your preventive health screenings or for recommended vaccinations? When you have tests performed, or are waiting for a follow-up, does your provider’s office get back to you in a timely manner?

If you answered yes to those questions, then you likely had a good patient experience. Your experience as a patient matters – not only for your perception of your care, but for your health.

What is patient experience?

Patient experience focuses on the key patient interactions shown to be the most important to patients and linked to better health. This is different than patient satisfaction, which measures your feelings about the health care you have received. Studies have shown that, unlike patient experience, high patient satisfaction scores are not related to how likely you are to have better health overall.

Patients are the best source of information about their experience. That’s why the Alliance has been asking patients regularly about their experience with primary care providers and publishing the results. In early 2016, the latest survey will be published and will cover medical groups and clinics in the Puget Sound, Mt. Vernon, Bellingham and Spokane areas as well as parts of central Washington. The last survey, with results published in 2014, asked 90,000 people in the Puget Sound region questions that fit into four categories:

  1. How often patients were able to get timely appointments, care and information.
  2. How often providers communicated well with patients.
  3. How often office staff were helpful, courteous and respectful.
  4. The patient’s overall rating of the provider.
  5. Care coordination (public reporting of this measure to start first quarter of 2016)

How can you get what you need?

Search for a primary care team that is committed to an excellent patient experience by going to the Community Checkup website to see how your clinic scores on the latest patient experience survey.

Ask questions and take notes. Patients have a role to play in ensuring a good experience. Come to your appointment prepared with a list of questions and be ready for discussion. Make sure you understand everything the doctor is saying before leaving.

Know you have options. If your expectations are not being met, talk to your doctor about your concerns. And if necessary, look for a new doctor.

Patient experience should be part of the equation for high-value health care, as much as quality and cost. Learn more about how to find high-value health care and how to be a savvy health care shopper.

This post is third in a series called The Savvy Health Care Shopper. The Washington Health Alliance is partnering with the Washington State Health Care Authority’s Healthier Washington initiative to educate consumers on finding value in health care.

Published: November 25, 2015

About Washington Health Alliance

The Washington Health Alliance is a place where stakeholders work collaboratively to transform Washington state’s health care system for the better. The Alliance brings together organizations that share a commitment to drive change in our health care system by offering a forum for critical conversation and aligned efforts by stakeholders: purchasers, providers, health plans, consumers and other health care partners. The Alliance believes strongly in transparency and offers trusted and credible reporting of progress on measures of health care quality and value. The Alliance is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit with more than 185 member organizations. A cornerstone of the Alliance's work is the Community Checkup, a report to the public comparing the performance of medical groups, hospitals and health plans and offering a community-level view on important measures of health care quality (www.wacommunitycheckup.org).

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