New Survey Shows Variation Among Primary Care Practices on Patient Experience, a Key Element of Health Care Quality


  • Patients consider provider communication more important than other elements of patient experience
  • 35% of males and 21% of females reported binge drinking at least some of the time
  • Nearly three-quarters of patients said they did not get help finding out the cost of a recommended health care treatment or medication beforehand

SEATTLE, Feb. 26, 2018 – A new report from the Washington Health Alliance shows that there is tremendous variation in how patients rate primary care clinics on their experience of care, with as much as 56 percentage point differences between the lowest and highest scoring clinics on important measures of patient experience.

The report, “Your Voice Matters: Patient Experience with Primary Care Providers in Washington State” is based on the Washington Health Alliance Patient Experience Survey, which was sent to 250,000 people across Washington state between August and November 2017. Patient experience refers to what happens to an individual when they are interacting with the health care system, based on their perceptions of those interactions. Survey questions focus on whether or not or how often certain events or behaviors happened during care, rather than on how satisfied patients feel.

The analysis identified six key drivers* that distinguish practices that are highly rated from practices that are lowly rated overall. Five of the six relate to provider communication and coordination of care. Combined, these six variables explain 75% of the variation in the overall provider rating.

“Patient experience is very important to patients and their families, and this report shows it’s critical for providers to make their communication with patients and coordination of their care a top priority,” said Susie Dade, deputy director of the Washington Health Alliance. “Identifying these six specific things that matter most to patients gives providers a clear roadmap to follow to improve patient experience.”

“Patient-centeredness” is now widely accepted as a core dimension of health care quality and, as a result, there is heightened market focus on patient experience. In addition, consumer awareness is growing, and experience of care is an important differentiator as patients decide on health care providers.

Research indicates there are positive relationships between a provider’s communication skills and a patient’s capacity and/or willingness to follow through with medical recommendations, self-manage a chronic condition and adopt preventive health behaviors. Studies show that the clinician’s ability to explain, listen and empathize can have a significant effect on biological and functional health outcomes.

While many medical groups take steps to periodically assess their patients’ experience using a variety of survey tools, the Alliance’s initiative is the only one of its kind to produce comparable, publicly available patient experience results for primary care providers in Washington state. The patient experience results for 114 primary care medical groups and 351 clinics are available at

Unhealthy alcohol use

Other questions on the survey asked about unhealthy alcohol use, also called binge drinking. Among the respondents, 35% of males and 21% of females reported that they have five or more drinks on one occasion, at least some of the time. Results revealed that about one-quarter of adults reporting that they have five or more drinks on one occasion every day or most days did not receive advice from their provider to drink less or not at all. Additionally, male respondents have a drink containing alcohol four or more times a week about twice as often as women (16.5% for men, 8.8% for women).

Cost of health care not readily available

Nearly three-quarters of patients (73%) said that before getting a recommended health care service (that would need to occur outside their routine office visit), their provider or someone in their provider’s office did not help them find out how much they would have to pay for it. This is an important finding that underscores the need for greater price transparency and assistance for patients to understand their out-of-pocket costs before receiving treatment.


*The six key drivers of overall patient satisfaction are:

  • How often did your provider listen carefully to you?
  • How often did your provider show respect for what you had to say?
  • How often did your provider seem to know the important information about your medical history?
  • How often did your provider explain things in a way that was easy to understand?
  • How often did your provider spend enough time with you?
  • How often did your provider seem informed and up-to-date about the care you got from specialists?

About the 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 (

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