Who defines good patient experience?
Have you ever been in a store, where you found what you were looking for – quickly even – but your experience was so bad you vowed never to go back again? The same is true in health care, though the stakes are so much higher. It’s not just about getting care quickly. Your experience as a patient matters – not only for your perception of your care, but for your outcome.
Studies have shown good patient experience leads to better treatment adherence and more open communication from patients, which leads to better diagnosis. It can also reduce the anxiety we can feel when receiving medical care, which goes a long way toward empowering patients to be active participants in their health care.
But how do we know what constitutes a “good” patient experience? As Dr. Leana Wen says in an NPR story about one man’s terrible experience in a hospital setting, “The objective measures that health care workers focus on are necessary, but they’re not enough by themselves.” Patient experience should be part of the equation for good health care, as much as quality care and cost.
That’s why the Alliance has been asking patients regularly about their experience with primary care providers and publishing the results. Using a nationally approved survey instrument, the Alliance measures patient experience at the medical group and clinic level, so if you are in the Puget Sound, you can see how your medical group or clinic performs on these measures. The last survey, with results published in 2014, asked 90,000 people in the Puget Sound region questions that fit into four categories:
- How often patients were able to get timely appointments, care and information.
- How often providers communicated well with patients.
- How often office staff were helpful, courteous and respectful.
- The patient’s overall rating of the provider.
Starting this fall, we will begin conducting our third patient experience survey, this time to a broader geography including the Mt. Vernon, Bellingham and Spokane areas as well as parts of central Washington, so stay tuned for results. We are curious to learn how things have changed as the health care system has placed greater emphasis on patient experience and its impact on quality and value.