Patient Experience: Perception Equals Reality
Patient experience is not synonymous with patient satisfaction.
The phrase “patient experience” has become so ubiquitous that it’s lost its meaning and its original intent is seemingly inexplicable.
A simple definition of patient experience is whether something that should have occurred, actually occurred. For example, did the provider “listen carefully” or “explain things clearly”?
A patient who understands their plan of care is more likely to adhere to recommended treatments and medications.
How It Started
In 2006, hospitals first began voluntary use the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey developed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Why now does CMS require that hospitals and some medical practices collect and report CAHPS data in order to receive their full annual payment update? Because patient experience measures are those most closely associated with patient engagement and positive clinical outcomes. CMS is basically placing a dashcam in every “vehicle” they insure, where the “vehicle” is the patient’s brain. Payment is based on dashcam data. This is the core of value-based purchasing.
Perception vs. Reality
Here’s where perception and reality intersect: the patient experience is the patient’s perception of their care. Whether the provider feels they communicated effectively or spent enough time with the patient is irrelevant. What matters is the patient’s perception of your communication style or how much time was spent together.
Reality: The provider spent 15 minutes 1:1 with the patient (within the national average).
Patient’s Perception: The provider may have spent much of the time focused on the EMR and documentation. Perhaps they didn’t sit down during the encounter. Or worse, they stood at the doorway with a hand on the door knob for the last half of the visit.
Patient’s Interpretation: The provider was too busy to actually engage with them during the time they had together.
Often, open-text comments from patient experience surveys offer a wealth of insight into the gap between perception and reality. The “hand on the doorknob” was a harsh awakening comment for one such provider.
Make A Change
There are simple methods to change patients’ perceptions without disrupting your workflow. For example, research indicates that sitting down during an encounter reduces visit time by 20 seconds while simultaneously sending a message that you have all the time in the world. Making eye contact, mirroring back what the patient has stated and asking open-ended questions are also ways to connect with patients and convey that you are listening to them.
Clarifying the definition of patient experience should help practices reset their actions and more clearly define the end goal of improving outcomes. Maybe patient experience surveys should be rebranded “patient perception” surveys.