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3 Interdependent Variables Defining the Patient Experience

Each factor contributing to the patient experience depends on the other for success.

Patient experience is defined by a series of interdependent variables.

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- Healthcare professionals can define the patient experience by a series of interdependent categories, including facility organization, care outcomes, and healthcare design, according to a study published in the journal Patient Experience.

“Today, traditional processes are being challenged because patient outcomes have become the basis of healthcare reimbursements and incentives,” the research team explained. “While published research continually claims that patient experience is one of the main priorities of healthcare organizations, patients too, are persistently seeking high quality care and service from providers.”

Organizations that deliver superior customer service tend to see net margins 50 percent higher than those that deliver average customer service, the researchers reported. This financial incentive should compel more healthcare professionals to understand the factors that weigh into creating a positive patient experience and how those factors relate to one another.

Through an extensive literature review, as well as interviews with healthcare professionals, hospital architects, and patient advocacy organizations, the researchers identified three broad categories that define the patient experience: facility organization, care outcomes, and healthcare design.

Within those three categories, the researchers identified six variables: patient engagement, admission and discharge processes, patient and staff satisfaction, clinical effectiveness, patient safety, and personalization.

READ MORE: Negative Patient Experience Tied to More Surgical Complications

Patient engagement is an organization variable, meaning it depends on the healthcare organization’s culture and practices for exchanging ideas and information between the patient and provider. Techniques such as shared decision-making and patient data sharing define patient engagement because they allow patients to play a role in their own treatment.

The admission and discharge process is also an organization variable and depends on a meaningful culture of patient engagement. During admission, healthcare professionals must identify patient needs and collect patient data and other information.

During discharge, clinicians must clearly communicate post-discharge follow-ups and self-management efforts. Clinicians should also clearly communicate instructions for at-home care when necessary with patients and family caregivers.

“Admission and discharge process, the sixth most frequently mentioned variable, shapes patients’ experiences by creating the first and last impression of a facility,” the research team pointed out.

“Often, there is only one opportunity at making a positive and lasting impression on a patient,” the researchers continued. “Courtesy, responsiveness from staff and clear communication during appointment scheduling and admissions, can directly impact patient satisfaction and set the tone for the future patient-provider relationship.”

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Outcome variables include patient satisfaction, clinical effectiveness, and patient safety. These three interdependent factors all relate to whether a treatment worked and improved a patient’s overall health status.

The research team noted that organizations with higher patient satisfaction scores tend to have better clinical outcomes. Additionally, better patient safety scores usually correlate with better clinical outcomes, the researchers said.

Personalization was the core design variable, the researchers reported.

“Personalization in healthcare is not only limited to experiences that are specific to one’s preferences but also offers a personalized treatment plan,” the team explained. “Several studies suggest that training providers in delivering personalized care should be a priority because personalizing the patient experience improves outcomes.”

Personalization can also extend beyond an individualized longitudinal health plan. Personalization should apply to the patient experience within the hospital environment.

READ MORE: How Hospitals Can Raise Patient Satisfaction, CAHPS Scores

“A setting filled with personal favorites that welcomes families by providing tailored amenities could neutralize the negative effects of stress and anxiety while improving the comfort level of both patients and family members,” the researchers wrote.

“Using pre-arrival patient surveys as a tool to inquire about patient preferences, such as a favorite magazine, food, color etc., to provide personalized patient rooms and other services, has been well received in healthcare organizations,” the team continued.

Each of these variables cannot generate a positive patient experience without the other, the researchers pointed out.

“The review of these three categories and analysis of each individual variable suggests that facility design in combination with operational models can generate outcomes that create a positive experience,” the research team said. “The study also finds that the six identified variables demonstrate strong interrelationships and possess the ability to influence each other.”

For example, when there is a streamlined and informative discharge process, patients and family caregivers are more engaged, patient safety goes up, and patient satisfaction rises.

Understanding how each of these variables relies on the others is key to driving a successful patient experience improvement initiative, the researchers said.

“Essentially, patient experience can be improved by considering the entire spectrum of variables because patient experience is the ‘sum of all interactions,’” the research team concluded. “Addressing any one variable, in isolation, may not generate the desired outcome.”