Patient Experience vs. Patient Satisfaction

Two concepts that are easily confused in the healthcare industry are patient experience and patient satisfaction. Although they sound similar, there are distinctions between the two that are important to know in order to improve the quality of care an organization provides. Handling people’s health and wellness should not be taken lightly, so patient experience and satisfaction are things that should be improved and reevaluated often.

Patient satisfaction refers to the extent to which a patient is content with the care they received from their healthcare provider. Because of the way survey questions are written, data on patient satisfaction is often a lot more subjective than data on patient experience. For example, one question that is commonly asked regarding satisfaction is “How satisfied are you with the care you received today?”. It can be hard to improve when all you know is that someone rated the care they received as “poor”.

Patient experience, on the other hand, is a much broader sum of all interactions that encompasses patient satisfaction. It’s defined as the range of interactions that patients have with the health care system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other health care facilities. As an essential element of healthcare quality, patient experience includes several aspects of healthcare delivery that are valued highly when one is seeking or receiving care, such as ease of setting up appointments, access to relevant information, and good communication with healthcare providers.

A key difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction is that patient satisfaction is mostly based on a patient’s expectations of how they think the encounter will go, while patient experience has more to do with whether something that should happen in a healthcare setting actually happened. As a result, evaluating patient experience is crucial when trying to improve effectiveness of care in order to create a more patient-centered experience. It’s the first step in putting patients first.

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