Patient Experience Week: What to Know About Quality Clinical Experiences
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“A focus on patient experience can lead to positive outcomes from a clinical perspective, as well as in financial impact, consumer loyalty, community reputation, and workplace satisfaction.”
Dr. Christina Gardiner, Professor in the Department of Healthcare Services Management at the University of Maryland Global Campus
This year’s Patient Experience Week (PX Week) takes place from April 26-30, 2021. It’s a time to celebrate how healthcare staff impacts the patient experience, and an opportunity to re-energize the conversation around what constitutes a positive patient experience. Healthcare administrators, clinicians, support staff, and patients are all stakeholders when it comes to the concept of patient experience, and PX Week is a chance to bring them together.
Patient experience has never been more important. Every year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) increase the weight they put on patient experience measurements. By 2023, patient experience will count for more than clinical outcomes. But patient experience isn’t the same thing as patient satisfaction: the latter hinges upon whether subjective expectations are met, while the former measures against objective standards.
Patient experience is a concept that influences, and is influenced by, all members of a healthcare organization. But it’s also in a state of continuous evolution, affected by emerging research, best practices, shifting regulations, and external components.
To learn more about patient experience, and where it’s going, read on.
Meet the Expert: Christina Gardiner, PhD, CSSBB, LNHA
Dr. Christina Gardiner has served since 2018 as a Professor in the Department of Healthcare Services Management at the University of Maryland Global Campus, College of Business & Management. She is the President of Summit Healthcare Advisors and has over two decades of executive healthcare experience. She has taught a variety of subjects including healthcare administration, public health, quantitative and qualitative analysis, finance, and business management.
Dr. Gardiner has advised both private firms and nonprofit organizations on issues related to value-based healthcare, healthcare system competition, market allocation, patient safety, and health policy. She is known for being a trusted consultant, educator, and subject matter expert on complex healthcare systems as well as evidence-based interventions that support public health responses.
Over the past five years, Dr. Gardiner has conducted over 100 speaking engagements on topics related to value-based healthcare, public health preparedness, and neurological disorders. She also engages in public health projects such as large-scale nursing home evacuation preparedness, conducts Alzheimer’s research using artificial neural networks, and performs data analysis for nonprofit organizations and post-secondary institutions.
Dr. Gardiner is actively involved with research on healthcare quality, safety, and costs, along with disease-specific conditions, leveraging healthcare information technology programming.
Defining Patient Experience
“Patient experience can be described as the patient’s perception of their health issue and interactions that patients, and long-term care residents, have with a provider or healthcare entity,” Dr. Gardiner says. “One could view patient experience as all activities and interactions that influence a patient’s perceptions. Patient experience should also be seen as a part of the organization’s culture, as this aspect of healthcare can influence patient health outcomes, community reputation, the ability to maintain or attract managed care plans, and the potential to impact reimbursement in most settings.”
There’s also evidence suggesting that patient experience leads to better health outcomes: processes around effective provider-patient communication reinforce patient adherence to medical advice, for example. That’s part of the reason why healthcare systems are switching over from a fee-for-service model to a value-based care model; the latter prioritizes patient experience and incentivizes healthcare organizations to put the patient’s needs at the center of care.
How Administrators and Staff Shape Patient Experience
Healthcare administrators play a critical role in shaping patient experience within a healthcare organization. They can adjust the budget, audit business operations, and optimize organizational processes to focus on patient experience. But their most powerful tool is in recruiting and retaining quality staff who share their vision of putting the patient first.
“All roles influence patient experience, from the healthcare provider that is caring for the patient to the billing department,” Dr. Gardiner says. “Everything and everyone that works in a healthcare organization shape the perception of an individual’s care process: the dietary department providing nutritious food, the environmental services providing a clean atmosphere as well as clutter-free areas, the information technology department ensuring the systems are working properly, and the engineering department designing ways to improve a patient care area.”
The Future of Patient Experience
“A focus on patient experience can lead to positive outcomes from a clinical perspective, as well as in financial impact, consumer loyalty, community reputation, and workplace satisfaction,” Dr. Gardiner says. “When an individual has a better experience, then better health outcomes can be achieved, which has been supported through numerous studies. Additionally, happier patients can result in a happier workforce, a lower malpractice risk, a boost to financial success, and an increased competitive advantage.”
Patient experience has been turned upside down during the Covid-19 pandemic. Healthcare organizations have gotten a crash course in telehealth; providers have had to learn how to communicate effectively through PPE; administrators have had to reinvent visitation policies to take virtual visits into account; and healthcare organizations have had to work to coordinate care under restrictive and overburdened conditions.
But some of the recent changes in patient experience may be for the better, and stick around after the pandemic ends. Integration with digital health services is part of the path forward. With better data and better connectivity, healthcare organizations can not only improve patient access to care but revise policies to achieve a level of patient experience that mitigates some of the health disparities currently seen in the healthcare system.
“The future of patient experience can be considered one of the biggest influences to the care delivery process,” Dr. Gardiner says. “Patient experience is shaped through advancements in technology, clinical process improvement, workflow procedures, and placing the patient at the center of all care delivery interactions. It is imperative that teaching institutions understand the ability that patient experience has in our healthcare delivery system, and create future healthcare workers, non-patient facing and patient-facing, with a means for supporting accessible, unbiased, and scalable healthcare delivery processes.”
Patient Experience Resources
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- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): AHRQ is the lead federal agency charged with improving the safety and quality of America’s healthcare system. Get more information on how they view patient experience here.
- The Beryl Institute: The sponsor of PX Week, The Beryl Institute is a global community of practice committed to elevating the human experience in healthcare. Check out their PX 101 resource, a comprehensive learning package for centering patient experience within an organization.
- Patient Experience Journal (PXJ): Read in over 200 countries and territories, PXJ is committed to disseminating rigorous knowledge and expanding the global conversation on evidence and innovation in patient experience. You can find a recent article about the future of healthcare here.