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Defining Patient Experience

The definition of the patient experience varies depending on the healthcare leader you ask, according to a recent article published in Modern Healthcare.

And that uncertain definition is frustrating in the industry, says Dr. Jim Merlino, president and chief medical officer at Press Ganey.

Joan Kelly, chief patient experience officer for NYU Langone Health System in New York City, says the patient experience is about having better health outcomes and well-being for people.

“The reality is, people don’t choose this,” Kelly says. “They only want to use it when something is wrong. It’s very different from a purchasing mindset.”

The Beryl Institute, a global community that focuses on improving the patient experience, defines the patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Imagine a patient in a doctor’s office who waits for 45 minutes to see a physician.

The patient’s name finally gets called by the nurse. The patient walks into one of the rooms. The nurse asks the patient what is wrong. He tells her he feels sick. The nurse then walks out of the room and the patient waits for another 30 minutes until the doctor sees him.

The doctor asks the patient about his symptoms, then tells him to come back in a few weeks if he doesn’t feel better. This takes the doctor only five minutes. The patient feels like the doctor does not value his time.

That same patient chooses a new doctor.

Patient Experience for Patient Loyalty

Patient experience (quality and patient satisfaction) is part of the “Triple Aim” of healthcare, a framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which also consists of improving the health of populations and reducing per capita cost of healthcare.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “Patients keep or change providers based on experience.”

According to the agency, “Relationship quality is a major predictor of patient loyalty. One study found patients reporting the poorest-quality relationships with their physicians were three times more likely to voluntarily leave the physician’s practice than patients with the highest-quality relationships.”

Strong patient-physician relationships are an essential component of the customer experience, and it can impact patient retention rates.  

You might also like: Customer Success Story: Nicklaus Children’s Hospital

Patient Experience for Better Health

The patient experience is not only for business results. Perhaps the most important outcome of investing in patient experience is to improve patients’ health. 

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there is increasing evidence that patient experience is an important part of both clinical and business outcomes. At the clinical level, improving the patient experience is important for prevention and disease management: patients with better healthcare experiences usually have better health outcomes.

If a patient has a heart attack, for example, studies have shown that more positive reports about the patient’s experience lead to improved health outcomes one year after discharge, according to an article published in JAMA.

How Can Healthcare Providers Improve the Patient Experience?

Listen to patients. You can understand what patients think about your services from places like online reviews and social media. 

Robert Prieto, web marketing manager for Miami Children’s Health System, says leadership teams in the organization use patient experience insights to understand what the community is saying about the services at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

“For example,” he says, “the outpatient leadership teams are provided a monthly report that incorporates all the reviews that pertain to their corresponding centers and they can ask questions such as, ‘Where are gaps in services,” and ‘Where can we enhance or expand our services?’”

Megan Wenzl

Megan is the Associate Editor for ReviewTrackers. She's a writer who is committed to finding useful information to help your business succeed. Megan holds an M.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago.


  1. Roberta G. Cooper

    Increasingly hospitals are cognisant that developing better patient experience is essential – not just for the obvious quality and safety reasons, but as a key competitive differentiate. And they’re learning that better and more easily accessible data is key to making that happen.