What’s the Difference? Patient Experience, Patient Satisfaction, Patient Engagement

Patient experience, satisfaction and engagement are intertwined, but each has slightly different nuances. In today’s age of medical consumerism, patients are taking a more active role in their healthcare, which means that patient expectations are elevated. They want more. They demand more. And their opinions matter more. 

What Is Patient Experience?

Patient experience, as defined by the Beryl Institute, is “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perception across the continuum of care.” Everything a practice does—from every single touchpoint to every time a patient or prospective patient even thinks about their healthcare provider—is all part of the patient experience.

Five things you can do to improve the patient experience in your practice are:

  1. Expand office hours, ensuring patients are able to get an appointment at a time that is convenient for them.
  2. Make it easy for patients to find a provider to treat their specific condition in their preferred location. Adding search functionality, like TriageTrak to your website, is an easy and cost-effective way to accomplish this.

Make telemedicine easily available to those who prefer to see a physician from the comfort and safety of their own home. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced patients to seek out greater flexibility. Make customer service a priority for all staff members and ensure they receive proper training. In reviews, patients often cite the cause of their poor experience as being a staff member interaction or action, and not the physician (for example call center, front desk). Get ahead of this by creating a customer service culture within the practice.

What Is Patient Satisfaction?

Patient experience and patient satisfaction may seem like the same thing–after all, having a good experience is satisfying. However, that’s not entirely true.

A patient could have a great experience and still be dissatisfied. For example, parking was a snap, there was little wait time, the front office staff was polite and helpful and the doctor had an easy and caring bedside manner. However, the patient wanted an MRI, but the doctor felt it was unwarranted, or the patient didn’t realize the office was out of network and they had to pay more. These two examples could lead to poor patient satisfaction despite all other touchpoints being optimized.

How does this happen? Patient satisfaction revolves around patient expectations. Satisfaction is a subjective measure; two patients could receive the same care but have differing levels of satisfaction. For this reason, patient satisfaction can be hard to get right and difficult to measure. 

Many practices use patient satisfaction surveys to determine how well patients’ expectations have been met. According to Joe Greskoviak, Vice-Chairman of Press Ganey, “patient satisfaction boils down to three points: communication, provider empathy, and care coordination.”

What is Patient Engagement?

Finally, we come to patient engagement. If patient experience is the sum of all touchpoints in the continuum of care, and patient satisfaction is about expectations, patient engagement is the willingness of patients to interact with a healthcare provider voluntarily. 

Patient engagement could be the willingness of a patient to seek out or receive education to become more healthy. When a patient ‘likes’ a practice’s Facebook post, this is a type of patient engagement and may have nothing to do with that patient’s treatment or health status. Leaving a review on a doctor’s profile is also a type of patient engagement.

With people taking a more active role in their healthcare decisions and ever-increasing numbers of people turning to the web for information about providers, it’s more important than ever that physicians encourage engagement from their patients. Here are just a few ways in which this can be achieved:

  1. Become a resource to patients for information regarding conditions and procedures. It’s nice to have materials in the office, but having a robust library of information on your website is even more impactful. This also serves a very important purposes beyond engaging patients. Search engine optimization (SEO), or how and where your website ranks for Google searches, is heavily influenced by the content that is on your website. Having a website that is rich with content is a vital factor in ensuring your practice will be found.
  2. Ask your patients for an online written review. One recent survey found that 60% of patients begin their search for a provider online, very often turning to other patients’ reviews before making their selection. For this reason, and also for the SEO value that online reviews carry, it’s important to have a good reputation. Both the quality and quantity of your reviews matter.
  3. Maintain active social media accounts. People love to share their experiences across social networks and there are plenty of statistics to demonstrate this. Having a presence on social media allows patients to do this with a click of a button. Social media is a great way to capture new patients with minimal investment.
  4. Make video a part of your ongoing content marketing plan. Consumers rely on video –66% of consumers use video as their primary source of information. Providing patients and prospective patients with videos to support the written content on your website will help improve their experience and increase engagement. Asking your happiest patients to take part in video testimonials goes a long way. With 1.5 billion users per month, YouTube is the second most used search engine. Having a channel where your videos (patient education, testimonials, doctor bios, etc.) can be found will lead to greater engagement.

At Points Group, we’re experts in helping to create patient-centered practices. We provide a roadmap to improve patient experience, administer and help you interpret patient satisfaction surveys and assist you in connecting with your patients on a meaningful level. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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