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The Impact of Improved Patient Experiences

What Impact Does Improved Patient Satisfaction Have For A Hospital Organization?

Patient satisfaction is more important than ever as medical costs and insurance premiums rise and consumers find a greater financial risk associated with their own care. Consequently, patients have had to become more personally involved in their healthcare decisions, ensuring firsthand that they receive the most value for their investment.

Often this involves directly comparing the services provided by healthcare organizations. “Patients are increasingly shopping for healthcare services, and seeking the best possible overall experience when they need care,” said Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director of Accenture’s customer-relationship management offerings. “As a result, leading hospitals are growing profitability not by cutting costs, but by improving patient experience and satisfaction.”

The patient experience represents a critical component of your ability to attract and retain patients. When patients form positive relationships and begin to trust your providers, they become more engaged in their own care, and develop a stronger sense of loyalty to your organization.

The impact of a positive patient experience

Understanding and working to improve the patient experience is critical. Enhancing patient experience positively impacts your healthcare organization in three major ways.

    1. Increases patient engagement

      Better patient experiences, which involves seeing patients as unique individuals, increase the likelihood that they and their families or other caregivers will become more engaged in their own health outcomes. Multiple studies have connected higher levels of clinical outcomes to a focus on patient experience. Policy changes implemented by the Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center to increase patient and family engagement saw medication errors decrease by 62 percent, falls decrease by 40 percent, and length of stay decrease by 50 percent, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Additionally, improving clinical indicators can positively impact a wide variety of health outcomes, including pain control, functional status, emotional health, physiological measures, and symptom resolution, the AHRQ reported.

Building trusted partnerships between patients and their providers is important, as patients are more likely to ask questions and comply with recommended treatment plans when they have confidence in the people responsible for their care.

    1. Enhances an organization’s revenue

      Patient experience is increasingly being used by insurance payers as a metric to assess the quality of care that healthcare organizations are providing, and consequently is changing the way that those payers structure contractual agreements. New types of partnership between care facilities and payers, based explicitly on these factors, are becoming evident in the industry.

While reimbursement can play a role in improving your organization’s bottom line, the real value is found in enhancing patient experience to increase consumer loyalty. Estimates place the lifetime value of a patient at approximately $1.4 million—and when patients have a bad experience and choose to go elsewhere, that money goes with them, along with anyone influenced by their negative reviews online. According to the national average, over 32% of people who visit a hospital website say reviews are the most important thing on the site. 

  1. Improves an organization’s reputation

    Today, patients can easily go online to compare the scores and ratings of healthcare organizations. Word-of-mouth reviews of services will become more and more important, due to increasing competition between healthcare providers and the growing use of online communications. This can have either a positive or negative impact on patient retention.

“It really is patient experience overall that drives people toward the providers they choose. With the increasing amount of transparency that we talked about, patients can see what others think about you,” said Lori Kondas, MBA, senior director for the office of patient experience at the Cleveland Clinic, in an interview with HealthLeaders Media. “It’s sort of like TripAdvisor. You can go anywhere and learn about a healthcare system—and not just about what the quality of care was, but how [consumers] were treated.”

Reputation based on patient experience impacts whether or not patients return to an organization or recommend it to those in their social network—which, as previously mentioned, affects your bottom line. The Advisory Board Company reported that a 10 percent increase in customer loyalty could generate more than $22 million in revenue for the average hospital.

Importance of Timely Patient Feedback

Patient-reported data is important for improving the patient experience. However, traditional methods of collecting this data, such as mailed questionnaires, deliver delayed results. Consequently, the limited information they are able to provide is not particularly helpful, despite the lengths that care facilities go to collect it.

The way to maximize the value of this information is to collect feedback more rapidly. Real-time data provides greater benefits, since feedback is relayed back to the organization within 24-72 hours after the healthcare encounter.  Real-time data allows organizations to act on feedback with greater responsiveness, increasing provider engagement in patient care and enabling the improvement of existing practices.

The speed of feedback results allows for greater understanding of the patient experience, giving your organization immediate insight into the emerging trends and potential challenges that must be addressed. And when you are able to properly prioritize your efforts to improve the patient experience, you will have more success in improving the overall quality of their care.

By better understanding your patients overall experiences, you are able to create experiences that inspire loyalty and trust, benefiting both your organization and the people you care for.

The Link Between Patient Experience and Hospital Reputation

When you get your daily vanilla latte, you know what to expect every single time—a great cup of Joe. And because of your positive morning (or afternoon) experience, you’ll keep going back. Does this same notion apply in healthcare? Absolutely.

But if you had a poor experience at your hospital, would you go back? Probably not.

It’s not rocket science that when you have a positive, favorable consumer experience with a product or service, you will keep going back for more—you may even adopt brand loyalty. However, as simple as this sounds, healthcare providers are not always “getting it right.”

According to a study by the National Research Corporation Market Insights Survey, the largest healthcare consumer survey in the U.S., 8% of patients said their hospital experience was poor enough to not recommend the healthcare facility to family or friends. In addition, 9% of patients rated their overall hospital care and services poorly.

When patients have a highly engaged, positive experience with their hospital, it’s a win-win situation. Hospital reputation is everything. And this rings true even more so today, since the patient experience is tied to hospital reimbursements.

Why Hospital Reputation Matters

  • Patient experience is important.

    It’s important because treating patients well is the right thing to do. It’s important because a positive patient experience is related to better health outcomes (including lower readmission rates). It’s important because Value Based Purchasing has tied Medicare reimbursement to HCAHPS scores. It’s also important, we have found, because of its impact on hospital reputation.

  • Hospital reputation is important.

    Why should hospitals care about their reputations? Hospital reputation plays a part in the selection process among would-be patients. Approximately nine in 10 people indicate that reputation is important when selecting a hospital. Further, once an individual selects and utilizes a hospital, he or she is more likely to utilize that same facility for future healthcare needs (pending a positive experience, of course).

  • Hospital reputation is related to patient experience.

    Our research has shown that hospitals providing positive patient experiences have better reputations. In other words, hospitals that are rated highly by their discharged patients are also rated highly by the general public (whether they’ve had a direct hospital experience or not).

  • We’ve found evidence to support an important chain of events. Patient experience drives reputation.

    Reputation drives utilization. Utilization drives future utilization.

  • Some aspects of reputation are more closely related to patient experience than others.

    The top five correlates, in descending order, are:

    1. Most personalized care
    2. Best accommodations
    3. Highest patient safety
    4. Best nurses
    5. Best overall quality
  • Today’s patient experience is related to tomorrow’s reputation.

    It takes time for reputations to form and change, and there is evidence of lag-time in the relationship between patient experience and hospital reputation. Correlations are strongest when patient experience is measured at the first time, and reputation is measured at the second time and six months later. This lag relationship indicates that the quality of the patient experience being administered in a hospital today is significantly related to the reputation of that hospital six months from now.

  • “Bad” hospital reputations are even more important.

    Facilities delivering poor patient experiences are four times more likely to have poor reputations than facilities delivering good patient experiences. Bad news travels fast and wide. In order to improve a poor reputation brought on by a poor patient experience, facilities would be wise to turn their attention inward and focus on improving the experiences they provide their patients.

  • We have a roadmap.

    The figure below is designed for healthcare leaders who would like to explore potential improvement strategies based on where their facilities are situated on the continuum of patient experience and reputation. While all strive to be in the top right category, scoring well on both patient experience and reputation, the reality is that the majority of facilities will find themselves located in one of the other three groups. Facilities in the top or bottom groups on the left side would do well to focus on the patient experience first and foremost. As we’ve learned, if the quality of patient experience is low, there is little that can be done effectively in terms of marketing and advertising. Facilities in the bottom right quadrant (high quality patient experience, but with reputations not reflective of that), should put resources into spreading the word and advertise the strength of their patient experience. It’s important that those in the community are made aware of the high-caliber care being delivered.

Conclusion

Learn more
To get an in-depth look at understanding the link between the patient experience and the hospital reputation, click here to view the executive summary for this research brief.

Sound off
As a healthcare provider, how are you making sure your patients are having a positive experience? What does your hospital reputation mean to you? Tell us in our comments section below.

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