As healthcare professionals, caring for patients is at the forefront of our endeavors. We want our patients to be the healthiest individuals they can be and we want them to be satisfied with the care we deliver to them at our practice. In the healthcare field, we throw around many buzzwords like patient engagement and patient experience interchangeably to reference patient satisfaction. When it comes down to it, these two terms are very different, and both paint a different story.
What is patient engagement?
Patient engagement refers to how engaged a patient is in his or her own health. This includes items like the individual using a practice’s patient portal solution to its fullest potential or the patient committing to following through with a prescription. Greater patient engagement leads to better health outcomes. Overall, patient engagement drills down to patients playing a larger role in the healthcare decision-making process based around more knowledgeable understanding of their own health.
Examples of patient engagement:
- Patients engaging with patient portals to schedule appointments, pay bills, ask questions, request medical records, and more
- Patient generated health data (PDHD) collected through wearables, submitted through various integrated EHR platforms like Vivify Health, and discussed in the exam room
- Patients responding to automated appointment reminder systems to confirm or cancel appointments
What is patient experience?
Patient experience is exactly how it sounds – it is what the patient experiences with the healthcare system. This includes experiences from all members of the care team: front office staff, nurses, providers, nurse practitioners, and more. How a patient receives care is integral to their overall patient experience. When it comes to patient experience, remember that it refers to whether something that should happen in the healthcare setting actually took place and how often that occurrence happened. For example, was there good communication? If there was, was the good communication carried through the visit, or just in the check in process, or the exam room?
Patient experience should not be confused with patient satisfaction. Patient satisfaction answers questions such as the following… Did they wait an excruciatingly long time in the waiting room before going back to the examination area? During the check-in process, how did the front office interact with patients? Was the doctor attentive to their needs while in the exam room? Each of these elements positively or negatively impacts a patient’s overall satisfaction with their care, however, it is not the same as patient experience.
Examples of patient experience:
- Ease or difficulty of contacting a practice to schedule or cancel an appointment or ask questions
- Face time spent with patients during examinations with providers answering questions and actively listening to health concerns and problems
- The positive or negative atmosphere of the office (front desk staff, lab, providers, nurses)
As you can see, patient engagement and patient experience are important to you as a provider and to your patients. There are many ways your organization can work towards engaging with patients and improving the patient experience.