Everyone has agreed to the strategies of The Triple Aim: Improving the health of populations, reducing the per capita cost of healthcare, and improving the patient experience of care. Providers and purchasers, including employers and government agencies who purchase health care, have been focused on reducing costs and have started to measure and report on quality. The area of improving patient experience in health care is proving to be challenging.
The Beryl Institute’s current definition for patient experience is, “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care.”
There are some key challenges in improving patient experience. First, there is the issue of problem recognition, that is recognizing it is an important aspect of care that needs to be addressed. Second, there is the issue of producing evidence that improving patient experience will result in improved clinical and quality outcomes. The third issue is accountability and responsibility, since a patient interacts and experiences healthcare in different settings with a wide range of healthcare workers. The fourth issue is that patient experience is multidimensional requiring transformation in care delivery by both healthcare workers and the healthcare organization, including implementation of interactions and communication with patients. The fifth issue is the evidence for effective solutions is not robust, so it is not entirely clear what and how healthcare organizations and healthcare workers need to do that will result in improvements in the patient experience.
Despite these challenges, employers can take several strategies to address patient experience, including:
- Use standardized tools to measure patient experience: This requires measurement of patient experience from the providers in the network and your carrier or administrator through the use of one or more nationally recognized tools, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS), and Patient Activation Measure® (PAM®).
- Tie the results of patient experience to performance guarantees: In order to communicate the important of improving patient experience, employers are including performance guarantees into contracts with carriers/administrators as well as with provider networks, such as narrow networks, accountable care organizations, centers of excellence, and other provider networks.
- Expect improvements in patient experience over time: Employers should receive reports that reflect improvements in patient experience, and if not, there should be improvement plans presented that demonstrate how they will improve the experience with timeframes.
Implementing these kinds of strategies will support employers and providers as they strive to improve patient experience as employees navigate the complex healthcare system. This will require providers to transform care into a more patient-centered service delivery model, and carriers/administrators will need to focus on their historically low satisfaction scores. Ultimately, patients will benefit from this focus on meeting their needs.