How is 'patient experience' different to 'patient satisfaction'? And why is it vital to monitor patient experience in real-time?
Fred Lee’s Ted Talk on Patient Satisfaction
The nurse entered the room with a needle in hand. With a smile, she approaches the patient and says “Hi there. I’ll be in charge of your daily blood draw today. Do you have any questions?
“Uhh…no.” Replies the patient nervously.
“Ok. Let’s begin then.” Says the nurse.
An awkward silence reigns for the next seven minutes. While the nurse focuses on getting the procedure done, the patient gets nervous. He starts thinking about that time someone told him that pinching the wrong vein can cause a bubble that goes to your heart and kills you.
His thoughts then focus on that one time his friend said they had to pinch him 17 times before finding the right vein to draw blood from.
Our patient is almost going into full panic mode now.
Eventually, the nurse finishes her blood draw.
“Will there be anything else?” She says.
“Uhh… no thank you.” Replies the patient.
“Ok. Then see you tomorrow!” Says the nurse as she exits the room.
And the patient just sits there dreading the experience all over again.
The above example was used by Fred Lee in his 2011 Ted Talk to explain what healthcare providers were doing since the 1980’s to measure “patient satisfaction.” Like ordering at any fast-food restaurant, healthcare staff were given scripts to memorize and told how to answer specific questions.
Patient satisfaction vs Patient Experience
To illustrate the difference between satisfaction and experience, Fred Lee presents the same story at the beginning of this article, but with another approach. Something similar to this:
The nurse comes in with a needle in hand. With a smile, she approaches the patient and says “Hi Ted. I’ll be doing your blood draw today. Say, haven’t I seen you around before? You seem like you’re from around here.”
Ted replies “Yeah, born and raised. I drive the local hardware store with my wife Mary Anne, and have two wonderful kids.
“Oh that’s great.” replies the nurse. “So what are your kids up to?”
As Ted tells the nurse about his kids, the only thing he feels is a slight pinch. Having to think about his kids distracts him from the ongoing procedure.
Halfway through telling the nurse about his kids, she replies “Looks like we’re all done, Ted. You did well! Are there any questions I can help you with?”
“Oh, that was quick!” replies Ted. “No, not right now thank you.”
“Alrighty. Then I’ll see you tomorrow again, and you can keep telling me about Jack and his Lacrosse team.”
As the nurse leaves, Ted looks forward to his conversation with the nurse the next day, and feels confident that his treatment is in good hands.
In the first example, the nurse provided a service but completely neglected the patient’s experience, leaving him nervous and concerned about future procedures. In the second example, the nurse not only asked Ted’s name, but also took the time to make him comfortable. By asking him some questions, she created a connection with Ted, and made the procedure much less stressful. She not only delivered professionally, but also created an excellent patient experience.
Performing a medical procedure correctly and asking if there’s anything else they can do for the patient is Patient Satisfaction. Ensuring that Ted feels comfortable and confident that he’s in good hands is Patient Experience.
Measuring and acting on patient experience in real-time
As a healthcare provider, what we’ve discussed so far is nothing new to you. You recognize the importance of ensuring each patient is treated like the nurse treated Ted. You probably have procedures to ensure staff are friendly towards patients and engage with them at every point of their journey with you.
The issue is scalability and speed.
How do you guarantee that every patient receives a top-notch experience, without putting extra strain on staff? How can you know what patients are feeling at every step of their journey, and take action when something’s not right?
Many healthcare providers use exit surveys the moment a patient is discharged from treatment, or place a call a few days after the appointment. These approaches capture feedback after a delay, which means they present a distorted result. Any conclusions would be based on this distortion. What they need is real-time feedback, but this is tricky: It’s hard to ask every patient, at every step, how they’re feeling right now.
When it comes to scaling real-time feedback, Ombea can help.
With Ombea, you can cover the patient’s entire journey and get actionable, real-time feedback that will help you scale your patient experience. Let’s start at the very beginning:
When a patient books an appointment online or over the phone, you would normally send them a confirmation email with their appointment details. In this email, you can embed a few quick questions to ask patients whatever you want. You can, for example, ask how kind the staff were over the phone, or how easy it was to use the appointment booking software.
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The patient has now shown up for their appointment. To measure their appointment experience, you could place an Ombea smiley terminal right outside the consulting room asking “How was your appointment today?” This will provide a global overview of how satisfied your patients are with appointments, but also help you understand if fluctuating levels of feedback are connected. For example, you might notice that positive responses take a dive when a particular team is on shift. You can then explore directly what’s going on with that team.
You can also ask the patient for more specific feedback using Ombea. Just send them a quick text or email with a series of open-text and smiley questions. This way you’ll get a deeper understanding of what happened at the appointment and how it shaped the patient’s perceptions, what went right or wrong, and what changes you should implement.