The patient experience has become the center of attention for the practice.  Physicians, Practice Managers, staff alike are beginning to understand that the patient experience begins at the point when the patient pulls into the parking lot of the facility/practice and follows through the time that the patient checks out after their visit.  Organizations that instill this commitment and provide a culture that focuses on patient’s experience have an improvement in clinical quality, better patient outcomes and improved staff engagement.

Practices that put the emphasis on better understanding the patient’s expectations and care experience (including patient-respect, better coordination of care, partnership in patient care and efficiency of care) can improve overall patient satisfaction. Ultimately, this will enable the practice to strive for and reach “best practices.”   Most importantly, let your patients know you care about their experience and are soliciting their feedback.  If you are conducting random monthly surveys, put a poster in the patient exam room indicating that the patient may receive a survey.  Thank patients for providing feedback by providing patients with feedback of what the practice has done to improve the patient experience and the overall encounter.

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Improving the patient experience is a key component of the Patient Centered Medical Home.  Organizations such as the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) look at key factors in assessing the patient experience as: access, communication, coordination of care and whole-person care.  NCQA is looking to attain information from the practices on how they are obtaining feedback from patients/families on their experience with the practice and their overall score [1]. This feedback is invaluable in learning more about the patients and their families.

Practices which are assessing the patient experience are also engaging in a number of different activities to capture and share valuable feedback, such as:

  • (1) Hosting staff meetings that dedicate time to improve overall staff and patient relations, providing time to offer a “critical eye” to the practice.  By simply putting yourself in the patient’s “shoes” a Practice Manager can glean a tremendous amount about how the patient is perceived and treated throughout their encounter.
  • (2) Conduct quality audits and host quality meetings in which the practice team looks for opportunities to improve the patient’s experience.  Review the patient satisfaction survey results and/or review qualitative feedback that may be provided in a patient suggestion box.  Perhaps, even ask the patient if they have a few moments to talk about the day’s experience after they have checked out.  Take the time to respond to patient feedback and learn from their experiences and the candid feedback.
  • (3) Adopt Studer’s AIDET guidelines for communicating with patients and their families as well as the office team:
    1. Acknowledge
    2. Introduce
    3. Duration
    4. Explanation
    5. Thank you

Always think about how YOU would want to be acknowledged and communicated with.  Adopt the mantra, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”

  • (4) Organizations, such as the Cleveland Clinic have created and adopted their standards of care, entitled: S.T.A.R.T. for all patient, family interactions and others, which include:
    1. Smile and greet warmly
    2. Tell your name, role, and what to expect
    3. Active listening and assist
    4. Rapport/relationship building
    5. Thank the person

These are a few principles that will provide a framework to improve the patient experience.  By adopting these, your practice can begin providing patients, their family members and fellow-workers with the respect, courtesy and loyalty that is paramount to building and maintaining a positive encounter.

[1]  NCQA PPC®-PPCMH™ 2011 standards

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research and healthcare consulting firm in Upstate NY.  If you are interested in hearing more about how we can help your medical practice, please contact Susan Maxsween at or by calling 315-635-9802.