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The Value of Patient Experience

Seth Messinger

Director, Ipsos Public Affairs

Many view patient experience and patient satisfaction as the same thing. While similar, they are in fact defined very differently.  Which brings up the question, why should we measure both if all that matters is the health outcome? We measure both because patient experience and patient satisfaction are, in fact, deeply connected with health outcomes. Health systems and providers that attend to a patient’s experience will ultimately be the ones who will benefit.


Let’s define some terms: On the one hand, patient satisfaction is a way of measuring how individuals experience the services that they receive in clinical encounters. Was their physician or nurse respectful and polite, was the setting clean, how was the quality of the food? These are some of the questions used to measure satisfaction. On the other hand, patient experience is much broader and encompasses the time and experiences of treatment. But beyond this focus, patient experience also involves the individual outside of the clinical setting as well as their broader social world.


In today’s healthcare system, inefficiencies in provider communications and patient management have led to increased institutional costs and a decline in both patient health and experience outcomes.  Furthermore, there are growing statistics that suggest that our nation’s most vulnerable populations not only account for a majority of the healthcare costs, but also see the least healthcare benefits and outcomes. There is a clear need for entrepreneurs to develop technologies and solutions that will help improve patient experience. Providers and institutions actively seek, but are often unaware of the innovative technologies that exist. 


Improving the Patient Experience, a 1776 Pitch Competition powered by Ipsos” is a one-day application-based event focused on technological advancements in predictive analysis, preventative resources, and treatment management systems that improve communications between healthcare providers and patients. Implementation of these technologies into the healthcare system will help institutions to reduce costs and improve profitability and will directly aid in improving health outcomes and enhancing the overall patient experience.


Patient experience is the broad term used to describe and discuss how patients evaluate their interactions with their health in general, and with their clinical providers in particular. In contrast to patient satisfaction, patient experience is a holistic exploration of the patient’s interactions with their healthcare team, the health system, as well as their community. In a limited sense, patient experience can be seen as similar to customer experience and satisfaction: positive experience is linked to loyalty, good reputation and revenue. Negative experiences lead to loss of “customers” alongside reputational damage and consequently lower revenue (including lower reimbursement rates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). But, seen in a broader perspective, positive patient experiences have been correlated with better health outcomes which is the ultimate goal of healthcare professionals. Limiting patient experience to satisfaction ratings risks having an overly narrow perspective on the total patient experience.


Considered together it is perilous to underestimate the significance and power of patient experience for both good health outcomes and for driving perceptions about hospitals / health systems and providers. 


Given the range and variety of patient experience measures (from standardized surveys to online sites including Yelp) it is important to bring a high level of expertise to this process. Ipsos developed a measurement process that identifies desired traits shared by patients, providers, and administrators alongside benchmarks and useful comparisons that provide an informed and educated picture of performance. For instance, an office based doctor might be rated quite highly by her regular patients, but, when she works in the local urgent care she gets less positively rated. In order to more fairly rate clinical providers, Ipsos’s benchmarks factor in the context of where providers operate to more clearly illustrate the context for specific ratings. 


One of the best ways to ensure that patient experience is at the heart of providing effective care is to organize health systems / hospitals and providers around patient centricity. Victoria Guyatt, Vice President of Ethnography of Ipsos North America, points out that, “Over time, we have seen the insights we generate from talking to and observing patients move from being a side-show, of arguably minority interest, to taking center stage in brand planning and commercial activities. Investing in patient experience represents an important commitment by health systems / hospitals and providers.”  The Department of Veterans Affairs, an Ipsos partner, is deeply committed to this project. Dr. Sherri LaVela describes the ideal patient experience process in these terms: “To address patient experience, you must provide people the opportunity to engage and give feedback and input. This means including patients in decisions about their health, healthcare management, and overall care plan.”


Patient experience is a critical area not only in terms of patient health outcomes but as a factor in the health of hospitals / health systems and providers. Given the full range of its capacity, Ipsos is a leader in developing data and insights into patient experience and putting those insights into the hands of clients to help them build upon and improve their capacity to deliver quality care now, and in the future. Patient experience is ripe for innovation which is why we partnered with 1776 for the Improving the Patient Experience Pitch competition


Ipsos is a global independent market research company ranking third worldwide among research firms. Our team of 18,000 across 90 countries serves 5,000 clients and undertakes 70,000 different projects each year.

Seth Messinger

Director, Ipsos Public Affairs