What is patient experience?
What do we mean by ‘patient experience’? Respected patient experience body The Beryl Institute defines patient experience as: “The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organisation’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

The Cleveland Clinic, the US academic medical centre, believes it is ‘about putting patients first’, and covers every aspect of patient encounter, from physical comfort, to emotional, spiritual and educational needs. UK think tank The King’s Fund defines patient experience as ‘putting the patient and their experience at the heart of quality improvement’.

My view is that it is about the way in which a patient feels, physically and mentally, before and after they go to hospital. Patient experience to me is the comfort factor – being in a clean, modern, and friendly environment where you can recover as quickly as possible. For those who may not get better, it is important to ensure that their moments in hospital and other care settings are still a positive experience.

Why is it important to have a good patient experience?
NHS England highlights that there is clear evidence that patient experience can result in better health and care outcomes. This can also reduce the cost of care, as poor experiences can lead to longer stays in hospital, or further treatment being required. In NHS England’s document explaining the patient revolution, it highlights that positive feedback keeps staff more positive and upbeat in the workplace. The NHS strives for the public to have confidence in the health service, and excellent patient experience means they are more likely to trust the NHS.

According to a US study, only 24% of Massachusetts adults trust doctors completely when it comes to recommending hospitals and health systems for care. This can come down to the fact that some patients may have had a poor patient experience, which in turn can then change their feelings towards the hospital. This also affects their confidence in healthcare systems, which can lead them to influence other patients feel the same.

Positive patient experiences can provide hospitals and other care providers with good reviews, which can have an impact on an entire region. Some people, especially those with ongoing health needs such as the elderly, may well consider their local healthcare systems when looking to purchase a home. This can impact on the entire demography for a region. Patient experience matters.

What technology can help improve patient experience?

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A range of technology supports the patient experience. Here are just a few.

Patient decision aids – Decision aids are designed for patients with certain conditions to help them think about what treatment options should consider with their clinicians. The aids contain all the information a patient would need to know about the condition, statistics and treatment options. This impacts the patient experience as it allows them to weigh up the choices available to them, and to decide which treatment they would feel most comfortable with.

Patient access to records – Giving patient access to records gives them a lot more power over their care, as they can enable them to work with their doctor to manage their health and be involved in the decision making that affects their care. Such shared decision making can improve the patient experience.

Patient portals – A patient portal is a secure online website that gives the user 24 hour access to personal health information, and which can have benefits for a care provider and the patient. For example, a patient portal was tested with mental health patients. They were able to access their electronic medical record, view upcoming appointments, and communicate with their healthcare provider. The results found that, of 461 patients, the portal was used 4,761 times, and the odds of a portal user attending an appointment were 67% greater than non-user. This can deliver significant benefits to the hospital, such as ewer patients missing their appointments, resulting in lower costs for the hospital and a better experience for the patient.

Patient communities and peer-to-peer care – Patient communities such as PatientsLikeMe allow patients with the same disease, condition or illness to all discuss their feelings with one another in one digital or physical place. This is good for patient wellbeing and provides an opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences. This can help the way in which they manage their illness, and make them feel as though they are not alone in their journey.

What GPs might think – In a WMG study, 50% of patients didn’t realise that they could leave comments about their doctor and experience of care. By giving patients the opportunity to give feedback about their GPs, the practice can improve processes or future procedures for other patients. For example, if patients say they feel unwelcome on arrival, the practice can improve this aspect of the patient experience by through staff training.

The FFT – The Friends and Family Test (FFT) is an important feedback tool that allows patients to provide honest feedback about their experience within a hospital. This can highlight both positive and poor patient experience and allows the NHS to transform its services for future patients, to ensure that they receive a better experience. In use across many care settings, it is proving a useful tool for the NHS to gather insight on patient experiences of care, and delivers positive feedback that can help boost staff morale.

How does data help both patient experience and the NHS?
The data that results from much of the technology in use can help the NHS improve services and the quality of care it delivers to patients. As The King’s Fund notes in its study of patient experience in hospitals, detailed review of year-on-year changes in patient experience data can yield valuable insights into trust performance over time.

Overall, capturing the patient experience, and acting on the insight this provides, are vital processes for any healthcare provider, as they can help its staff, its patients and its reputation. Technology can help the NHS capture this experience through multiple routes, and deliver other benefits such as fewer missed appointments and shortened recovery time.

Improving the patient experience should be fundamental for any hospital that wants to help its patients recover more quickly, and more actively engage with their care.

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