5 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience

The patient experience is critically important to patient satisfaction – and closely linked to clinical outcomes and reduced staff turnover.

According to a 2021 survey by the Beryl Institute, a global community of healthcare professionals and others committed to transforming the human experience in healthcare, more than 95% of consumers “see their healthcare experience as grounded in a focus on their health outcomes and overall well-being.” Nine out of ten consumers place “great importance” on “being listened to and communicated with in a way they can understand,” and 75% of consumers consider safety an important part of their experience. 

The importance of communication and safety to patients’ overall experience is also reflected by the 2023 Healthgrades Outstanding Patient Experience AwardTM and 2023 Patient Safety Excellence AwardTM winners. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some top hospitals, including Bellin Hospital in Wisconsin; River’s Edge Hospital in Minnesota; UCSD Medical Center – Hillcrest in California; and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, won both awards. These hospitals prioritize excellent communication and work diligently to promote patient safety. 

Improving your patients’ experience may be simpler than you think. Here are five ways you can improve the patient experience: 

1. Involve patients and families.

Most people don’t like to feel confused or out of control. But that’s exactly how most patients (and their family and friends) feel during a hospitalization. They’re surrounded by language and machines they don’t understand, and they don't quite know what to expect. 

Involving patients and family members in their care can ease anxiety and increase their sense of competence. Encourage nursing staff and physicians to describe diagnoses and interventions in simple, easy-to-understand language. Let patients and family members take an active role in their care. An interested spouse or adult child, for instance, can be taught how to apply (and take off) intermittent pneumatic compression sleeves after surgery. 

Bedside shift reporting is a great time to involve patients and families. 

2. Demonstrate personalized care and concern.

Remind staff members that all patients are unique individuals and encourage them to personalize their patient interactions. Admitting staff should ask patients how they prefer to be addressed – and share that preference with other involved staff members. Frontline nursing staff can (and should) ask patients what their primary concern is; in many cases, patients’ topmost concerns may not be their medical diagnoses or treatment. A young mother may be worried about how her children are coping with her illness and hospitalization. Some people are worried about missing work or an important event. 

Taking the time to understand and address patients’ concerns helps them feel valued. 

3. Ensure regular, reliable access to healthcare providers.

According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, patients expect reliable access to caregivers. Regular, routine access to healthcare providers helps patients feel safe.

Purposeful hourly rounding by nursing staff is one way to ensure regular access to healthcare providers. When nursing staff check patients every hour, patients have multiple opportunities to ask questions. Staff can also proactively address many patient concerns, including comfort. Research has shown that nurse rounding can increase patient satisfaction and improve nurse/patient communication.

4. Improve workflows to minimize delays and decrease repetition.

Few things frustrate patients more than long, unexplained wait times and repetitive questions. Improving clinical workflows can decrease delays and repetition – and increase staff availability to address patient concerns.

Many hospitals have found that electronic nurse rounding software - particularly systems that autonomically monitor staff movement without requiring extra input – can help nursing staff understand their usual patterns and clinical workflow. They can use this information to streamline workflows.

5. Prioritize patient health.

Yes, hospitals and healthcare organizations exist to improve patient health. But patients don’t always sense that their health is a priority. Ask patients about their goals and incorporate them into their care plan. Respect their dietary needs and preferences; a patient who follows a gluten-free diet at home should not have wheat products included on their meal trays. 

Regular hand hygiene – before and after touching patients, before and after clinical procedures, and after touching patients’ surroundings – is another way to prioritize patient health. An electronic hand hygiene monitoring system can support regular hand hygiene. Be sure to explain the system to patients and visitors and encourage them to regularly clean their hands as well. 

Communication, personalized care, reliable access to healthcare providers, streamlined workflows, and prioritization of patient health can improve the patient experience. Hospitals that implement these strategies may also see improved clinical outcomes and decreased staff turnover.