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Consumer Insights Into US Patient Experience

A positive patient experience (PX) is an important goal in its own right, but also increasingly recognized as an independent dimension of healthcare quality. Substantial evidence points to a positive association between various aspects of PX and important care processes and outcomes. For example, good communication between providers and patients can contribute to improved patient adherence to medical advice, which can lead to better clinical outcomes, improved patient safety practices, and lower utilization of unnecessary healthcare services.

By looking at various aspects of PX, one can assess the extent to which patients receive care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values. Evaluating PX, along with other components of care, such as effectiveness and safety, is essential to providing a complete picture of overall care quality. As a result, combining PX measures with other measures of care quality is critical to creating an overall picture of performance of care organizations.

What is the US PX today and in relation to healthcare providers’ overall quality of care?

The Beryl Institute and Ipsos’ PX Pulse survey fielded during October 2021 with 1,009 respondents, as reported in “Consumer Perspectives on Patient Experience in the U.S.” found that US healthcare consumers have remained consistent on the importance of experience. Two-thirds of respondents find their experience is “good” or “very good,” and 95% consider a good experience as “very important” or “extremely important.” A primary reason why experience matters to consumers is because of the importance of personal and family members’ health and well-being, and feeling confident that their needs are being taken care of appropriately.

However, the pandemic has altered US consumer sentiment with healthcare experiences. That has changed perspectives, shifted priorities, and redirected many in new or different directions:

  • One-quarter of respondents say their perceptions of hospitals are “worse” or “much worse” due to the pandemic. Although consumer ratings for quality of care and experience have dipped, they still remain higher overall than pre-COVID-19 pandemic opinions.
  • Consumers continue to rate federal, state, and local leaders higher overall in negative perceptions, and rate primary care providers the lowest. Lower and variable levels of “comfort” with seeking care across provider types and settings suggests providers can improve communications on safety and importance for those most in need of seeking care.
  • The importance of healthcare costs is on the rise for consumers with affordable insurance options, out-of-pocket costs, and cost of health insurance premiums the top three issues of importance. Another issue gaining in importance for consumers is “how people are treated.”

The report concludes that consumers continue to view experience inclusive of the quality they receive and how they are treated. Healthcare organizations would, therefore, be wise to continue their commitment to the human experience. Further, the fact that half of respondents still find the quality of care to be “very good” or “good” presents an opportunity for organizations to understand what people perceive as good quality and what matters most to them. With significant transformation underway across the healthcare system in terms of the financing and delivery of care services, this is particularly timely as consumers have greater choice in deciding where they go, what services they need, and how they prefer to access care services.

Today, hospitals and health systems are faced with increasingly sophisticated healthcare consumers and a transforming system of care that pose threats from well-resourced, tech-savvy entrants in primary care, and a shift in the delivery of acute care services to community and home-based settings. Kaufman Hall’s The State of Consumerism in Healthcare 2021: Regaining Momentum report confirms that while hospitals and health systems are taking pause relative to the initial pace of development in digital health capacities in response to the pandemic, they remain focused on meeting consumers’ expectations through pursuing internal initiatives and partnerships with other providers, health plans, and new entrants to expand access to consumer-friendly care. Key trends identified in the annual survey include:

  • A mixed outlook on volumes recovering any time soon to pre-pandemic levels
  • Disruptive competitive threats coming from inside and outside the health system
  • A deep divide persistent within the field on strategic priorities and capabilities
  • Providers remaining wedded to traditional infrastructure for developing service capacity
  • Limited and cautious steps on consumer-focused pricing and redesign of services

The Kaufman Hall Healthcare Consumerism Index ratings for overall industry performance related to consumerism indicate that far more remains to be done industry-wide in moving toward consumer-centric strategies in delivery system redesign, pricing, and digital infrastructure.

Author Information

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Andrew Broderick is a Senior Analyst contributing to Dash Research’s CX Advisory Service as well as Dash Network’s ongoing editorial coverage of Healthcare CX and Patient Experience. Based in San Francisco, Broderick has more than 20 years’ experience in technology research, analysis, and consulting, including an extensive background in digital health technologies and business practices.

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