Debunking 3 myths about the patient experience

Long a service-based model, the advent of retail-based healthcare services has begun to blur the division between healthcare as service and healthcare as product. Undifferentiated and market-priced services (from retailers such as CVS and Walgreens) are commoditizing care delivery, and suggest that healthcare organizations will face competition from more than just their own industry.

This is a more significant observation than it might sound. Currently, healthcare providers focus on (and are incentivized by) producing the best-possible health outcomes; it's a system so singularly-focused that it does not effectively address issues across the health delivery ecosystem. From the consumer perspective, the challenge here is twofold.

Firstly, when a person goes to the doctor, they assume the physician will make him well because the physician has done so before. In the eyes of the patient, positive outcomes are the baseline of the service; effectiveness is non-negotiable. Secondly, consumers aren't experts in evaluating the differences in outcomes among a number of choices. What they do evaluate — and share — are their experiences across the care continuum.

This is evidenced by "The New Voice of Influence," a growing trend where consumers trust each other to provide truthful accounts of products/services. Patients can only evaluate what they know, and when it comes to service industries, this typically means talking about experience — pitting the healthcare delivery experience against competitors as varied as Apple, Nordstrom and Starbucks.

So the cornerstones of contemporary retail models — on-demand access to information, expertise and resources, among others — are now expected of healthcare service as well.

This will be a game-changer. According to "The Experience Economy," industries characterized as primarily experiential have been shown to grow at twice the average annual rate of growth.

'Low-cost' and 'high-quality' as attributes of care are merely throw-ins compared the competitive advantage afforded by memorable and favorable consumer experiences.

So, if differentiation and growth are strategic imperatives for healthcare organizations, intentionally designed experiences will be integral to success

But in order for those experiences to happen, we need to banish three long-held assumptions about patient experience:

MYTH 01: Patient Experience is the Same as Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction scores provide little insight into what actually happened during the care experience or how to fix what went wrong — it simply tabulates satisfaction. Service improvement will require experience-specific data to translate feedback into actionable information.

MYTH 02: Designing the Patient Experience Requires Large-scale Capital Investment

The drivers of an ideal experience tend to be more related to experiential attributes (e.g. sympathy of staff) than to capital-related issues (e.g. unrestricted visiting hours.) To drive growth and overall patient engagement, we must design ways of connecting with patients, families, and their support systems on an emotional level.

MYTH 03: We Know What Our Patients Want and Need

In terms of data, providers know their patients perhaps better than anyone else. But do they understand their patients emotionally? Do they know how to align patient expectations with reality of care delivery? The field of experience design offers tools to gain a deeper understanding of the user, the user experience, and how that experience can be improved. It's processes such as these — not just data gathering — that will allow organizations to understand their patients and provide the best possible care.

Healthcare delivery systems are complicated and disjointed; thoughtful experience design can counteract this fragmentation. Future healthcare experiences will be invisible, unobtrusive and easily integrated into people's lives — in short, well designed.

This article is an excerpt from HDR Architecture's inaugural edition of Delta, a book aiming to help healthcare organizations not only embrace the rapid change that surrounds them, but thrive in it. For a complimentary copy of Delta, visit

More articles on leadership:
The corner office: UCHealth CEO Liz Concordia on zeroing in on the patient experience
TD Bank expands small business group to serve more communities
Shields Health Solutions appoints Dan Ramney as their Vice President of Strategic Development

Copyright © 2023 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars