Patient Engagement & The Patient Experience: Understanding How One Drives the Other

In this series, we explore the concept of Patient Experience as an outcome measure and Patient Engagement as the Strategy that healthcare organizations and providers take to positively impact the Patient Experience. We will uncover how patient engagement strategy impacts the patient experience at various points along a patient’s care journey and why rounding must be purposeful to positively impact patient, family, and staff experiences.

The term Patient Experience and Patient Engagement are often used interchangeably by hospitals and providers. At first glance, it seems to carry the same meaning. The difference however is in understanding that Patient Experience is essentially an outcome measure. A single diagnosis may require a patient to travel through very different care settings and be touched by many providers throughout their journey. Those interactions and their perception of that care is truly what defines the patient experience. How we engage patients at various points in that journey requires a thoughtful strategy and should be continually assessed for effectiveness with course correction as appropriate.

As this profound difference becomes clear, it is easy to see that measuring patient experience solely on HCAHPS scores is too narrow a focus. An effective Patient Engagement strategy moves beyond HCAHPS and meets the patient at the most appropriate place in their healthcare journey. It employs multiple methods of communication and builds on issues and opportunities identified in previous interactions. Understanding what is important to that patient, and barriers they might have to getting well may also differ at various points of their healthcare journey. In order to truly optimize the patient experience, a patient engagement strategy must be comprehensive, span the care-continuum, and be data-driven.

So where does a healthcare organization begin?
When patients are in the hospital receiving care, there is immense opportunity to demonstrate caring behaviors, provide education, and deliver safe and effective clinical care. However, the volume of patient interactions, and stress of illness makes it very possible that some perceptions may be negative. It is critical that hospital leaders are aware when interactions occur that require intervention and that timely resolution occurs. It is equally as important to learn from positive interactions and strengthen patient engagement strategy with reinforcement of those positive practices and recognition of caregivers.

In addition to what occurs inside the hospital, leaders have additional incentive and opportunity to improve experiences after patients have been discharged. Patient outreach, such as post-discharge follow up and preventive health education is playing an increasingly necessary aspect of delivering high-quality care and proactively resolving patients issues outside the “four walls” of a hospital. Ensuring that your organization’s patient engagement strategy encompasses activities across the continuum will lead to both short and long term success.

Throughout this series we will highlight how hospitals can measure success in their patient experience outcomes through the strategy of patient engagement. In the next articles, we will discuss purposeful rounding, improved care transitions, consistent post-discharge follow up, and thoughtful population health.

As CipherHealth’s Chief Nursing Officer, Lisa Romano, MSN, RN brings more than 25 years of experience in clinical practice, healthcare IT strategy, and healthcare operations to her current role. Prior to previous CNO roles, Lisa spent 19 years as a nurse and hospital administrator at Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network in Allentown, PA, where she was responsible for all patient flow and transfer center operations as well as numerous quality and patient satisfaction initiatives. Lisa is passionate about improving the health of patients across the healthcare continuum.