I recently listened to a podcast discussing the importance of the patient experience.  It was an enlightening discussion about collaboration across the healthcare continuum focusing on how to improve the health of our citizens.

The United States healthcare delivery system is the most costly in the world.  Projections indicate that by 2020 healthcare costs will account for 20% of our GNP.  Despite the cost of the American healthcare system, other countries outperform us.   

Because demands on medical and social services are being challenged by the aging populations, as evidenced by increased longevity and chronic health problems, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement has developed triple aim framework to optimize health system performance.  It is IHI’s belief that new designs must be developed to simultaneously pursue three dimensions, which they call the “Triple Aim”:

  • Improved health of populations
  • Improving per capita cost of healthcare
  • Improved patient experiences

Definition of patient experience is explained by the University of TN Dr. Niederhauser as “The sum of all interactions shaped by organizations culture that influences patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”  Forward thinking organizations have begun focusing on committing to addressing and improving the patient experience.  

 The culture of an organization represents: what type of organization, who they are, how they act, what they value, and think is important.   Culture defines expected behaviors of the employees. 

Here is an example of one facility that committed to do “one thing different” each day that may positively affect the patient’s experience with healthcare.  In this situation, a non-clinical person, who initially did not feel part of the care team routinely changed the way he communicated with patients.  Each day this person purposefully put his hand on the patient’s shoulder and offered a sincere greeting.  Ultimately, this small gesture had a profound affect on the patient’s experience which in turn resulted in increased trust and increased value of the patient’s experience.  This is a win-win situation as it was accompanied by a bonus of increased employee satisfaction from witnessing the positive outcome.

The way that care providers communicate with patients is not a new topic.  We’ve seen numerous programs and facilities prescribe to various tactics to assist in personalizing and improving the patient experience.  There has been much success publicized by the Studer AIDET program as well.

With this, CMS is promoting programming focused on value vs volume and quality vs quantity in the post-acute care world.  Patient Centered Care has been in the forefront of the healthcare journals for quite some time and the expectation that it will be provided is well established.  Individuals can assist by keeping patients more actively involved in their own healthcare, education, involve fully in decision making, include patients and family during rounding, preferably on a daily routine.  This ties hand in hand with Trauma Informed Care.  Care providers need to understand how previous experiences will affect a patient’s reaction to similar or “triggered” situations. 

Challenges that continue to face health care providers include continuity of care across the continuum of all healthcare services.  From the patient perspective, a poor experience in one area may affect the perception of entire episode of care. 

What does “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” mean?

This saying is credited to the Greek philosopher Aristotle. The concept has been used to explain many ideas, including:  Synergy, where people working together can achieve more than they can by working separately (e.g. in an organization or a team)


The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Do your part and commit to understand what it takes to improve the patient experience.  Look at processes to ensure they are patient centric NOT healthcare provider centric.  Make time to create the human connection necessary to improve the patient experience. Great quality care requires partnerships to transform patient experiences.  Improved patient experience will improve outcomes, patient safety, and lower utilization of unnecessary care.


WUOT Health Connections: How Can We Improve the Patient Experience?

IHI Triple Aim Initiative:

AIDET Patient Communication:


Lisa Chadwick