Engage: Blog

Emily Elstad | Apr 2015 | 0 COMMENT(S)

“Patient experience” has received increasing attention in recent years. For example, health care organizations are now seeking to understand what drives the patient experience, emphasizing it as a way to improve care quality and achieve better clinical and financial outcomes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act emphasizes the need to measure and report on patient experiences. And patients and families have long called for health care providers and organizations to consider the care experience as an important aspect of quality.

But what is “the patient experience”? The Beryl Institute, an organization dedicated to creating dialogue around and improving the patient experience, defines it as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

I attended the Beryl Institute’s 2015 Patient Experience Conference wondering how conference participants would translate and interpret this definition. As Twitter is becoming an increasingly important way to connect with fellow conference participants, it provided a perfect opportunity to investigate conference participants’ real-time thoughts on the patient experience via an informal analysis of tweets. Although not all conference-goers post to Twitter, those who do serve as social media ambassadors for the conference. As such, tweets typically addressed a couple of basic questions: “What is happening at the conference?” and “What are people talking about?”

Looking at the contents of #PX2015 on Twitter from April 8-10, these were some of the most popular tweets and themes:

“We are the patient experience.” This was an overarching theme of the conference, expressing the idea that everyone who plays a role in health care affects patients’ experiences, directly and indirectly, in big and small ways. At the conference, there was a bulletin board on which conference participants pledged, “I am the patient experience.”

The “I am the Patient Experience Wall”

“All voices matter. Every interaction matters. You matter.” This phrase, tweeted and re-tweeted throughout the conference, advocated for patients having a say in their care, and emphasized equal communication between patients and providers. Similar tweets proclaimed “there must be the presence of the patient wherever decisions are made that affect the patient!” and echoed the long-standing slogan “nothing about me without me!”

“Stories break through. They resonate and stick.” This tweet expressed the power of patient stories. One person tweeted that “Regina [Holliday]’s story was amazing, moving and too emotional to capture in Tweets properly.” I agree and won’t try to re-tell Regina Holliday’s story, but her personal experience with the health care system is an example of how powerful patient stories can be when shared widely.

“We are still humans taking care of humans.” This theme emphasized the role health care providers play in affecting the patient experience. Provider interactions with patients may often be brief, but this interaction has the potential to become a memorable part of the patient experience. The patient experience is the sum of every interaction a patient has with the health care system. This theme showcases an important overlap of patient experience with patient engagement—both hinge upon an interaction between the patient and multiple levels of the health care system. Similar tweets emphasized: “human to human not team member to patient;” “compassion heals the places that medicine cannot touch;” and “don’t seek to leave a legacy when you die; seek to leave a legacy when you leave the room.”

As the sum of all experiences within the health care system, the “patient experience” is different for each person. It is affected by small moments, individual interactions with care providers, and larger changes in how we view, provide care to, and partner with patients and families. Next week is Patient Experience Week, an event organized by the Beryl Institute to recognize and celebrate important aspects of the patient experience. We will be involved by tweeting and re-tweeting thoughts about patient experience –join us in the conversation! Follow AIR’s Center for Patient and Consumer Engagement on Twitter: @aircpce

Emily Elstad, PhD, is a Health Care Policy Researcher at AIR and an expert with the Center for Patient and Consumer Engagement.