Patient Experience is becoming increasingly important to those working in the healthcare industry. But what exactly is patient experience? And why should it be given careful attention?
It is a broad concept with two aspects:
• it focuses on the perceptions and opinions of patients regarding the quality of the healthcare they receive,
• it encompasses the overall experience of healthcare provided by a facility, which must meet specific quality standards concerning both medical performance and patient relations.
There are two perspectives: objective and subjective. Here, we will focus on the subjective perspective, emphasising aspects of the relationship managed by healthcare workers and how it affects the patient’s experience, even to the point of influencing adherence to the treatment itself.
The Patient Experience encompasses a wide range of factors, such as communication with the facility, organisation of the service, relationship with healthcare workers and staff, understanding one’s own health condition, clarity of the treatment program, pain management and the quality of the care environment.
In short, it comprises every interaction between the patient and the healthcare system, ranging from appointment scheduling to treatment completion. The Patient Experience not only revolves around objective clinical outcomes related to their illness but also around how patients perceive and evaluate the quality of the care and assistance they receive.
Why is the Patient Experience so important?
Patient Experience has become increasingly important in recent years, as research has demonstrated that a positive patient experience can also have a positive effect on the success of the treatment. For instance, effective communication between patients and healthcare staff can alleviate anxiety and depression, while a calm and comfortable healthcare environment can contribute to a faster recovery.
To this, it should be added that today’s healthcare facilities, both public and private, must be aesthetically pleasing to ensure their financial viability, to continue to fund research activities and to attract talent. Consequently, there is a greater need to raise awareness of factors such as “word of mouth” among patients, the development of new patient-requested services and the incorporation of higher value-added services for solvent customers.
The digital transformation taking place in the healthcare sector has a significant impact on these objectives, leading to enhanced efficiency and effectiveness as a “side effect.”
The Patient Experience, therefore, becomes a pivotal lever in managing healthcare services and driving their digital transformation.
What is the current situation in Italy?
Italy’s healthcare landscape presents various contradictions. On the one hand, it boasts internationally renowned facilities of excellence, while on the other, it struggles with situations of neglect and deterioration. The country has cutting-edge transplant capabilities alongside critical, sometimes fatal, negligence in emergency wards. There are abysmal disparities in the services provided across different regions, leading to health tourism and territories with chronic staff shortages. These challenges exist within both public and private facilities.
Like many other parts of the world, Italy is experiencing a growing demand for health services for the elderly and chronic diseases. This surge in demand is placing operational strain on the healthcare system.
As a response, the sector is undergoing a digital transformation process that is partially “funded.” However, there is a significant risk involved. The success of this evolution hinges on involving the most crucial stakeholder, i.e. the Patient, in the decision-making processes. If they are not involved, starting with listening to their needs, there is a risk of digitising obsolete and ineffective procedures rooted in a “product-centred” approach
Patient-centred culture: the necessary evolution
Placing the patient’s experience at the centre entails prioritising their needs and expectations in the design and delivery of healthcare and related services.
• Facilitating access to healthcare facilities and organisation of the services
• Involving patients in the planning and evaluation of their treatment
• Providing clear and understandable information about their diagnosis, treatment and care options
• Ensuring that patients are treated with utmost respect and dignity throughout their healthcare journey, from booking to referral
• Creating a comfortable and welcoming care environment
• Encouraging open and transparent dialogue between patients and medical and nursing staff
• Addressing patient concerns and questions promptly and comprehensivelo
• Regularly collecting and using patient feedback to identify areas for improving healthcare quality.
To achieve this patient-centred approach, customised healthcare programs, innovative technologies for health management, and patient-centred healthcare models may be employed.
Placing the patient experience at the centre of the healthcare system also involves designing and managing it to cater to the specific needs of patients rather than being inwardly focused on organisational convenience.
This may involve developing customised healthcare programs, leveraging innovative technologies for better health management, and implementing patient-centred healthcare models.
Is the Italian healthcare system patient-centred?
Regrettably, today’s Italian healthcare system, both in the public and private sectors, does not demonstrate a patient-centred culture. In fact, the system lacks essential listening tools, operates with small teams and frequently relies on outdated technologies.
In discussing the Patient Experience, it is imperative to consider monitoring, measurement and KPIs. It is impossible to be truly patient-centred without effective listening methods and feedback management.
On one side, there are multiple initiatives and practices that encourage patient-centred healthcare, such as the promotion of health education, the adoption of advanced health management technologies and increased access to palliative care and gender medicine.
On the other side, however, there are still several structural and cultural flaws that hinder the seamless delivery of truly patient-centred healthcare services.
To summarise, the Italian healthcare system is making strides to become more patient-centred, but there are still some hurdles to overcome before this objective can be fully realised.
The Patient Experience plays a crucial role in the overall success of the healthcare system, regardless of whether it is Public or Private. In Italy, as mentioned above, there are numerous opportunities to improve and enhance the patient experience.
Certainly, the Patient Experience can be improved if:
• care is taken in the relationship between the patient and organisation and in communication with doctors, both before and after visits;
• waiting times are reduced;
• digital services are offered that facilitate dialogue with the healthcare facility, providing access to information and addressing queries;
• appointments, downloading of reports and access to medical records can be managed autonomously 24/7.
These measures have the potential to significantly improve the quality of the patient’s journey and the overall healthcare service provided to them.