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Healthcare Orgs Face Imperative to Rebuild Good Healthcare Experience

Humanizing healthcare and simplifying access and costs will be critical for remedying record-low patient and healthcare experience scores.

Six in 10 patients had a bad healthcare experience in the past year, leaving the door open for organizations to get a bad reputation or even lose market share, according to the latest The Beryl Institute-Ipsos PX Pulse, a quarterly report that examines the patient experience.

The report, gleaned from over 1,000 patient responses to the Ipsos KnowledgePanel, showed that 60 percent of patients had a poor healthcare experience in the past three months and very few (14 percent) could say they’ve had a positive healthcare experience in the past three months.

Half of those reporting a poor experience said they told their family and friends about it and one-third said they decided to switch healthcare providers. About one in five patients said they addressed the problem with the individual provider, care team, or healthcare facility.

This is bad news for an industry that’s increasingly embracing the idea of consumerism. If healthcare wants to mirror the experiences people have with other service sectors, experience needs to be paramount.

But the PX Pulse report showed that patient perceptions of care are at their lowest since the poll started in 2019.

Currently, 40 percent of patients regard healthcare quality as good or very good, compared to an all-time high of 59 percent in March of 2020, the researchers reported.

Similar trends emerged for the patient experience, with 64 percent of patients reporting good or very good perceptions of their experience. That’s the lowest proportion since The Beryl Institute and Ipsos started collecting this data and compares to an all-time high of 74 percent saying the same in both June and September of 2020.

“In our January 2022 PX Pulse when we explored the issues of incivility in healthcare, the reasons people noted as the greatest causes of incivility itself were healthcare workforce fatigue and general strain on the healthcare system,” the researchers posited. “These perceptions earlier in the year may contribute to a perceived decline in experience.”

The lapse in patient trust, too, may be contributing to declines in patient experience ratings, the report added. Every respondent agreed that trust is important to the healthcare experience, with 88 percent saying trust is important or very important.

Even still, 68 percent agreed that trust in healthcare has gone down in the last two years. Around a quarter (27 percent) of patients said their own trust in healthcare has gotten worse or much worse in the past two years, while only 8 percent could say their own trust in healthcare has gotten better.

And while some cited COVID-19 issues, poor communication, and poor outcomes as harming patient trust, most agreed that they couldn’t trust healthcare primarily because healthcare institutions are rooted in self-interest.

“This underlines the work ahead for healthcare organizations as they reestablish relationships in their communities in this new COVID era,” the researchers explained. “This also highlights the critical focus needed on the human experience. It will be in understanding and acting on what matters to patients, the healthcare workforce and the communities that healthcare organizations serve that a healing in trust can begin.”

The survey showed that connecting patients to care in a timely manner, being treated as a person first, and healthcare price transparency will all be essential to building trust.

Particularly, organizations will want to focus on that “person first” approach to medicine rooted in empathy and humanized care.

This comes as 71 percent of patients insist that their health and well-being are important to them. Around half said that a good patient-provider relationship is important to achieving health and well-being goals, while a sizeable proportion of others said the humanization of the healthcare encounter is important.

Around six in 10 said they want to know that their healthcare needs are being taken seriously and 52 percent said it’s important to be treated with dignity and respect.

And for all the talk of healthcare consumerism, patients aren’t seeing things that way. Only one in five said they view themselves as a customer. Around half (46 percent), in fact, emphasized that they want to be treated as human beings rather than a set of symptoms or a diagnosis.

“People still seek care, because their health is important to them, but what they want from healthcare organizations is to be listened to, communicated to clearly, shown respect and provided clear plans of care to lead them forward,” the researchers said.

The researchers noted that healthcare is not entirely to blame for declines in patient perceptions of quality, experience, and trust.

“While diminishing numbers in quality, experience and trust may feel disheartening, they reflect the larger realities in the world that healthcare now operates,” the report authors stated.

“What is evident is that not only is the path forward clear, but the opportunities healthcare has in front of it are bright,” they concluded. “In keeping things simple, in honoring the person in front of us, in living the central idea that in healthcare we are human beings caring for human beings and then in executing on plans to reinforce those fundamentals, the opportunities for healthcare’s future far outweigh the challenges in our way. It is now up to each of us to choose this clear focus and act.”

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