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Defining Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Does a definition really matter? Especially when it comes to something as dynamic and complex as the patient experience? As an organization committed to improving the patient experience we felt it was important to tackle this question head on.


I would assert a definition does matter for a number of reasons. It is through definition that we create a standard by which to understand, act and measure. If your organization is on the path to improve the patient experience, you should know what it is you are out to change.


Equally important is the recent discovery that there is a performance impact to having a clear definition of experience. A 2008 study by Aveus, a global strategy and operational change consultancy, discovered companies that have a definition for customer experience and use this definition in everyday decision-making are more likely to exceed profit and revenue goals. The study showed:


  • While individual definitions of customer experience vary by organization, there is a clear performance difference between those who have an organization-wide definition and those who do not;
  • 26 percent of companies with a definition for customer experience report exceeding profit targets, compared to only 14 percent of those without definitions;
  • Organizations with the greatest use of customer experience in daily decision-making report the strongest operating results with 67 percent meeting or exceeding revenue targets and 65 percent meeting or exceeding profit targets.



The bottom line, customer experience is a path to improved profitability, not a distraction from it AND it is a clear and shared definition that is a critical key to successful outcomes. I would suggest that focusing on the patient experience in healthcare has the same potential value.


Therefore, I believe a definition can have a significant impact on what you do within your organization as you work to improve the patient experience. To support you, The Beryl Institute decided it was important to help define this somewhat amorphous term – patient experience. Our hope is that this definition will create a shared understanding and common framework that will support your organization’s efforts in building a plan of action around the patient experience.


To accomplish the task of defining patient experience, a work group of your peers - patient experience champions and leaders from a number of hospitals and healthcare systems - came together over a series of virtual meetings to brain storm, research and collectively craft a definition. The definition is purposefully designed to be value neutral, suggesting that we first must acknowledge that there is some "thing” called the patient experience we need to both recognize and address. The result of the team’s efforts was powerful, broad, and yet concise.


The Beryl Institute defines the patient experience as:

The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture,
that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care


At the Institute, we will use this definition as a guide for how we build resources for our members. It will also serve as the standard for how we support and advocate for the creation of a positive patient experience across all healthcare organizations. How will you use the definition in your organization? And what value might it bring to your efforts?

So to our original question, does a definition matter? I maintain that it does. There is much more than you may believe riding on it.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

Related Body of Knowledge courses: History.

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