It was 1991 when I first started exploring the realm of the patient experience. I was conducting research on patients’ perceptions of quality in clinical settings. In order to get a good sample for my master’s thesis, I began approaching various providers requesting to survey their patients. Over and over again, physicians told me that this was useless because patients aren’t qualified to gauge quality. As a marketing professional I knew that patients were judging and voting with their feet every day. They just didn’t openly discuss it with their physicians.
Long story short, I found over a dozen medical practices willing to let me survey their patients. What I learned from that experience helped shape the consulting work we do today. We know that not only are patients more than qualified to gauge quality, they are judging and sharing their opinions through surveys and social media. Consumers pay attention to online reviews. So rather than argue with the reality, healthcare leaders and providers are well advised to listen and learn.
I’ve read a few articles lately where health systems have begun to post individual provider scores for transparency and that move is being met with mixed reviews from providers. Medicare has already made the physician practice scores public through data.medicare.gov.
The bottom line is this; the way that patients gauge quality is through their experience. Quality then is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s find out what they think. Listen and learn.