What's in a name?

by Dr. Trina E. Dorrah

Have you ever noticed the reaction you get when you mention the patient experience? Undoubtedly, you’re met with a few providers who demonstrate frustration, anger, and disgust. You may even hear them say that it doesn’t matter how well the doctor treats a patient as long as he or she is competent. These beliefs confuse me, especially when these same providers face their own health crises, then complain about the lack of empathy they, their partner, or child received. Do you notice the irony? When asked to focus on the patient experience, these providers dismiss it. Yet, when their doctors don’t communicate with them or show compassion, they are frustrated.

The truth is, doctors and other health care providers really do care about the patient experience. I think the frustration arises from the connotation associated with the phrase.  For some reason, many providers think of the patient experience as catering to unreasonable demands or ignoring the importance of clinical competence. That’s simply not true. When I think about what the patient experience is and is not, the following list comes to mind.

The patient experience is about…

  • ·      Listening
  • ·      Showing compassion
  • ·      Treating patients as we ourselves would want to be treated
  • ·      Explaining so our patients understand
  • ·      Spending time with our patients
  • ·      Asking for and answering questions
  • ·      Helping to facilitate care
  • ·      Working with our staff to streamline processes
  • ·      Continuing our commitment to maintain clinical competence
  • ·      Practicing according to evidence based standards
  • ·      Taking time to explore patient fears
  • ·      Engaging in collaborative goal setting
  • ·      Discussing difficult issues in a compassionate way

The patient experience is NOT about…

  • ·      Catering to every whim and desire
  • ·      Turning physicians into concierges
  • ·      Choosing treatment options that go against evidence based medicine
  • ·      Buying patients’ loyalty through rewards and perks
  • ·      Refusing to discuss difficult issues
  • ·      Only making recommendations that are pleasing to hear
  • ·      Prescribing unnecessary medications
  • ·      Subjecting ourselves to verbal abuse
  • ·      Devising treatment plans that completely exclude patients/families from the decision making process
  • ·      Creating an environment where one must work within our health care system or know someone who does to have a good patient experience

In the end, I believe if providers have a better understanding of what the patient experience truly is (and what it is not), they’ll be more willing to embrace it. If everyone in health care commits to this goal, doctors, nurses, and providers won’t feel the need to name drop/intervene/call in favors for our loved ones simply to ensure they have a good patient experience.  



06/19/2016 8:33pm

I've become a patient when I was seven years old. I have a severe sickness. My mother decided to bring me in the hospital. It is not easy to become a patient. I have many fears in injection. I was afraid to die at that time. My mother told that I always listened to my doctors. I believe that they are helping me to get better. My father keeps telling me a story when I was in the hospital. I can't stop laughing for his story. I can't imagine what I am doing when I was seven years old. I am so glad that I overcome this kind of fear. I am not afraid enough to any doctors.

09/28/2017 3:38am

I have an experience with my mother when she was still a patient after giving birth to my brother. She was suffering from pain since she undergone a cesarean way of giving birth. I was worried about her because I have no idea how painful it is. Although whenever I am looking at how successfully my brother was delivered by my mom, I am still nervous whenever I look at my mom. She looked so happy but I could see in her eyes that she was hurt. And I am so worried about that.

07/02/2016 3:58pm

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I think that the most important things in it are listen to and treat like ourselves! And patient will be happy and healthy!

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I hope they will understand that someday. It will be good for the providers.


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    Trina E. Dorrah, MD, MPH, is a board-certified internal medicine physician who practices at Baylor Scott & White Health in Round Rock, TX. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Dorrah is the medical director of quality and the physician champion for the patient experience. Dr. Dorrah is passionate about improving the patient experience and she loves to share her expertise with others. 

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