Patient experience

What is patient experience? Why is it important and what can we do to improve patient experience and quality of care? This section explores each of these areas and provides useful tools and resources to assist you with exploring this concept further.

What is patient experience?

Like many key areas, there are multiple definitions and interpretations of what patient experience is. 

A simple definition from the Free Dictionary is: How the patient feels/felt, i.e., good or bad, as/after he or she undergoes/-went an episode of care.

The Beryl Institute define patient experience as: The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.

They conducted an extensive literature review between 2000-2014 and identified some key concepts. (1) 

  1. "First, the patient experience reflects occurrences and events that happen independently and collectively across the continuum of care. To understand it one need to "move beyond results from surveys,..such as ‘patient satisfaction,’ because patient experience is more than satisfaction alone."
  2. Embedded within patient experience is a focus on individualized care and tailoring of services to meet patient needs and engage them as partners in their care.
  3. The patient experience is strongly tied to patients’ expectations and whether they were positively realized (beyond clinical outcomes or health status).
  4. Finally, the patient experience is integrally tied to the principles and practice of patient and family-centred care.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement identified five primary drivers of exceptional patient and family inpatient hospital experience of care:

  1. leadership
  2. staff hearts and minds
  3. respectful partnership
  4. reliable care
  5. evidence-based care.

Patient’s care experience includes:

  1. respect
  2. partnership
  3. shared decision making
  4. well-coordinated transitions and
  5. efficiency. 

Why is patient experience important?

Since the Quality Chasm Report by the Insitute of Medicine in 2001, patient experience has been increasingly recognised as one of the "three pillars of quality in healthcare alongside clinical effectiveness and patient safety." (2)

A systematic review in 2013 by Doyle et al (3) summarises evidence from 55 studies, finding there was consistent positive associations between:

  • patient experience, patient safety and clinical effectiveness for a wide range of disease areas, settings, outcome measures and study designs.
  • It demonstrates positive associations between patient experience and self-rated and objectively measured health outcomes;
  • adherence to recommended clinical practice and medication; 
  • preventive care (such as health-promoting behaviour, use of screening services and immunisation); and
  • resource use (such as hospitalisation, length of stay and primary-care visits).


  1. Wolf, Jason A. PhD; Niederhauser, Victoria DrPH, RN; Marshburn, Dianne PhD, RN, NE-BC; and LaVela, Sherri L. PhD, MPH, MBA (2014) "Defining Patient Experience," Patient Experience Journal: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 3. 
  2. Institute of Medicine. Crossing the quality chasm: a new health system for the 21st century. Washington, DC: National Academy
    Press, 2001.
  3. Doyle C, Lennox L, Bell D. A systematic review of evidence on the links between patient experience and clinical safety and effectiveness. BMJ Open 2013;3:e001570 [full article]