What makes a positive patient experience?

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, November 4, 2011

Hospitals have been working toward better patient satisfaction for years. Now, with patient experience survey results posted publicly and a new national value-based purchasing system in place, it's more important than ever to understand what positively and negatively affects a patient's time spent in the hospital.

"Culture of safety and culture of a great patient experience are very, very closely tied together," says Barbara Balik, RN, EdD, senior faculty at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), principal at Common Fire Healthcare Consulting, and coauthor of the report Achieving an Exceptional Patient and Family Experience of Inpatient Hospital Care. "If leaders are seeing those as two separate activities, they're going to waste a lot of time and energy."

Balik and the report's team of authors found that there are five primary drivers of excellent patient care and experience:

  • Leadership
  • Staff hearts and minds
  • Respectful partnership
  • Reliable care
  • Evidence-based care

These drivers reinforce the idea that there is no silver bullet to achieve a better patient experience, says Balik.

"I think our original hope was we'd find a small bundle of things, kind of like a ventilator-associated pneumonia bundle, and we'd get this great patient experience," Balik says. "But what we learned from the exemplar hospitals is when we really pressed them about what they did specifically for patient experience, they could not separate that out from what they do for quality and safety."

The team found that "random acts of goodness" alone will not create a positive patient experience.

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