Patient Care and Patient Satisfaction - Are They The Same Thing?


Patient Care aka Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, these two are very different and it is crucial to understand the context behind both and then use them to your and your patient’s advantage.

Patient Care/Experience is more than your clinical encounter. Similarly, patient satisfaction goes beyond the loyalty of your patient to you/your facility. It is important to measure both as the patient-centered care initiatives have increased dramatically.

Let me explain the difference in the simplest way possible. Patient Experience has more to do with a patient’s perception of care. On the other hand, patient satisfaction is about the patient’s expectations for care. Let’s dive a little deeper into the subject:

Patient Experience

Unfortunately, you will not find a standardized definition of patient experience anywhere. The term broadly refers to all kinds of interactions patients have with the healthcare system. It can cover the passive perception of the brand, care, and communication provided by the staff, wait times, scheduling capabilities, and things like quality of food/parking, etc. 

All in all, the patient care/experience is a sum of all the minor and major interactions of the patient with a healthcare system.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), “patient experience includes several aspects of healthcare delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with healthcare providers.”

Patient care is a measurable concept. The complexity lies in the subjective nature of receiving care. As per an article published in Gallup Business Journal, the ideal patient experience can be created by meeting the following emotional needs; confidence, pride, integrity, and passion.

Edwin Y. Endo

Patient Satisfaction

Let’s just say that the patient’s satisfaction links  the expectations of the patients with the actual experience. The expectations of patients are formulated based on past experiences, social cues, narratives, and other factors. It is important to keep a tab on patient satisfaction due to ever-increasing consumerism.

Patients today are very aware of the costs associated with healthcare and they wish to be treated like high-paying customers. Providers can actually increase the loyalty and maximize the lifetime value of patients with improved patient satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

Patient satisfaction and patient care are used interchangeably everywhere. However, these two are completely different in terms of their meanings and implications for care quality.

Patient care can be measured by inquiring patients about whether their needs are met or not during the care encounter. On the other hand, patient satisfaction is focused on whether the process of meeting

their needs met their expectations. It is crucial to understand this difference as their meanings will have major implications.

In order to gain a greater understanding of your patient’s viewpoint, it is advised to track both areas separately and combine the insights to see results. Once you develop this understanding, your health system can open up to new avenues of business, offer improved care quality, and will be able to retain patients for life.