Patient Experience vs. Patient Satisfaction: The Difference


A yellow stethoscope, blue surgical mask and red hearts illustrate patient experience vs. patient satisfaction in healthcare.

Patient Experience vs. Patient Satisfaction: What’s the Difference?

Everyone in your area knows about “that” clinic. They know the wait times are long, the care is mediocre (at best) and the communication is chaotic. Worst of all, the provider doesn’t have their ducks in a row — and doesn’t seem to care.

At that clinic, patient experience and patient satisfaction are dreadful. And you definitely don’t want to be that clinic.

Hold on for a moment: patient experience vs. patient satisfaction. What’s the distinction? Both terms involve how patients view their healthcare journey, and both are key to patient acquisition and retention.

But the nuances are important. By understanding the difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction, you can help your practice excel in both areas. 

[Related: 5 Patient Engagement Strategies for Your Healthcare Practice]

Patient Satisfaction vs. Patient Experience: Definitions

Pinpointing the difference between “patient experience” and “patient satisfaction” seems a bit tricky on the surface. Both are measures that show how happy people are with your practice, but the contrast is concrete. There is one through line — communication.

[Related: How Patient Journey Mapping Revolutionizes Your Healthcare Experience]

Patient Satisfaction

The term isn’t quite as self-explanatory as it sounds. Patient satisfaction is about the patient’s expectations about their care. You meet patient satisfaction when you meet those expectations.

After all, patients are customers. They pay for their healthcare. As a result, they want you to treat them accordingly — as valuable, unique customers. 

Improving patient satisfaction is a process that can start with something as simple as asking about their day. Beyond that, you can boost patient satisfaction with definite tactics:

  • Professional, approachable demeanor
  • Honest, thorough communication
  • Cleanliness throughout your clinic
  • Friendliness and respect
  • Modern equipment, tools, software and decor

Some efforts are no-brainers. Still, patient satisfaction centers on the patient’s attitude toward how you treat them. For example, a compassionate, frank discussion about their care goes a long way. 

[Related: Automated Medical Answering Services: Are They Worth It?]

Patient Experience

The term “patient experience” is broad, but it boils down to the patient’s perception of their care. It spans how they view their ongoing healthcare interactions, from their first visit to follow-ups to referrals. 

Although the phrase encompasses many aspects of care, your practice can benefit the patient experience in specific ways. Most involve easy access to empowering parts of their healthcare journey:

  • Appointment scheduling, rescheduling and cancellations
  • Knowledge about their health and prognosis
  • Communication with providers and staff, including phone, text and virtual chat
  • Coordination among providers and the patient
  • Mutual, informed decision-making

Did your practice meet a patient’s needs with coordinated, respectful, high-quality care? Can patients communicate with you and your staff easily, whether in person, online or over the phone? If so, you hit higher patient experience criteria.

[Related: How To Run a More Efficient Clinic With a Virtual Front Office]

Takeaways: Patient Satisfaction vs. Patient Experience

Here’s a short recap:

  • Patient satisfaction is about the patient’s healthcare expectations.
  • Patient experience is about the patient’s healthcare perceptions.

The patient experience is more immediate than patient satisfaction. You might frame patient experience vs. patient satisfaction as micro vs. macro. 

Patient satisfaction is an overall view of how patients want you to treat them. The patient experience drills down to you, your patients and your interactions. And when you better the patient experience, you better patient satisfaction.

[Related: Why a Patient-Centric Approach to Healthcare Is Crucial]

Why Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction Matter for Your Practice

It’s clear why delivering stellar patient experience and satisfaction is fantastic for your clinic. But beyond having healthier, more engaged patients, the benefits for your practice run deep. You start a cycle that continually produces results:

  • High patient satisfaction and a positive patient experience lead to healthier, happier people.
  • Happy, healthy people lead to positive word of mouth, as well as greater patient acquisition and retention.
  • Greater patient acquisition and retention lead to higher revenue.
  • More revenue leads to not only growth but also the ability to keep enhancing patient experience and satisfaction.

When you know the difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction, you can focus on any aspects that need improvement. And then, you strengthen both daily.

[Related: Considering Using AI in Your Healthcare Practice? Here’s Where To Start]

Patient Experience vs. Patient Satisfaction: Boost Both With Wendi

You might feel confident in the patient experience and patient satisfaction arenas, but how do your patients feel? Cover your bases — and especially theirs — with Wendi.

Wendi’s smart AI phone, text and chat functions let your patients communicate regularly and stay in the know. For your practice, it also works as a virtual scribe, virtual assistant, insurance-checker and more. Its comprehensive capabilities increase patient experience and satisfaction with finesse (and ensure you’re never, ever accidentally that clinic). 

Meet Wendi to see how it works! Contact us or schedule a free demo to learn how it can benefit your practice.

Featured image via Pexels

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