Difference between Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction

October 28, 2021 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team

Updated Version - July 22, 2023

Patient Satisfaction and Patient Experience both terms are used interchangeably in healthcare, but both terms are different and hold entirely different significance to healthcare experts. The difference between Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction has implications for quality improvement in healthcare. Thus, healthcare professionals must understand the distinction between the two concepts and apply them appropriately to their work.

Here we will walk you through all about patient satisfaction and patient experience - Meanings of both terms and how they are different.

What is Patient Experience?

There is no standard definition of Patient Experience. Here is a general definition - Patient Experience refers to the wide range of interactions patients have with the healthcare system, including everything like their care from health plans, and doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other health care facilities. As an integral component of health care quality, patient experience includes several aspects of health care delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with health care providers.

Ensuring a good patient experience means standing up to the patient's expectations of what they seek in times of need. These include:

  • Ensure that the patients receive timely appointments.
  • Provide the means to easily contact healthcare providers.
  • Ensure that patients have easy access to crucial information.
  • Use patient feedback software for a better understanding of what patients are experiencing.
  • Use patient experience survey software to predict the needs of the patients and to repair the defects or shortcomings of the system.

What is Patient Satisfaction?

Patient Satisfaction is related to a patient's expectations during their care encounter, it is a subjective measure. By subjective, it means that different patients will have different levels of satisfaction for the same quality of healthcare owing to different kinds of expectations. Patient satisfaction is a fulfillment of the expectations they have of the healthcare they seek or pay for. Health systems must keep a pulse on patient satisfaction due to increasing consumerism in healthcare. Today's patients are acutely aware of the cost of healthcare, and they want to be treated like the high-paying customers they are. By meeting patients' care expectations, providers are more likely to increase loyalty and maximize patient lifetime value.

Here are a few ways to make patients satisfied:

  • Offering customized service by tracking their previous experience feedback.
  • Investing time in educating the patients.
  • Maintaining cleanliness at all times.
  • Using patient satisfaction survey software to understand how satisfied patients are with the service.
  • Making sure that the patient can easily reach out to authorities with their opinions at any time.

How Patient Experience Differs from Patient Satisfaction?

As mentioned earlier, patient experience and patient satisfaction are two used interchangeably but have different meanings for healthcare professionals. So, here we have listed differences between patient experience and patient satisfaction.

Here is an example - Two patients got the same care at the same health organization. Both undergo the same treatment and diagnosis from the same surgeon, same prescriptions, same staff, and same nurse. Their experience was nearly identical. Even after the same experience, these two individuals may not report the same satisfaction rating, because they have different subjective expectations.

Patient satisfaction surveys ask, "How did we do?"

Patient experience surveys ask, "What happened?

Patient satisfaction surveys ask, "Did your doctor spend enough time with you?"

Patient experience surveys ask, "How often did you get help when you wanted it?

Patient experience is more about communication and interactions before, during, and after the procedure. Patient satisfaction tilts towards the more commercial aspect of healthcare, by focusing on how more patients can be prompted to engage with the service being provided. On the other hand, the patient experience focuses more on the humane side of healthcare, including benefits, which take into consideration factors like affordability and accessibility of services. The quality of care and treatment is more important than the quality of food or other amenities. Irrespective of how important patient satisfaction is, hospital perks cannot make up for a lack of proper diagnosis and care.

Patient satisfaction means the feedback received on the different aspects of healthcare services only, like the temperature of the food or clean bedsheets can boost patient satisfaction. But these factors, while important, are not always very critical or absolute. Patient experience is a broad term that takes a wide range of items under its purview. It is more of a holistic measure, taking into account different non-technical factors that influence healthcare services. It includes optimizing various aspects of patient interaction, from communication, hospital environment, and safety to providing top-quality care.


Patient Satisfaction and Patient Experience are often used interchangeably, but the two terms have entirely different meanings and implications for care quality. It is essential to understand and utilize these terms appropriately to deliver incredible healthcare services. By tracking both areas individually and combining the insights, your organization will get a greater knowledge of the patient's viewpoint. Once you understand these, your health system will be able to open new roads for business, improve your quality of care, and keep patients for life.

Helpful Information

What is the difference between patient experience and patient satisfaction?

Patient experience refers to a patient's perceptions of their care, including interactions with healthcare professionals, the environment, and the services they receive. Patient satisfaction, on the other hand, is a subjective assessment of whether their expectations about healthcare were met or exceeded.

How is patient experience measured?

Patient experience is typically measured using surveys. These surveys ask patients about specific aspects of their care, such as communication with doctors and nurses, the hospital environment, and the discharge process.

How is patient satisfaction measured?

Patient satisfaction is measured by asking patients to rate their overall satisfaction with their care and whether it met or exceeded their expectations. This is typically done through patient satisfaction surveys, which may be administered after a patient's care episode.

Why is understanding the difference between patient experience and satisfaction important in healthcare?

Understanding the difference between patient experience and satisfaction is crucial for healthcare providers to improve both. Patient experience focuses on processes and what happens during care, while satisfaction is an outcome, indicating whether the service met the patient's expectations.

How can patient experience be improved?

Patient experience can be improved by focusing on clear and compassionate communication, reducing wait times, improving the physical environment, and ensuring that care is patient-centered and respectful of individual preferences and needs.

How can patient satisfaction be improved?

Patient satisfaction can be improved by understanding and meeting patients' expectations. This may involve providing high-quality care, communicating effectively, addressing concerns promptly, and ensuring a comfortable and supportive environment.

Can you have a good patient experience but low patient satisfaction?

Yes, a patient can have a good experience but still report low satisfaction if their expectations were not met. For example, a patient might appreciate the friendly staff and clean environment (good experience), but if they expected their symptoms to be resolved and they were not, their satisfaction could be low.

How does patient experience influence patient satisfaction?

Patient experience directly influences patient satisfaction. A positive experience, with clear communication, timely care, and respectful treatment, will typically lead to higher patient satisfaction. However, satisfaction also depends on whether the care met the patient's expectations.

What are key elements in enhancing patient experience?

Key elements in enhancing patient experience include effective communication, respect for patient preferences, emotional support, physical comfort, information and education, continuity and transition of care, coordination of care, and access to care.

Is patient satisfaction a reliable indicator of the quality of care?

Patient satisfaction is not always a reliable indicator of the quality of care, as it is highly subjective and depends on patients' expectations. A patient might be satisfied with their care even if it was not clinically appropriate, or vice versa. It's important to consider both patient satisfaction and objective measures of quality.

What is the impact of patient experience on healthcare outcomes?

Research suggests that a positive patient experience is associated with better health outcomes. Patients who have a good experience are more likely to adhere to treatment, maintain a continuing relationship with their healthcare provider, and engage in preventive and health-promoting activities.

What role do healthcare providers play in patient satisfaction?

Healthcare providers play a critical role in patient satisfaction. Their ability to communicate effectively, show empathy, involve patients in decision-making, and respond to patients' needs and concerns can greatly influence how satisfied patients are with their care.

How can patient feedback improve both patient experience and satisfaction?

Patient feedback can provide valuable insights into where improvements can be made. By listening to patients' perceptions and expectations, healthcare providers can identify areas of strength and weakness, leading to improvements in both patient experience and satisfaction.

Can improving patient experience lead to better patient satisfaction?

Generally, improving patient experience leads to better patient satisfaction. When healthcare services are patient-centered, timely, and communicated well, patients are likely to have their expectations met or exceeded, leading to higher satisfaction.

Is patient satisfaction influenced by patient experience alone?

Patient satisfaction is influenced by patient experience, but not exclusively. It also depends on individual patient expectations, the perceived quality of care, and the outcomes of the care received.

Can healthcare organizations focus on both patient experience and satisfaction?

Healthcare organizations can and should focus on both patient experience and satisfaction. By focusing on providing a positive experience and meeting patients' expectations, organizations can improve the quality of care, patient outcomes, and patient loyalty.

How does a patient's perception of care impact their satisfaction?

A patient's perception of care directly impacts their satisfaction. If patients perceive their care as being high-quality, respectful, and attentive, they are more likely to be satisfied with their healthcare experience.

How can the physical environment influence patient experience?

The physical environment, including cleanliness, noise level, privacy, and comfort, can greatly influence patient experience. A positive environment can make patients feel more comfortable and at ease, improving their overall experience.

Do patient experience and satisfaction affect healthcare costs?

Patient experience and satisfaction can affect healthcare costs. Research has shown that better patient experience and higher satisfaction can lead to better health outcomes, improved patient retention, and lower healthcare costs.

Can patient experience and satisfaction impact patient loyalty?

Yes, both patient experience and satisfaction can greatly impact patient loyalty. Patients who have positive experiences and are satisfied with their care are more likely to return to the same provider or healthcare system for future care and recommend it to others.


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