When The Beryl Institute released its inaugural The State of Patient Experience report in 2011, those words “patient experience,” while plenty important, didn’t quite hold the heft they do today.

Two years later, healthcare organizations across the country are feeling the additional weight of health reform and shifting reimbursements, as patient satisfaction takes a seat at the table in a new value-based care delivery model.

So it’s not surprising that 2013 survey results—including 1,072 respondents from 672 unique organizations—show that patient experience remains the top priority among American hospitals and health systems, and most feel positive about their progress. The thing is, though, they’re not as positive as they were two years ago. 

In 2013, 54 percent of respondents said they felt positive about the progress their organizations are making toward improving patient experience, compared to 61 percent in 2011. And those that felt “neutral” almost doubled to 21 percent in 2013 from 12 percent in 2011. 

And while more organizations reported both a formal definition of patient experience and a formal structure for addressing it, there was a drop in those that have established a formal mandate/mission for the effort. Roadblocks were much of the same seen before: those appointed to efforts are being pulled in other directions, other organizational priorities take attention away, or even general cultural resistance to change. 

But recognition of industry pressures to make patient experience a priority were noted, too, with HCAHPS scores and leadership’s desire to provide a better experience among the top factors influencing drive toward improving results. 

So what needs improved? Communications, noise reduction, and the discharge process—all issues identified in 2011, too. With the likelihood that a drive toward improving the patient experience will become more commonplace over the next two years, it’s important for healthcare designers to recognize not just the business pressures clients are facing but what initiatives can help them meet these goals. 

Each of these items can not only be affected but enhanced by the physical environment. What kind of space programs can support better workflows? What kinds of materials can be used to reduce noise? What about thoughtful layouts for nurses’ stations or design of consultation rooms to support communication? Can elements like benches in corridors that allow for rest, clear wayfinding, or covered pickup zones enhance the discharge journey?

Where do you see opportunity for designers to help clients improve their top patient experience concerns?