What Do Patients Want?


One way to find out is to ask them via a patient advisory council.

Fam Pract Manag. 2022 Mar-Apr;29(2):5.

“I have learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote, often attributed to author and poet Maya Angelou, is a good reminder for those of us in health care.

“Patient experience” is key to patient-centered care. It is the sum of all interactions the patient has when accessing health care, including appointment scheduling, check in, rooming, the clinician visit, labs, referrals, and follow-up scheduling. “Patient satisfaction” is the measure of how well the entire experience met patients' expectations. Did they wait longer than they had anticipated? Was the clinic environment as warm and welcoming as they had hoped it would be? Did they feel listened to and cared for?

Most primary care practices measure patient satisfaction, and some practices use the results in payment decisions and clinician ratings. Clinicians are sometimes frustrated that practicing medicine requires adopting a mentality that “the customer is always right.” However, improved patient experience is correlated with improved clinical outcomes, patient safety, and patient adherence to treatment plans.1,2 Studies of patient experience consistently outline common themes that predict patient satisfaction, such as strong communication skills, attention to individual needs, and streamlined workflow.3,4

To delve deeper into what patients want within each of these general themes, practices can set up patient advisory councils. Patients can often see gaps in service or policies that are preventing excellent experiences. Advisory councils give patients a way to influence the design of the clinic, certain workflows, and clinical priorities.5 These councils also help practices solve process challenges, like improving wait times, addressing communication issues, or helping to design specific quality improvement projects.6,7 Councils usually meet monthly or every other month, with food provided if


show all references

1. What is patient experience? AHRQ. October 2016. Reviewed June 2021. Accessed Feb. 4, 2022.

2. Doyle C, Lennox L, Bell D. A systematic review of evidence on the links between patient experience and clinical safety and effectiveness. BMJ Open. 2013;3(1):e001570.

3. Nepal S, Keniston A, Indovina KA, et al. What do patients want? A qualitative analysis of patient, provider, and administrative perceptions and expectations about patients’ hospital stays. J Patient Exp. 2020;7(6):1760–1770.

4. Rowh M. 10 ways to improve the patient experience. Managed Healthcare Executive. May 19, 2019. Accessed Feb. 4, 2022.

5. Sharma AE, Angel L, Bui Q. Patient advisory councils: giving patients a seat at the table. Fam Pract Manag. 2015;22(4):22–27.

6. Johnson KE, Mroz TM, Abraham M, et al. Promoting patient and family partnerships in ambulatory care improvement: a narrative review and focus group findings. Adv Ther. 2016;33(8):1417–1439.

7. Lee SY. Leveraging an ambulatory patient and family advisory council to improve patient experience scores. J Patient Exp. 2021;8:23743735211039316.

8. Working with patient and families as advisors: implementation handbook. AHRQ. Accessed Feb. 2, 2022.


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