The Difference Between Patient Engagement and Patient Experience

Experience, engagement, and everything in between

As the healthcare sector becomes more patient-oriented, it’s important we have a clear distinction between experience and engagement. Luckily, we’re starting to see more interest in patient engagement, and more evidence of how effective it can be. 


Positive reviews and smiling patients are a great way to measure the quality of the patient experience at your practice. But this doesn’t tell you anything about the patient’s attitude to their health. Or the ways you might have motivated them to focus on their own health.


To make sure the patient journey is both enjoyable AND effective, you need to think about patient engagement more closely.

What IS patient experience?

The patient experience is the experience at each touchpoint in your patient journey. It’s a process that starts when they find your practice, and includes the booking process, receiving reminders, recalls, other communications, patient forms, and everything that happens when they’re in the practice.


But it doesn’t end when they leave. Any communication between appointments is also going to contribute to their overall experience. 


At each step of that journey, you’ve got the chance to impress them with exceptional service. That’s what’s going to create a sense of patient satisfaction at your practice. That’s why practices invest so much effort and time to create a seamless experience for their patients.


So you’ve got the patient experience down. What about patient engagement?

What IS patient engagement?

At HotDoc, we see patient engagement as a joint partnership between the patient and their clinician to get the best possible health results. 


For the patient, it means taking control of their own health and actively participating in making it better. But they can’t get there on their own. That’s where you come in. 


As a practitioner, your role is to empower them with education, support, and encouragement, and to make it as easy as possible for them to come and see you. Helping your patients feel informed enough to make decisions for their health can build trust and give them the confidence they need


The more you can work with your patients, rather than just working for them, the more they’ll start to become more active in their own care outside of your appointments. Whether that’s as simple as developing healthier habits, or being more proactive about preventative care with you and other health providers. 


That might look like:

  • Developing healthier habits, like improving their diet or a more active lifestyle
  • Being more proactive about preventative care with you and their other care providers
  • More productive appointments, where they share important details, ask questions, and have a record of symptoms or changes


It’s ideal for everyone!

A satisfying patient experience is just the beginning
Unfortunately, patient engagement (particularly from a practitioner perspective) is often overlooked or mistaken for patient satisfaction
A pleasant patient interaction isn’t always engaging. If a patient feels like their problem is solved, they might walk away feeling great about the exchange. But it doesn’t mean they feel confident about managing their condition. It also doesn’t mean they played an active role in the process. 
Patients who are more involved in health decisions are able to make smarter choices, better understand the issues, and address concerns more effectively. So while giving patients a great experience is important, it takes a little more to achieve patient engagement
How you can spot the difference
An exceptional patient experience is important too, of course. It’s unlikely that a patient will be motivated if they’re unsatisfied with their experience. But satisfaction isn’t enough to get the best results. 
For example, a satisfied patient will likely take their medication as prescribed. But an engaged patient will take it a step further. 
They’re taking their medication, of course. They’re also adjusting their diet, exercise, and stress management strategies to support the treatment. They’re proactive about preventative health tests to keep them on track. They come to each appointment prepared because they’ve been recording their efforts and symptoms.
Great experiences foster engagement

If a patient enjoys their experience with your practice, they’re much more likely to be invested in the process. 


But a patient dreading their appointment might try to delay it as long as they can. If they feel rushed through the process, they’ll leave feeling frustrated or just indifferent.


It can be tricky for practitioners, too! You’re not a mind reader and it can be difficult to gauge whether a patient is open to a more active role or just disinterested. Patient engagement is a two-way street, remember, so they need to meet you halfway for your efforts to pay off. 


But many patients will be open to learning and improving, and you’ll find that a bit of extra effort will make a huge difference to those relationships.

Better for patients AND for practices
Engaging your patients leads to better patient relationships, patient loyalty, better health outcomes, and a more satisfying work life for you and your team
Your practice maintains a healthy patient base, and doesn’t need to spend as much time or money on gaining new patients. Meanwhile, your patients are more confident. They’re motivated to take an active role in their health. And both of you benefit from the shared knowledge, trust, and loyalty that a continued relationship provides
If you can strike a balance of patient satisfaction and engagement, you’ll make it easier for everyone. Both parties get what they need, and everyone has a good time along the way.
Taking the time to engage your patients means you’ll be more than just a chore on their to-do list. You’ll become a trusted caregiver for life.

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