60% of Americans have had a recent bad healthcare experience, new survey shows

Most Americans aren’t having great healthcare experiences right now — and most have had bad experiences — according to patient experience research published earlier this month.

In the most recent findings from The Beryl Institute – Ipsos PX Pulse, three-quarters (76%) of Americans surveyed said they had not had a positive patient experience in the past three months, and 60% had a decidedly negative.

These findings may reflect the current state of the health care system, according to Jason Wolf, president and CEO of The Beryl Institute.

“The incredible pressures the healthcare system is currently facing are having a significant impact on the experiences people feel they have in healthcare,” said Wolf. “Longer wait times, access issues, understaffed units causing delayed response times all contribute to people not feeling heard, communicated and treated with respect.”

Well-documented burnout among nurses and physicians and related understaffing appear to negatively impact patient experience and influence consumer behavior. Among respondents who have had positive experiences, 61% said they would continue to see the same healthcare provider. On the other hand, a third (33%) of those who had a bad experience said they would switch suppliers as a result.

44% of people who report having a positive experience as a patient said they would tell someone about it, but more people (52%) who have had negative experiences would do so too.

Overall, only 40 percent of respondents rated the quality of health care in the United States as very good or good, down six percentage points from March 2022 and nearly 20 points from its peak in March 2020. Current findings are the lowest ratings of health care quality in the United States since the survey began in December 2019.

At the same time, fewer than two-thirds (64%) of respondents said their healthcare experiences over the past year were very good or good, even the lowest since the survey began.

Virtually all respondents (92%) said having a good patient experience is extremely or very important to them, a four-point drop from the September 2020 high.

“I don’t think people’s expectations are going down, but I do think their view of health care has changed,” Wolf said. “The real pressures that we know healthcare is facing in terms of staffing, high volumes, and the overall systemic pressures that this creates is that people see healthcare as less able to [and] less responsive to serving their needs.

For most of the people surveyed, a good patient experience is important to their health. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents said a good patient experience is important because their health and well-being is important to them, and 64% said they want to know that their physical needs are being taken seriously. About half (49%) said a good patient experience contributes to their health outcomes and 35% said it would influence their future healthcare decisions.

Another dimension of the importance of a good patient experience is the feeling among some healthcare consumers that they deserve a good experience. Just over half (52%) said they wanted and deserved to be treated with respect. Nearly as many (46%) said they wanted to be addressed as a person, not as a symptom, diagnosis or disease. About a third said a good patient experience matters because their time matters (37%) and why they spend their money on service (35%).

For one in five respondents, a good patient experience matters because they consider themselves the customer, a rate that has remained relatively constant across surveys. That more people don’t see themselves as the client may suggest that people view health care differently from other services, according to Wolf.

“To me, it reflects that the U.S. consumer expects more than just a transaction from health care,” Wolf said. “They want to be seen and treated as people, they are committed to their well-being, they seek and expect respect. It emphasizes that healthcare is a relational place for consumers and healthcare organizations must work to build that before anything else.”

To improve the patient experience, healthcare professionals may want to focus on communication, which virtually all respondents rated as extremely or very important. The primary drivers of a good experience, according to respondents, were healthcare professionals listening (96%), communicating clearly (96%), providing a clear plan of care and reasons for that plan (95%), taking take their pain seriously (94%) and treat them with courtesy and respect (94%). In contrast, services such as good food, new facilities and on-demand television were important to well under half of the respondents.

Respondents reported that they associated words such as caring, understanding, friendly, listened, knowledgeable, and clear with a positive healthcare experience. By comparison, the negative experiences conjured up words like rushed, rude, waiting, dismissive, and long.

The survey also reveals that American healthcare has a trust issue. While 88% of respondents said trust is extremely or very important, more than two-thirds (68%) said they believe trust in healthcare has declined in the past two years. Most respondents said their confidence in health care has not changed, but 25% said their confidence has gotten or much worse.

About half (48%) of people whose trust in healthcare has declined cited their perception that the healthcare system is acting out of self-interest, rather than out of concern for the patient’s best interest. Nearly as many said the pandemic has contributed to the erosion of their trust (44%), as have access issues such as wait times (43%) and difficulty getting needed care (39%).

To rebuild trust, consumers in the survey suggested that providers should ensure patients have access to timely care, demonstrate care and respect for patients, and provide transparent pricing.

“A greater commitment to the experience they provide and the relational nature of care and communicating vigorously will help reverse this trend,” Wolf said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *