Patient experience: it’s often the little things that matter most

patient experience - courtyard marketing

I was ‘fummin’ this weekend! (check out ‘U Ok Hun?’ page on Facebook – goes a bit far sometimes but makes me giggle on those darkest of Mondays by sharing posts by people having a worse day than you publicly on Facebook!)  

Tesco didn’t deliver my shopping.  

Hold the phone.  

Stop the world, we want to get off. 

Before you berate me for something trivial, not only did they fail to deliver my shopping but they failed to tell me until the end of the day when the delivery was meant to be made. It meant we had to drag the kids to the supermarket at teatime. It meant I had to reschedule my weekly shop delivery (with another supermarket provider). Oh.the.horror! 

But what if I had been an 83-year old housebound pensioner that lived alone? What if my carer had arranged for my shopping to come and it hadn’t. What if I literally had nothing in the cupboards, nobody was due to visit me and that food was going to be my lifeline for the next few days.  

The possibility and consequences have got you thinking, right? 

Patient experience in healthcare 

It got me thinking about patient or customer experience in healthcare which is the sector that I work with the most.  

Whether you’re a GP practice or a private physiotherapy clinic, I’m pretty sure you’re in this game to help people. You know you have a duty to provide the best possible care that you can, especially to those most vulnerable. 

Even more so now in today’s society when patients can swan off to the competition more easily than ever. The surgery down the road, the clinic that’s open for longer on Saturdays, those online GP providers where you can speak to a doctor within ten minutes for a few quid. 

Yes of course your Friends & Family results are flying high but when it really matters, when things go ‘a bit wrong’ – it’s how you respond that’s going to make all the difference to that patient or client.  

More than you know. 

STOP: You’ll love this quick montage of bad customer service – worth a giggle!


Making the little things count 

Thinking about the best healthcare clients that I’ve worked with over the years, I reckon there’s a few things I’ve picked up about what makes a great patient experience. I thought I’d share them with you: 

Safe, quality care

Yes it’s a given of course but it’s worth shouting about. Delivering high quality healthcare that’s safe creates a positive patient experience.  

This isn’t always about the patient walking out with a big smile on their face though as you well know. It’s how you reduce their suffering. It’s not always about the treatment itself either. It’s how your receptionists speak to the person on the phone. It’s how comforting the doctor is in the consultation. It’s how the physiotherapist explains the symptoms and conditions well enough that the patient goes home reassured about the future and the advice they just received. 

Building care around today’s patient

People can choose where they shop. Now they can choose where they receive their healthcare.

People are increasingly comparing their healthcare experiences with the same expectations they’ve developed for shopping, paying bills and buying Mrs Whiskerson’s cat biscuits.  

For younger patients and those who don’t rely on public services as much, it means a growing number are going to be tempted elsewhere if they don’t get the level of service they expect. Some expectations can be hard to manage but some of the best practices and clinics I’ve worked with offer online appointments, email consultations, WhatsApp ‘quick question checks’ and Facebook Groups for management of long-term conditions with very little effort.  

Just something that doesn’t always mean the patient has to ring or visit in person and is more convenient with their way of life…and an easier time for you as well in most cases! 

Putting things right with a ‘happy’ fund when things go a bit wrong 

This is probably more relevant to those healthcare businesses that charge for services but could come in handy for exceptional cases in GP practices as well. Give staff members the power to fix things on the spot and delight those patients in the process. Some examples: 

  • So if an appointment or clinic has to be cancelled at short notice, obviously let the patient know as soon as possible but afterwards, write a quick personal note (from the clinician to the patient) to say how sorry you were that the appointment couldn’t take place and to get back in touch if you can help further. It might seem small but receiving a personal letter in this day and age can mean the world, I’ve seen it happen! 
  • Another alternative (probably more helpful for paid-for health services) is to have a ‘happy fund’. When a patient comes in for their appointment after having a previous one cancelled, surprise them with a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine. Just a small way of saying you’re sorry and that you care about their business. It’s an easy, affordable tactic to keep up your sleeve. 


It’s amazing how easy someone can get upset about a cancelled appointment (or a cancelled shopping delivery!) and for it to spiral into more but you can really save yourself, your staff and an unhappy patient by just thinking about the small things that might matter the very most to them. It doesn’t take much. 

If patient experience is something you’re looking to improve and you’d like an outside view, let’s grab a cuppa and take a look together