Targeting opportunities for improving the patient experience is challenging, as providers often lack the patient and family perspective. Multiple studies show that clinician perceptions of patients' priorities do not match actual patient priorities. Patient satisfaction surveys are limited in providing specific information to drive improvement. More detail about the most salient areas and specific ideas for improvement can better be obtained from patient and care partner focus groups or individual interviews.


To gain in‐depth insight into patient and care partner desires and expectations and to build on that knowledge to implement selected patient‐driven initiatives.


A facilitated focus group was conducted with 15 patients and care partners to learn about their views of an ideal hospital experience and solicit ideas to better meet their needs and hopes, as well as rank those ideas and vote on the most powerful interventions for improving the patient experience (see Fig. 1, process map of the session). Participants were recruited on the basis of their providers' recommendations. Inclusion criteria included: high English‐language proficiency; physical and cognitive ability to participate; proximity of residency to the hospital; and length of stay of 2 days or more within the past year. Eligible care partners were individuals who identified themselves (or were identified by patients) as the primary family/friend support person during their hospitalization. During the focus‐group session, 23 suggestions for improvement interventions were identified. Improvement suggestions were subsequently grouped in the following 9 categories: nursing; service; courtesy/respect; consistency; patient placement; communication; resource availability; environment; and care‐partner support. The top‐priority improvement suggestions were determined by a facilitated voting process. Of the 23 suggestions listed, 4 of the top 5 items centered around the theme of communication (Table 1).


In‐depth conversations with patients and care partners can provide meaningful insights about the patient experience. The importance given by patients to improving communication has been effective in engaging physicians in prioritizing communication improvement interventions. Soliciting thoughts in this manner also empowers patients and makes them feel as if their voice is heard.

Table 1.

Category Highest-Rated Improvement Suggestions
Care partner support Improve care partner comfort (e.g., better sleep arrangements and hospitality) and address care partner emotional needs
Communication Better explain the roles of the provider team (e.g., who is the point person and who is responsible for what)
Improve communication both within the primary team and across teams (specialties, inpatient/outpatient, etc.)
Improve communication with patients during transitions of care, inpatient stay (e.g., explain time frames and treatment plans), discharge, and postdischarge follow-up
Improve communication with care partners (e.g., contact the primary caretaker with any meaningful updates of illness, balance between patients and their families' needs)