In our experience of interacting with close to four hundred emergency department (ED) patients and generating several journey maps, we have identified three key recurring areas that tend to be ignored or under appreciated from experience leaders. While it is true that an ED experience will be positive with strong communication from doctors and state of the art, comfortable patient rooms, there is still more to be desired. Communication and comfort may be important, but they only meet the bare minimum for a strong ED experience. Our research has led us to a different set of touchpoints that have shown to have equal or even greater importance to a potential patient's ED experience. We have seen that it can often be difficult to pinpoint internal issues without witnessing them first-hand from the perspective of a patient. 

Has your organization formed a hypothesis around what can be done to improve your patient experience? We have worked with many healthcare organizations, and in our experience, those hypotheses do not always reflect patient needs or expectations. As mentioned, here are the three pain points that often go unnoticed and could make a huge impact as you are looking to enhance your ED patient experience.

Arrival: The first pain point exists even before a patient sits down in the waiting room. Based on the data we’ve collected, we found a correlation between satisfaction during arrival and overall visit satisfaction. Many patients we spoke with mentioned the “check-in person did not care at all” and that they put no effort beyond simply checking the patient in. A combination of poor weather and health conditions can make it difficult for patients to make their way inside on their own, and if no one is present to assist them, that lack of interaction is often a leading contributor to an overall poor experience. 

Waiting: It’s no secret that the waiting room plays a pivotal role in the patient experience. At this phase, a patient’s frustration continues to rise as the amount of time goes on without receiving any sort of acknowledgment. Many patients note that they were not provided enough information about what to expect. When health assistance is needed, people will more than likely be in distress, especially if required to wait. Waiting periods are key moments when a patient might feel like they are receiving a poor experience, leading to them giving mediocre scores on a satisfaction survey. Acknowledging patients on a regular basis and providing as much information as possible can help mitigate these issues. 

Discharge: The last pain point we’ll discuss takes place once the patient is discharged. Even though an individual has been stabilized enough to leave the ED, they still may not be feeling fully recovered and still need further assistance. We spoke to multiple patients who were “upset that there were nurses around and no one offered to help or get a wheelchair.” Patients often feel confused about where to go and what to do next once discharged. They may even need assistance in finding transportation. The point of discharge will be the last thing an individual remembers and if that moment was a negative experience, it could be detrimental to the overall experience.

If you are trying to improve your ED patient experience, you must realize that your CAHPS can only tell you so much. To truly understand how your patients perceive their experience, you must dig deep and inspect every touchpoint - especially when it comes to arrival, waiting, and discharge. With this in mind, ask yourself these questions: How do I start improving the ED patient experience? What should the first initiative be? What tools should I use to improve ED patient experience? How do I improve satisfaction scores? How do I improve the experience within the ED patient experience? What does the CAHPS not tell me? How do I identify what’s broken in my ED patient experience? Once you start identifying the answers and developing solutions to the challenges you uncover, you’ll be on your way to delivering a better ED patient experience.

If we can be of service in helping you answer any of these questions, get in touch with us at We’d be happy to share our insights with you.

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