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What should I expect when I go to a health care provider?

When you go to a health care provider, you should expect certain things from your visit. From how helpful and respectful the front office staff is to how well informed your provider is about your medical history, each part of your experience impacts your overall care. The better the communication is between you and your provider, the more you can work together to reach your health care goals. Your primary care provider may work with a team of other healthcare professionals, so you may be seen primarily by a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant (PA).

The list below can help you be sure you’re getting what you need from your provider.

  1. You should feel your provider cares about you as a person.
  2. Your provider should know the important information about your medical history including up-to-date information about care you received from specialists.
  3. Your provider should listen carefully to you and show respect for what you have to say.
  4. Your provider should explain things in a way that is easy for you to understand.
  5. Your provider should answer your questions to your satisfaction.
  6. Your provider should spend enough time with you.
  7. Your provider should give you easy to understand instructions about taking care of yourself, including how to use medications.
  8. Your provider’s office should follow up with you about test results.
  9. You should be able to get timely appointments, care and information.
  10. Office staff should be helpful, courteous and respectful.

If these things aren’t happening when you visit your provider’s office, you may need to take action. The best place to start is to communicate your concerns to your provider. If this doesn’t result in improvement, you may consider selecting another provider that better meets your needs. Getting the care you need and want is possible. And you have to be actively involved to make sure you get it.

 

 
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Can my experience at the provider’s office really affect my health?

It can! Having a good experience when we visit our primary care provider is important outcome of care in and of itself. We all want to be respected, get the care we need when we need it, understand our health conditions, and leave knowing what we are supposed to do next. But did you know that a good patient experience is also linked to improved health?

Studies have shown that patients who have an excellent patient experience and effective communication with their health care provider experience better health.

Some of the results happen in the first few years of a strong patient-provider relationship. If you have a good experience with your provider, you are more likely to:

  • Know more about your health issues.
  • Feel more in control of your health.
  • Make better health decisions on your own and care for yourself better.
  • Stick to what your provider advises you to do to take care of yourself, including taking your medications.
  • Have less chance of being harmed by medical errors and side effects.

In the longer run, the benefits are even greater. If you have a good experience with your provider, you may be more likely to:

  • Have better health (for example, good blood pressure or cholesterol levels).
  • Have improved quality of life and well-being.
  • Have less chance you will receive different care solely because of your race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
  • Save money by avoiding tests that won’t help you or that repeat other tests for no good reason.
  • Live longer.

You’ll know your experience is likely to lead to better health if:

  • Your providers and other members of your health care team encourage you to be engaged and actively involved in making decisions about your health.
  • You get care that focuses on you as a whole person, taking into account your personal preferences and values, family situation, social circumstances and lifestyle.
  • Communication between you and your health care team is two-way and sensitive to both your needs and ability to understand.
  • Your care is well-coordinated, so that if you have to go to a different provider or to the hospital, your medical history and care will be remembered, communicated, referred to and tracked.
 
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What are people in Washington saying about their experience?

Washington Health Alliance has published results from its 2015 survey about patients’ experience with their primary health care providers. Find out how 73 medical groups and their 266 clinics stack up.

The nationally developed and standardized patient experience survey was mailed to approximately 181,000 people and asked patients to report their experiences with their health care provider and the provider’s office staff over the last 12 months.

The survey asked questions that fit into five categories:

  • Getting Timely Appointments, Care and Information
  • How Well Providers Use Information to Coordinate Care
  • How Well Providers Communicate with Patients
  • Helpful, Courteous and Respectful Office Staff
  • Patient’s Rating of the Provider.
 
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How can I take more control of my health care?

To take control, you need to become an active participant in your health and health care. Start by lining up a primary care provider, even if you are perfectly healthy. When you go to the provider’s office, be sure that you are informed and prepared. And don’t forget to take responsibility for your own health and wellness outside of the provider’s office. You can find many of the tools and much of information you need to maintain and improve your health, and to make sure you are getting quality health care, online.

Here are four important ways to take more control of your health care:.

  • Have a Primary Care Provider—Find and maintain a relationship with a primary care provider you trust.
  • Get the Right Care—The quality of health care varies. Make sure you know what quality care is and how to get it.
  • Talk to Your Provider—Get the most from your visits to the provider by openly and honestly communicating your health concerns and needs so your provider can best help you.
  • Take Care of Yourself—Take care of yourself by making smart lifestyle choices and following through on your provider’s advice.
 
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Is patient experience the same thing as patient satisfaction?

Patient experience surveys include—but go beyond—simple ratings of satisfaction. They focus on the most important interactions patients experience during their visit to the provider’s office, interactions that research shows are most important to patients and are linked to better health for patients.

Patient experience surveys ask patients whether or not, or how often, certain things actually happened. For example:

  • How often are you able to get timely information in response to questions about your health concerns?
  • How often is it easy for you to schedule appointments as soon as you think is needed?
  • How often do you feel listened to and do you understand explanations about your health issues and important instructions about recommended care?
  • How often does your provider know important information about your medical history?

In contrast, with patient satisfaction surveys, respondents are asked to rate their health care provider and other aspects of care with ratings such as satisfied or dissatisfied. Ratings reflect the patient’s expectations and feelings, which can be very subjective. Patient satisfaction surveys are less helpful for health care providers in understanding what can be done to improve performance. More importantly, patient satisfaction alone is not strongly linked to better health.

 

Your Voice Matters

When you go to a health care provider’s office, what is your experience?

Do you feel respected, listened to and like you got the care you needed? Do you leave with an understanding of what your health issues are and what you are supposed to do next? Patients in Washington have spoken up about what matters most to them, and how their primary care providers are doing.

  • What should I expect when I go to a health care provider?

    When you go to a health care provider, you should expect certain things from your visit. From how helpful and respectful the front office staff is to how well informed your provider is about your medical history, each part of your experience impacts your overall care.
    Read More >

  • Can my experience at the provider’s office really affect my health?

    It can! Having a good experience when we visit our primary care provider is important outcome of care in and of itself. Good patient experience is also linked to improved health.
    Read More >

  • What are people in Washington saying about their experience?

    The Washington Health Alliance has published results from its 2015 survey about patients’ experience with their primary health care providers. Find out how 73 medical groups and their 266 clinics stack up.
    Read More >

  • How can I take more control of my health care?

    To take control, you need to become an active participant in your health and health care. Start by lining up a primary care provider, even if you are perfectly healthy.
    Read More >

  • Is patient experience the same thing as patient satisfaction?

    Patient experience surveys include—but go beyond—simple ratings of satisfaction. They focus on the most important interactions patients experience during their visit to the provider’s office, interactions that research shows are most important to patients and are linked to better health.
    Read More >

View Patient Experience Results
See how Washington medical groups and clinics compare.

See How Medical Groups Rate

View a snapshot of how people rated 73 medical groups in Washington on patient experience.

Know What You Should Expect

Find out what every patient should expect during a visit to the health care provider’s office.

Own Your Health

Find helpful tips and resources to help you take control of your care.