Transforming patient experience in facing the ‘new normal’

Summary and key takeaways from HMA Virtual’s fireside chat with Dr Thomas Howell, Assistant Medical Director of Patient Experience at Mayo Clinic, about patient experience during COVID-19.


Dr Thomas Howell is currently the Assistant Director of Patient Experience at the Mayo Clinic Health System. He shares the framework for patient experience they follow at Mayo Clinic, highlighting that patient experience is more than addressing complaints (service recovery team) and gathering patient satisfaction data (research team). At Mayo Clinic, there is also the training and education group which played a big role during COVID-19 in providing information to patients, the improvement partners who shadowed physicians to improve communication with patients, and an experience relationship management team which looks at the system in a more holistic way. All these are directed towards the core value of providing a superior patient experience rather than achieving certain numbers from surveys.

During COVID-19, patient experience has changed as we moved to virtual visits and use of technology for diagnostics and consultation. Yet, we have to remember that technology is only supplementary; patient experience is still and will remain to be about the connection. Hence, we have to consider not just the patient’s experience but also the experience of patients’ families and caregivers as well as the staff. This way, we are able to provide better and more personalised care. Likewise, it allows us to recognise the value of our staff who suffer burnouts and their role in helping us provide the best experience for patients.

Overall, patient experience is about knowing the values and priorities of patients (plus their caregivers and families), the staff, and the organisation.

Key Takeaways

  1. Medicine is as much about people’s hearts as it is about their heads.
  2. Patient experience involves improving everybody’s experience, meaning not only for patients but also for their families and caregivers.
  3. Loyal patients are often those who felt their concerns were resolved rather than those who didn’t have any complaints.
  4. Pay attention to your patients, but in doing so, also remember to pay attention to your staff.
  5. We have to find values coincident with the organisation’s values and with what people really care about.