Understanding The Diminished Patient Experience

The Quiet Decline: Understanding the Diminished Patient Experience During COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the healthcare sector, prompting a need to examine its impact on patient care experiences. An original investigation titled “Changes in Patient Experiences of Hospital Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic” delves into this crucial aspect. This study, published in JAMA Health Forum, sought to assess alterations in patient experiences during the pandemic and identify potential variations across hospitals with different patient-staff ratios and pre-pandemic quality ratings. Let’s explore the critical details of this investigation.



 The study involved researchers and healthcare experts who undertook the analysis. It engaged a vast dataset comprising 3,900,887 respondents from 3,381 hospitals across the United States. These hospitals participated in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, a crucial tool for gauging patient experiences.


What (The Study Was About)

The primary objective of the investigation was to understand how patient experiences of hospital care evolved amid the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the trends observed before the pandemic. The study aimed to shed light on whether the changes in patient experiences varied based on the hospitals’ patient-staff ratios and their quality ratings before the pandemic.


Why (They Wanted to Figure This Out)

The study was motivated by the necessity to comprehensively assess the effects of the pandemic on patient care experiences. Hospitals needed insights into how the pandemic impacted patient perceptions to effectively adapt and enhance their services in response to the unique challenges posed by the crisis.


What (They Found)

The investigation yielded several noteworthy findings:

  • Patient experience scores, represented by the HCAHPS summary score (HCAHPS-SS), underwent a decline during 2020-2021 compared to the anticipated trends based on data from 2018-2019.
  • The reduction in HCAHPS-SS ranged from 1.2 percentage points for Q2/2020 discharges to -3.6 percentage points by Q4/2021.
  • Specific aspects of patient experiences were affected differently. Staff responsiveness and cleanliness notably reported more significant decreases, while measures such as discharge information and quietness experienced smaller declines.
  • Hospitals with lower pre-pandemic staffing levels faced a more significant drop in patient experience scores. On the other hand, hospitals with higher pre-pandemic quality ratings demonstrated milder declines.
  • Interestingly, even top-performing hospitals before the pandemic faced similar declines in patient experience scores by the end of 2021.


What’s Next (Implications for Hospitals)

The study’s outcomes hold important implications for the healthcare industry:

  • Hospitals should prioritize bolstering staff responsiveness and maintaining cleanliness due to their pronounced impact on patient experiences.
  • Healthcare providers with lower pre-pandemic staffing levels must devise strategies to enhance resilience against reduced staff availability.
  • The findings underscore the need for maintaining high-quality patient experiences, irrespective of pre-pandemic performance, as demonstrated by the declines in even initially well-performing hospitals.
  • Hospitals must remain agile in adapting practices to ensure positive patient experiences, given their substantial role in patient satisfaction and overall healthcare quality.


If you are interested in diving deeper into the investigation, the full study titled ‘Changes in Patient Experiences of Hospital Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic’, published in JAMA Health Forum, is available for you to view!



In summary, this investigation, spearheaded by healthcare experts, delves into transforming patient experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing from an extensive dataset derived from the HCAHPS survey, the study emphasizes the importance of nurturing positive patient experiences and adapting healthcare approaches, even in the face of extraordinary challenges.

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