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Patient Satisfaction or Patient Experience?

In the mid-1980s, to address a dropping market share, the Coca-Cola Company replaced the original-formula Coke with a sweeter ‘New Coke’……. a now infamously known ‘huge mistake’! While a blind taste test with 200,000 consumers had validated New Coke, the consumers had not been asked if they would give up the original Coke for the New Coke. The Coke ‘experience’ had also not been considered i.e. there was no measurement of the symbolic value and emotional involvement consumers had with the original Coke.

Measuring certain elements of consumer preferences is one thing, holistically understanding the consumer is another. In the case of healthcare, the surveying process itself (not just the action taken based on the survey outcomes) should be continuously refined to reflect the evolving consumer, the modified hospital settings and the dynamic healthcare industry.

In my last blog, I talked about HOW to measure the patient experience or to some, how to improve on their patient satisfaction surveying methods. These terms – patient satisfaction and patient experience – are used interchangeably, but they are different. Deciding WHICH of these two aspects to measure is important in ensuring that you get to the crux of the patient issues you are investigating.

The table below outlines the key differences further:


Patient satisfaction is still a relevant focus for hospitals that are at the very early stages of the organizational patient experience maturity spectrum. Once you start moving through the spectrum, your survey should start evolving towards one that captures more of the patient experience.

We love real-life stories, so if you’ve refined your patient satisfaction or patient experience survey recently, write in and tell us why and how you did it, and more importantly, what impact it has had on your setting.


  1. ‘Coca-Cola Lost Millions Because of this Market Research Mistake’, Scott Smith, PhD, Jan 21 2013,
  2.  ‘The Point of Care – Measures of Patients’ Experience in Hospital – Purpose, Methods and Uses’ – The Kings Fund – Coulter, Fitzpatrick and Cornwell, July 2009
  3. ‘Review of Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction Surveys conducted within Public and Private Hospitals in Australia’ – Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Healthcare, 2012



About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.