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Patient journey mapping: the care process seen through the patient’s eyes

Focusing on the patient, making the care friendlier and more people-oriented: those goals have been high on the agenda of many hospitals, care institutions and medical centres over recent years. But how do patients really experience the care process? Patient journey mapping is a method that helps you to better understand how patients interact with your hospital or health system.

One Shoe | 19 mei 2020

Patient journey mapping

Concepts such as the customer experience and customer involvement are no longer the preserve of the commercial sector. Organisations in the care sector have to offer the best possible patient experience. We often think that we know how the patients perceive their care, but nothing could be further from the truth once they’re in A&E or lying in a bed. One way of looking at the care from the patient’s perspective rather than the organisation’s perspective is patient journey mapping.

What is a patient journey?

The patient journey is a method that lets a hospital, care institution or medical centre create a picture of the path taken by a patient (or client). Patient journeys are used for getting a better understanding of how patients perceive and experience the care process and their interactions with an organisation or institution. It is therefore not about how the process at A&E is set up, and also not about how you think that patients perceive that process. It is about getting a genuine picture of the behaviour, experiences, thoughts and emotions of someone at A&E. In fact, a patient journey answers the question of how a patient or client progresses through the hospital, care institution or medical centre and how they perceive that progress, from the very first point of contact through to discharge, care or follow-up.

Patient journey mapping

Patient journey mapping is the process of creating a clear picture of how the patient progresses. It has now become a widely used, tried-and-tested method, not only in the healthcare sector but also elsewhere. The method originated in the commercial sector, where it is known as customer journey mapping and used for getting a picture of a customer’s interaction moments with a company. It is also a widely used methodology in education, where it is called student journey mapping. The patient journey is a term from the care sector, focusing specifically on the patient’s experiences with the care organisation.

What does a patient journey map involve?

No two patient journey maps are the same because no two patients or organisations are identical. A number of elements that make up a patient journey map are often distinguished, though:

➔   Personas

Creating a persona is the first step in mapping out the patient journey. A persona is a highly specific description of the target group in terms of a detailed, written profile. Why should you be setting up a persona? A persona lets you achieve two things: you create an overview of the motives, behaviour and wishes of a certain target group, and you also give that target group a ‘face’ in order to create empathy within the team. You generate empathy by adding a fictitious name and photo to the persona, along with demographic details such as age, sex, family, location, profession and level of education. You draw up a persona in a Persona Workshop led by experienced strategists.

Patient journey map

➔   Stages

A patient or client proceeds through several stages. Widely used stages are ‘Before, During, After’, but they could be different for any specific sector, organisation or journey and they can also be extended to include specific sub-stages. For example, the ‘During’ stage can include arrival at the hospital, looking for the consulting room, waiting, initial interview, treatment, discussing the follow-up steps, leaving.

➔   Textual or visual narrative describing the journey

This is where you describe the current experience for each step or the desired experience in the future. Texts are sometimes used for this, as are cartoon drawings or photos. This helps whoever is reading the journey to get a good understanding of the flow and what the persona is experiencing. It helps the reader relate to the narrative and empathise with the patient.

➔   Emotional state/experience

The diagram showing how the ‘emotional graph’ progresses is one of the key ‘lanes’ in the journey map. It shows how the patient is feeling in each phase. Based on that, you can get a picture of the phases that involve the best or worst experiences and can make choices about which improvements you should tackle first.

You do not necessarily have to start with the most negative emotion, by the way. The final impression, as you leave the hospital or institution, is often also a way to improve the entire experience. Or you can choose to improve the experience in the steps before and after the event that has the most negative emotions, which will also improve the overall impression.

Patient journey mapping

➔   Touchpoints

Touchpoints are all the contact moments and interaction moments that the patient or client has with the organisation. This could be a ten-minute consultation with the GP or contact information on the hospital website, the electronic medical records, the waiting room or the brochure for patients. It is therefore not only referring to physical or digital environments but also to interactions with the staff. Touchpoints need to be viewed from the patient’s perspective, not the organisational one.

➔   Other lanes

A patient journey map is a very flexible tool that can be supplemented with additional information, depending on the needs of your organisation and your project. This could include things that irritate the patients, the patients’ goals, people or staff who have a role in the specific phase, opportunities to make improvements and so forth. Enrich the journey in a way that lets your team get the most out of it!

Identify opportunities and the obstacles in the care process

Patient journey mapping creates a picture of the patient’s perspective of your care process. Plotting out the flow of personas in various stages as they pass the various touchpoints and information systems lets patient journey mapping identify the opportunities and the obstacles. These can for instance cover the availability of relevant information at intervention moments, the experience while waiting, technical innovations or process improvements – to name just a few possibilities.

From micro-moment to a holistic approach

The patient journey offers a multidisciplinary context for streamlining and improving processes. Once it has been mapped out, it also immediately shows where improvements are possible in the contact moments to let you create the optimum patient experience. It is then no longer just about optimising the micro-moments, such as the interaction between the doctor and patient or the layout of the waiting rooms. It is much more about creating a holistic view of the care process. A properly defined patient journey helps care sector organisations see things the way the patient does, letting them make better strategic choices more easily and making the care friendlier and more people-focused.

About One Shoe

Creative & Digital agency One Shoe realises websites, platforms, patient portals and community platforms for a lot of organisations in Cure, Care and Pharma such as Dutch Lung Foundation, SanofiGenzyme, Dutch Hospital Foundation (NVZ), Dutch GP Council (NHG), Chiesi Pharmaceuticals, Jeroen Bosch Hospital and many others.

Ready to get going with patient journey mapping?

Job (Digital Consultant) will be pleased to tell you more.