Insights from National Patterns in Patient Experience During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Deirdre Mylod, PhD, Executive Director, Institute for Innovation and Senior Vice President, Research & Analytics


– An analysis of patient experience data received through March 26 shows an increase in national top-box scores for most patient experience measures in February, and better performance on most measures in February compared to January and February 2019.

– With increasing awareness of the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. in early March, most patient experience measures continued their upward trend nationally, with the exception of patients’ perceptions of cleanliness and support for family and friends being present during their care, both reflections of concerns and changes associated with the pandemic. Analyses of patient comments provide additional context to these trends.

– These data and insights can help guide the delivery of optimally safe, high-quality, and patient-centered care both during this pandemic and going forward.

With access to millions of patient evaluations of care, Press Ganey is in a unique position to understand the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on patients and the organizations caring for them. To identify patterns, we analyzed survey responses from the past 15 months through March 26, including 2.9 million inpatient responses, 2 million ED responses, and 10.6 million medical practice responses.

Our analyses show an increase in national top-box scores for most measures in February 2020, as illustrated in the figure below. Further, performance on most measures was higher in February than it was in January of this year and in February 2019. Though the United States had few known COVID-19 cases in February, the American public was aware of the international situation. Given international news, patients may have experienced a shift in priorities and an enhanced empathy and appreciation for those providing care. One notable exception to this positive shift in evaluations in early 2020 is in patients’ perceptions of hospital cleanliness, which showed a decline since December 2019. This likely reflects a heightened awareness and fear of infection due to the international news.

Final Chart for Deirdre's Article

In March, the number of COVID-19 cases began to increase dramatically across the country. Though patient experience results for March discharge dates currently reflect only the early portion of March, we’re seeing that most patient experience measures continue their upward trend nationally, especially the global ratings (Overall Rating of the hospital and Likelihood to Recommend the hospital) and their key drivers, such as perception of teamwork (Staff Worked Together). At the same time, the downward trend in perception of cleanliness also continued, reflecting heightened sensitivities and concerns. Additionally, we are seeing measures related to visitors and family beginning to decline in March as organizations institute changes in policies to restrict or prohibit visitors to protect patients and staff.

Patient comments are providing additional, important context around some of these trends. An analysis of more than 350,000 patient comments from January through March 20, 2020, identified 11,593 COVID-19–related comments from patient experience surveys, a sharp increase in the number of comments related to COVID-19 and in the number of locations across the country where patients talked about their COVID-19–related experiences or concerns.

Using AI technology developed specifically to analyze unstructured text, 26,997 insights were derived from these patient comments. For example, patients increasingly expressed concerns about how often check-in screens and waiting areas were being cleaned and whether extra steps were being taken to prevent contamination, but they also observed the efforts of staff and caregivers to make them feel safe and comfortable during this challenging time.

These data and insights can help guide the delivery of optimally safe, high-quality, and patient-centered care both during this pandemic and going forward, as health systems seek to develop and strengthen their ability to adapt and improve to what becomes the new normal in health care.