Patient journey is a term used to describe a patient’s interaction with the healthcare system which starts with the patient developing symptoms, seeking information and eventually care from a healthcare provider and continues from there through diagnosis and treatment, to recovery, adjustment to a new way of life or ultimately, death.
The concept of the patient journey, however, encompasses more than the care pathway and tries to understand a patient’s experience created through the interactions along their journey, e.g. with various healthcare providers, caregivers, other patients, patient advocacy groups and payers.
The concept of the patient journey has become central as the healthcare system focuses more on patient-centricity.
How is the patient journey changing
Despite defined care pathways, patient journeys have become more complex due to advances in medicine and novel approaches to providing care such as precision medicine, value-based care and digital health solutions. Patient journeys are often no longer linear and unique and more patient-specific than they used to be. This is especially true for patients suffering from chronic or progressive diseases whose disease courses tend to be long and multi-staged including many different interactions with the healthcare system.
Understanding the patient journey
Understanding the patient journey goes beyond prescribing a treatment and monitoring the effects, it requires a holistic approach to understand the patient’s experience at all of their touch points with the healthcare system. Journey mapping is a tool used to better understand a patient’s interactions and experience throughout their continuum of care and to expose pain points and hurdles patients face.
Methods used to journey mapping include patient interviews, in which the patients are asked to relay their positive and negative experience and to suggest improvements as well as methods such as re-enacting the patient’s journey and walking the journey alongside the patient. Journey mapping should include not just patients but also staff, such as nurses, who understand the journey and can provide important insights.
The goal of patient experience mapping is to enhance a patient’s overall experience and satisfaction rather than focusing on optimizing the patient experience at one touch point.