covid 5 elements header
Pandemic Patient Experience: The 5 Elements of COVID-19
University of Utah Health’s director of patient experience Mari Ransco examines the pandemic patient experience through the lens of the 5 Elements: U of U Health’s qualitative model for delivering an exceptional patient experience.

patient’s experience begins the moment they choose or are referred to our system. Their experience describes their care journey—from scheduling an appointment, seeing a specialist, an inpatient stay, filling their prescriptions, follow-up appointments—to whatever the outcome may be. Today, as patient concerns are focused on the coronavirus pandemic, each step in the patients’ care experience matters even more.

Feedback during a pandemic

Beginning in February 2020, patients started telling us about their concerns around COVID-19. By mid-April, it was all patients could talk about. We’ve received thousands of patient comments that relay a diversity of emotions: appreciation, confusion, stress, frustration, anxiety, and fear. We’ve also hosted two patient design studios in the last eight weeks to hear how patients feel about getting tested, communication from their provider, caring for their loved ones, and what it will take to feel comfortable coming to an upcoming appointment.

Voice of the pandemic patient

I went to the Sugar House COVID testing center. I got there about 20 minutes before they stopped testing. I can't imagine how many people they had seen before me and yet, everyone was kind, they took the time to sanitize everything, it was cold and blustering wind and STILL everyone was working hard and working as a team. Very impressive. I spoke to my provider before coming in and she put in a referral. I didn't expect to have physician see me at the test site. He was very kind and wanted to answer any questions I had (luckily my provider had already walked me through what to expect.) but I really felt at ease with a situation that could have been a lot more scary had it not been for such a great team." Sugar House Health Center, visit April 2020

Dr. Vanhorn was very patient with all of my questions about coronavirus. she was reassuring and validated my feelings and concerns. I love the staff in this office and Dr. Vanhorn. There was hand sanitizer everywhere and everyone took hand washing seriously. There was a serious concern about Coronavirus at the hospital, and I appreciated being screened about symptoms multiple times as I moved through the hospital. —University Hospital Women's Health Clinic, Jennifer Van Horn, MD, visit March 2020

What do our patients tell us?

To help identify themes, we applied U of U Health’s 5 Elements qualitative model to help digest coronavirus comments. As a refresher, an exceptional patient experience reflects 5 Elementscaring, listening, explaining, teamwork, and efficiency. Patients want to be known, heard, and provided a plan that reflects and includes their values. Patients want the team to coordinate for them and be on the same page with each other. Patients want the team to be organized to meet their needs. When all 5 elements are present, patients describe their confidence, trust, and loyalty to the care team.

The following is a breakdown of coronavirus themes using the 5 elements model:

Theme Covid-19 Patient Concerns
(KNOW me)
  • Do they care about my safety?
  • Are they concerned about my questions/worries?
  • Do they demonstrate hygiene (washing, masking, etc.)
(HEAR me)
  • Do they take time to hear my concerns?
  • Do they help me communicate with my loved ones?
(TEACH me)
  • Did they help me know what to ask?
  • Did they tell me how they are keeping me safe?
  • Do I understand next steps?
  • Did I get consistent information?
  • Did the team work together?
(MAKE IT EASY for me)
  • How hard was it to get in?
  • Did I understand how to get in touch with my care team?
  • Did they explain delays?
  • Did they follow-up with my other doctors?

The U of U Health 5 Elements of Patient Experience is based on qualitative analysis of more than 10,000 comments and over 10 years of organizational improvement efforts. Learn more about our methodology here.

What do we do with this feedback?

You may feel too busy right now to read your patient comments. That's ok! Try using the 5 Elements to think about how you're demonstrating safe practices, explaining what will happen next, and how to include the patient's loved one during the visits or rounds.

For over ten years, University of Utah Health has been a national leader in delivering compassionate, coordinated, and expert care. As we navigate patient care during this pandemic, we can turn to what has always worked for our organization: continue to strive for the exceptional patient experience.


Mari Ransco

Senior Director of Patient Experience and Accelerate, University of Utah Health

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest insights in health care equity, improvement, leadership, resilience, and more.