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What Is Patient Journey Mapping and Why Is It Important

Patient journey mapping, sometimes referred to as healthcare process mapping, is a visual representation of the patient’s experience from the point of locating healthcare services to the point of follow-up after treatment has been completed. It is used by stakeholders in the healthcare industry to understand what happens when a patient interacts with medical professionals and healthcare services. 

Patient journey mapping is not to be confused with patient flow and patient flow management.  Although both patient journey mapping and patient flow are integral to the optimization of healthcare service delivery, they are two distinct concepts. Patient flow focuses on the movement of the patient through the hospital or care setting from the time of admission to the time of discharge. Its primary focus is on the clinical aspects of the patient’s healthcare experience. 

On the other hand, patient journey mapping is a broader concept that encompasses not only the clinical aspects but also the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of the patient’s healthcare experience. 

This article will explore how both patient journey mapping and patient flow work, as well as some of the benefits to be expected when these tools are implemented successfully.


What is patient journey mapping?

Patient journey mapping is a research approach that helps understand the touchpoints and pain points of the patient’s experience as they progress through the healthcare system.

Over the past few years, the impact of COVID on the patient journey has been notable, particularly for the management of people living with chronic diseases. Across the industry, there has been a shift from hospital-based care towards homecare environments, for example in the management of chronic conditions like COPD, hypertension, diabetes, and wound care. 

According to the American Hospital Association, patient expectations have risen for a smoother patient journey, and the COVID pandemic has highlighted the need for effective digital patient engagement and communication strategies to further facilitate home-based healthcare.

It is becoming increasingly important for med-tech and pharmaceutical companies to understand this changing dynamic and to optimize their business models accordingly.


Patient journeys

The patient journey is a series of steps that the patient goes through from the moment they become aware of an issue requiring medical attention to the point after treatment has been completed. Unlike patient flow principles, which focus more on service delivery within a clinical setting, the patient journey includes the steps taken by the patient before and after their interactions with healthcare providers.

There are five steps involved in the patient journey:

  • Step 1: Awareness

The patient recognizes the need for medical attention and starts searching for healthcare providers through avenues like online research, social media, and information from their community.

  • Step 2: Consideration

The patient has identified a healthcare provider at this point and is making inquiries to see if it is the right fit for their needs. Referrals, coverage and perks, accessibility, reviews, and suggestions from friends and family are factors taken into account by the patient to make their decision.

  • Step 3: Appointment/Access

This is the step at which the patient schedules an appointment with their healthcare organization of choice. This can be via phone calls, text messages, websites, and user portals. The patient can schedule an online consultation or a physical meeting.

  • Step 4: Service

This refers to the point at which the patient begins to receive clinical care from the healthcare provider. It includes clinical visits, admission and discharge, and bill payment. This step is often the focal point for traditional patient satisfaction measurement.

  • Step 5: Ongoing care

This is the patient retention stage. It encompasses patient care between clinical visits as well as post-treatment follow-ups, to ensure the patient’s long-term wellbeing. Although this step is often forgotten, it is just as crucial as the other steps of the healthcare patient journey, and is vital in collecting information for patient journey research.



Touchpoints are any moments in the patient journey during which a patient or potential patient interacts with the healthcare organization. These interactions could be personal, for example, a direct interaction between a health worker and a patient, or non-personal, for example through advertisements, web apps, or websites. These touchpoints make up the overall patient experience.


Quality measures

Quality measures are predetermined standards a healthcare organization sets against which to evaluate performance when caring for patients. Assessing how well individual touchpoints perform against these quality measures helps in the identification of areas requiring improvement, for example, the average duration of each stage in the patient journey, the total time spent in admission, and any delays in diagnosis or care provision.


Customer satisfaction scores

A crucial part of patient journey analytics is customer satisfaction scores. Analyzing data from customer satisfaction surveys at different touchpoints in the patient journey can be helpful in recognizing and correcting bottlenecks in the healthcare patient journey. 

With the impact of COVID on patient experience, it is important to carry out assessments of patient flow to truly understand how healthcare delivery has changed in a post-pandemic era. This can help stakeholders in the sales and marketing of medical devices identify friction points of referral pathways and different stages of care a patient may or may not receive.


The benefits of analyzing patient journeys

Patient journey mapping is a powerful tool for understanding the patient’s wants and needs. 

Some of the benefits of patient journey analytics include:


Identifying opportunities for innovation

Researching the patient journey can uncover opportunities for new product or service development. It may lead to the creation of innovative solutions that address unmet needs or improve existing healthcare practices.


Improving the patient experience

Through the analysis of patient journeys, healthcare organizations can identify and optimize pain points and gaps in care during the patient journey to create a more positive experience.  This understanding helps healthcare providers and manufacturers tailor their products and services to meet patient needs more effectively.


Increasing patient engagement

With a more robust understanding of the patient journey, healthcare providers and manufacturers can develop targeted solutions to engage patients throughout their healthcare patient journey, even during follow-up. In the context of COVID, for instance, where patients with mild disease were asked to self-isolate at home, patient journey analytics revealed that there was a strong demand for eHealth services to maintain engagement with patients receiving home-based care.


Supporting marketing strategies

Patient journey research helps pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers understand the patient decision-making process. This insight can be used to develop more targeted marketing and educational campaigns.


Efficient healthcare delivery

By understanding the patient journey, healthcare organizations can identify areas where healthcare delivery can be streamlined to increase efficiency, for example reducing wait times and improving patient flow.


Patient flow Vs patient journey

Patient flow and patient journey are two interrelated concepts that are sometimes used interchangeably in the healthcare industry. Here are some key differences to consider between patient flow and patient journey.


Patient flow

  • Patient flow emphasizes the operational aspects of healthcare delivery, such as referral pathways and the movement of patients through different stages of care like triage, admission, and discharge.
  • A patient flow study quantifies how many patients are progressing through a healthcare system.
  • It can also be used to identify bottlenecks in the system as well as leverage points where stakeholders can intervene to drive positive change.
  • Patient flow analysis provides clear and actionable recommendations on which behaviors decision-makers in the treatment pathway can adjust to maximize product uptake and drive sales. 

Patient journey

  • Patient journey refers to the entire process a patient goes through from the initial point of contact with the healthcare system to the final resolution of their health issue. It encompasses all the steps, interactions, and touchpoints a patient encounters during their healthcare experience.
  • The patient journey includes various stages, such as awareness of symptoms, seeking medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, follow-up care, and potential post-treatment support or management.
  • This concept focuses on the patient's perspective and aims to understand their emotions, needs, and expectations at each stage of their healthcare journey.


Although patient flow and patient journey projects are closely linked, they require different market research approaches to execute.


How medical companies use patient flow market research studies

Patient flow market research studies play a vital role in optimizing healthcare operations, enhancing patient experiences, improving quality of care, and guiding decision-making. By understanding and optimizing patient flow, healthcare providers can create more efficient and patient-centric systems, leading to better overall healthcare outcomes.

There has been a shift in patient flow dynamics due to the pandemic, bringing about drastic remodeling of branches, pathways, and referral decisions. Therefore, it is crucial for medical companies to reevaluate their understanding of patient flows in a post-pandemic context.


Understanding treatment pathways

A patient flow study can help pharmaceutical and medical device companies understand the treatment pathways of patients using their products. By mapping out how patients are diagnosed and treated, the company can identify potential areas for improvement or better support.


Identifying barriers to access

Patient flow studies can uncover barriers that patients may face in accessing specific products. These barriers could include issues related to affordability, distribution, or healthcare provider knowledge. Addressing these barriers can improve patient access and adherence to treatment.


Optimizing clinical trials 

Patient flow studies can inform the design and conduct of clinical trials. By understanding how patients navigate through the healthcare system, pharmaceutical and medical device companies can plan more efficient and effective clinical trials, leading to quicker results and reduced costs.


Improving adherence to therapies 

Understanding patient flow can shed light on factors influencing medication or therapy adherence. This insight allows companies to develop targeted interventions and support programs that encourage patients to stay on their prescribed treatment regimens.


Want to learn more? Check out The Ultimate Guide On Healthcare Market Research 



Examples of successful implementations of patient flow

At IDR Medical, we leverage our deep clinical expertise and market research to create market insights and recommendations that help our clients to identify modifiable attitudes or behaviors and make strategic decisions to maximize product uptake and drive sales. Explore some of our case studies to see patient flow and workflow analysis in action:


Patient Journey, Workflow Analysis & Concept Testing for a Point of Care Diagnostic Solution:

Our client was a market leader in POC devices that measured transcutaneous bilirubin (TCB) levels in neonates. They were considering what new features their next generation POC device would need to have. They also had concerns relating to their current market share, which included the threat to their dominant share in this TCB market by competitors. We were commissioned to carry out a workflow analysis and concept testing of a next generation POC device.

Patient Journey, Workflow Analysis & Unmet Need Assessment for a Patient Monitoring Portfolio:

Our client was the patient monitoring business of a leading healthcare technology manufacturer. They commissioned us to explore unmet needs that would drive research and development priorities for their consumables business in the medium to long term. The primary goal of the study were to map workflows throughout the patient journey and identify pain points and unmet needs in the use of disposable patient monitoring devices.

Patient Journey, Workflow Analysis & Concept Development. Cardiology Pharmacology Decision Support:

Our client was a global pharmaceutical company who had recently developed a novel cardiology drug. The main barrier to its success was the long-standing presence of a generic drug which was significantly cheaper. Despite the existing drug therapy had more limitations and required frequent POC patient testing, there also were more established providers and reimbursement frameworks which created significant inertia and some resistance to adoption of the new therapy.


Make the most out of your customer data with IDR Medical

Patient journey mapping and patient flow are both integral to driving sales and maximizing product uptake in the healthcare industry. While both of them involve the assessment of the patient’s progression through the treatment pathway, patient journey mapping incorporates the aspects of the patient’s interaction with healthcare systems before and after they receive clinical care. 

In markets where there are multiple stakeholders making decisions that influence a patient’s journey, patient flow studies are particularly useful. They are best suited to markets that involve more complex referral pathways and/or where patients transition from one care environment to another.

Patient flow and patient journey studies require extensive planning and coordination, since they are complex and challenging to design and execute. One way to conduct a study is to use patient video diaries, which you can learn about in our eBook.


Download our FREE guide to video diaries


IDR Medical has significant experience and knowledge of patient flow and patient journey projects that we are happy to share. If you’re interested in learning more about how IDR Medical can help, book a consultation today.


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