A happy patient having a conversation with her doctor.

On most days, you won’t see Dr. Robbie Sherman wearing a white coat. Instead you may see her discussing empathy skills with a physician or leading a Balint training session for providers. For more than 30 years, Dr. Robbie Sherman worked in clinic as a family medicine physician caring for patients every day. Now she is focused on the pulse of the patient in a new way: leading The Polyclinic’s commitment to provide the best-possible patient experience.

“The way I organize my day is completely different now,” said Sherman, medical director of patient experience. “I have to track a ‘to-do’ list faithfully instead of having huge blocks of time devoted solely to patient care.”

And she has a big to-do list. From communications training to patient satisfaction surveys, her work supports physicians, staff, and administration to improve patient experience from all angles. She even authors an internal blog to share ideas, training, and resources related to patient experience at The Polyclinic.

What is patient experience?

Patient experience extends beyond the clinic visit, encompassing everything that happens during a visit.

Patient experience extends beyond the clinic visit, encompassing everything that happens during a visit. Whether that’s a patient service representative (PSR) making phone calls to schedule an appointment or a maintenance worker directing someone to the right place, each interaction contributes to the overall patient or guest experience. “I am impressed with how much people who work here care,” said Sherman.

Patients who are engaged and have a strong relationship with their providers and staff often experience better outcomes. Sherman’s work focuses on better understanding and supplying what patients need in order to feel connected to their care team and engaged in their health care. “One medical journal article analyzed multiple studies of good relationships between providers and patients. The researchers found that the benefit of a good relationship was the equivalent of heart attack prevention by taking an aspirin a day for five years,” said Sherman. “That’s a huge difference.”

Patient satisfaction vs. Patient experience

  • Patient satisfaction: a patient’s response to their care
  • Patient experience: every interaction a patient has within a healthcare encounter

*Source: Washington State Medical Association

On June 17, Dr. Sherman will discuss patient experience and her work at The Polyclinic in a presentation to healthcare leaders from across the state at the Washington State Medical Association’s Safe Table event.

Sherman says she is continually impressed with The Polyclinic’s providers who are committed to each patient’s care. In February, the Washington Health Alliance released results showing The Polyclinic as a top performer for patient experience in primary care. “Our culture really does support each patient in getting their needs met,” says Sherman.


June 13, 2016 | by The Polyclinic