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Enhancing the Patient Experience Through Addressing Pain Points and “Being Extra”


Joe Cari, MPAS, PA-C, spoke to SDPA Fall Conference attendees about the importance of maximizing the patient journey from arrival to check out and beyond.

rh2010/Adobe Stock
rh2010/Adobe Stock

Joe Cari, MPAS, PA-C, currently practices as a physician assistant in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Previously, Cari worked in advertising and marketing before making a career pivot and becoming a dermatology PA in 2014.

At the 2023 Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA) Annual Fall Dermatology Conference in Nashville, TN, Cari presented a session titled, “From The Parking Lot to Check Out: Tips For a Great Patient Experience,”1 detailing advice for approaching the patient experience from an advertising, marketing, and health care professional perspective.

“These are ways to identify those pain points yourself and maybe make suggestions, or even maybe you can bring it to the higher ups to sort of bring yourself a little bit forward in the leadership conversation,” Cari said.

Cari’s main advice for PAs revolves around what he calls “being extra,” or going above and beyond in each and every area of the patient journey mapping.


  • Pain points: Parking and entrance difficulties, frustration
  • “Extra” solutions: Personal welcome messages, improving accessibility, 360-degree virtual tour


  • Pain points: Lengthy, tedious, confusing paperwork, general sense of overwhelm
  • “Extra” solutions: Pre-registration/patient portal, check in app/QR code, virtual concierge

Cari believes that in the next 5 to 10 years, health care and medicine may see artificial intelligence booming in the latter.

Waiting room

  • Pain points: Boring, uncomfortable
  • “Extra” solutions: Virtual reality environments, relaxation, interactive art, child areas, spa amenities

Cari frequently recommended virtual reality availability in clinics and practices as a means to improve the patient experience. This, he said, may represent the future of anxiety relief in patients.

Consultation and treatment

  • Pain points: Disconnect, impersonal communication, lack of clear communication
  • “Extra” solutions: Actively listen, converse with empathy, explain procedures thoroughly, provider bios, music therapy

Procedure fear and anxiety

  • Pain points: Discomfort, resistance
  • “Extra” solutions: Detailed explanations, distraction techniques, mindfulness, future role of virtual reality in pain perception & registration

Check out and follow up

  • Pain points: Billing and scheduling, confusion
  • “Extra” solutions: Have biller on site or available over the phone, transparency, follow up survey/resources, appointment business cards

“The positive patient-centric dermatology experience is what we're all looking for. Identifying pain points along your entire patient journey is going to be very, very important to not only yourself, mitigate those, but correct those deficiencies within the clinic,” Cari said. “It's going to encourage teamwork and communication with your leadership and among the medical providers and professionals, and it’s going to help staff enhance patient care and want to change.”

Cari referenced a UK patient complaint study wherein almost 70% of all complaints reported by patients have the potential to be addressed or mitigated with a health care professional or a PA’s involvement and carefulness. 22.1% of complaints were related to treatment, 16.8% to communication, 15% to skills and conduct, and 13.9% to respect. Perceived experiences, Cari said, make up the largest proportion of patient complaints and concerns in a practice.

“If you choose to listen, to change, it not only helps you and your understanding of the patient's perspective, but also your understanding and perspective, which makes for a better patient experience, better patient care, and that's going to make you a better provider,” Cari said.


  1. Cari J. From the parking lot to check out: tips for a great patient experience. Presented at: 2023 SDPA Annual Fall Dermatology Conference: October 26-29, 2023; Nashville, TN.

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