The term “Patient Journey Mapping” often feels like the phrase “Gluten-free”; it is trendy, talked about in different circles, is supposedly beneficial for us and yet is often ambiguous to define.

Here’s how I’ve come to appreciate the power of Patient Journey Mapping: for its ability to understand and affect a person’s experience as a patient.

As health care marketers, communicators and strategists, patient journey mapping is an essential tool that allows us to be better: better at delivering care, better at understanding the patient’s wants and needs, and better in aligning teams and departments to create an outstanding experience for patients.

The throughline in a patient journey is the communication of information, which may begin with a trigger event (like a sore throat) through the patient’s evaluation of care (in a post-discharge survey or to friends on Facebook).

When there is a breakdown in communication, patients can feel vulnerable, lost and afraid. Marketers and communicators can and should contribute to patient experience. Quite often, marketers are less able to change what happens in the exam room. But there are infinite ways for marketers to support and enhance the overall patient experience, and journey mapping is a key strategy. There are multiple patient journey models. A basic and helpful way of thinking about patient journey mapping is to look at five distinct stages of the journey:


  1. Trigger event: what happens to begin the patient journey? A diagnosis? An injury? Genetic testing results?
  2. Consideration: the beginning exploration of treatment
  3. Intent: the final research and reflection of where and how to seek treatment, which often includes scheduling an appointment with a provider
  4. Experience: the literal experience the patient has with your organization
  5. Evaluation: the time after the experience that the patient reflects and determines his or her overall evaluation of the experience, which is often shared online and privately