The Golden Rule: Why it is not enough in Patient Experience Excellence

“Do unto others the way as you would have done unto you” – is a Golden Rule that we have used and embraced for decades all over the world. When we apply it we believe we are doing the right thing.

For decades we have heard healthcare managers say: “treat your patients the same way you wish to be treated”. But is that the right approach when we aiming for patient experience excellence? In thinking that our patients want to be treated the same way as we do, we create obstacles to providing patient centered care. It puts great limitations on healthcare organizations’ understanding of what their patients really want/expect and in meeting those needs.

I have worked with clinics in the UAE and the UK for over 10 year now – where the multicultural environments are both challenging and beautiful. We meet patients and healthcare providers from all over the world and must not assume they are all the same. In order to provide patient centered care, we understand that there are essential differences between people and we need to learn to be culturally sensitive.


The ‘Golden Role’ is a foundation for a sympathetic approach, which is based on the assumption that we are all the same. However, we can enhance the practice of the Golden Rule by combining it with empathy. Empathetic healthcare leads to happier patients, because we “treated them the way they want to be treated”.

As the Beryl Institute has proved it in recent research, aiming to understand “what matters to patients the most in the healthcare experience”, communication always comes out as the top priority. Communication is an essential component of healthcare. When
things go well, compassion and communication is at the core of the success. However, when things go wrong in healthcare, communication
problems are most often the core cause.

When we apply a communication strategy incorporating empathy, we avoid any assumption that others are like us and provide the space to understand our patients` point of view. This will not only allow providers to provide better care to their patients but increase patient loyalty and patient satisfaction.

When I teach healthcare communication frameworks and service recovery frameworks to clinicians and support staff, empathy remains the #1 component. With empathy we set the quality standards high, making sure we are able to understand the patient perception when we provide care. This is what ultimately leads to patient experience excellence.

– Eniko Simon-Sheeran, Patience Experience Leader & Educator