Many hospitals are taking initiatives to enhance focus on customer service with an increased focus and emphasis to put the patients first and at the center of everything they do. For instance, many hospitals are using the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, also known as HCAHPS, in order to improve patient satisfaction. The HCAHPS initiative aims to create a standard measurement of patient satisfaction nationally to produce comparable data whereas before individual hospitals were collecting the data but had nothing to compare it to. At Care+Wear, we have complied a list of various strategies that hospitals are implementing to improve the patients’ experience of care.
In order to remain competitive hospitals must continually focus on improving the quality of both in-patient and out-patient care. Many hospitals are now understanding that patients are in fact customers, and as customers, they have the right to choose where to go and what to expect from their medical providers. When patients' needs are not met, hospitals are often met with angry letters, poor satisfaction scores or sometimes negative publicity in local press. This is why patient satisfaction is extremely important to hospitals. So a natural question is what are the key drivers of increasing patient satisfaction?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, it is surprising to discover that based on their focus group feedback on the scale of importance, wait times were the least important to their patients! We did a double take on reading that too! On the other hand, their doctor’s displays of concern and caring were the most important elements that lead to greater patient satisfaction. Other crucial elements that lead to increased patient satisfaction are doctor’s concern for patients’ comfort and their attention and efforts to keep patients and their caregivers informed. As mentioned earlier, waiting times for radiology, staff notices and time spent waiting before treatment were less important elements of hospital visits. Other less important elements were hospitals’ cleanliness, comfort during drawing blood and an ease to provide insurance.
In fact, patients’ top three most important concerns in hospitals were respect, good communication among staff, and happy employees during their stay.
First, respect is a crucial element for patients because they want their providers to treat them like individuals with personal engagement. We founded Care+Wear because we wanted patients to be able to get back to being themselves. Similarly, we believe that this is just as important in the hospital setting as well. Hospital employees should strive to create and maintain a personal connection with their patients.
Also, communication between caregivers is another key elements in increasing patient satisfaction. These results demonstrate that hospitals should acknowledge their patients’ feelings and concerns and let them know they understand and are actively paying attention to their needs. For example, the perceived lack of communication between the doctor and the nurse may lead to a lack of patient’s satisfaction with a feeling of doubt that they are receiving the right care.
Otherwise, “poor communication between care teams, clinical staff, doctors, and patients can lead to loss of productivity, delayed treatment and poor patient satisfaction scores” (Vocera.com). Moreover, patients also want to see happy employees because they are more approachable. An approachable clinical staff allows patients to ask more questions and to voice any concerns that he or she may have. As demonstrated by these factors, in order to really succeed in the value-based care environment, hospitals need to understand their patients’ needs and display signs of their support and care.
There are many more strategies that hospitals can implement in their systems to help enhance patient satisfaction. For example, it is also necessary for hospitals to take a tour of their hospital in order to find any misaligned, out of date and/or confusing signs they might be displaying. How many times have you accidentally walked the wrong way because of confusing signs? We’ve spent many a day walking the wrong way! Moreover, it is necessary for hospitals to resolve patient issues by knowing how to ‘apologize.’ In other words, when confronted with upset patients, hospitals should show less defensive attitudes and instead take the patient’s side immediately and with empathy, “regardless of what hospitals may think the “rational” allocation of “blame” should be” (Solomon, 2015). Nordstrom is famous for its amazing customer service and hospitals should take the same approach.
While this seems like a lot to implement, hospitals can increase patient satisfaction by implementing strategies that are relatively simple. For instance, hospitals can make patients aware of what to expect and how long their tests and imaging studies may take. This will help ease yet another anxiety for your patient. Also, doctors should finish a patient encounter on a positive note, which will likely leave a lasting impression on their patient. This is because the more comfortable they make their patients the more likely he or she is to follow through on the given instructions. They will also mostly likely be more satisfied with their experience. Other basic guidelines that doctors can follow are knocking before entering the room, introducing themselves not only to the patient but also to their family and friends and maintaining eye contact with the patient.
The increased emphasis and importance of patient satisfaction are shown through various hospitals striving to improve their scores on the HCAHPS. The HCAHPS is a standardized, publicly reported patient satisfaction survey for all hospitals in the United States that enables hospitals to hear the voice of their patients and families. The survey and its results are important for several reasons. First, it allows objective and meaningful comparisons of hospitals. Also, public reporting of the results on the internet impacts hospitals’ reputation, thus incentivizing them to improve their quality of service. Moreover, it keeps the hospital financially strong by the government reimbursing those with excellent survey performances.
The survey consists of 27 questions about critical aspects of patients’ hospital experiences such as doctor communication, nurse communication, staff responsiveness, hospital environment, food services and others. The survey also asks patients to provide overall rating of hospital and their recommendations to the hospital. Hospitals are required to conduct this survey with their patients each month of the year using four different modes: mail, telephone, mail with telephone or active interactive voice system. The survey and various information on data collection can be found on the HCAHPS website, www.hcahpsonline.org.
In fact, hospitals are seeing improved patient satisfaction scores in HCAHPS after making various changes to their hospital culture. For example, according to the Springfield News, Ohio Regional Medical Center saw a nearly 10% rise in its patient satisfaction scores in the past year after it made changes to “improve emergency room wait times and boost employee morale” (MacDonald, 2014). In other words, after receiving a low patient satisfaction score in their HCAHPS, the Ohio Medical center redesigned its emergency room to allow patients to see nurses and physicians quickly, resulting in a wait time decrease from 62 minutes to 11 minutes with a 99% patient satisfaction rate! That is the type of impact that people can only dream of!
Patient satisfaction is an opportunity to show what has always been a big part of the medical care hospitals offer to their patients. It is extremely important to hospitals to continue to strive for the best possible patient experience and satisfaction. Why? Because we should care.
At Care+Wear, we also strongly believe that patients should be seen as individuals first and as patients second. This is the main reason that we created the company and we love hearing how we are positively impacting patient satisfaction. Check out the rest of our website to learn more about the products that we are making and let us know what else we can do to help make you more satisfied when visiting the hospital!