Health care organizations are putting more emphasis on improving the patient experience through analytics, updates and survey insights.
Patient satisfaction is the newest “it” concept in health care. There have been many summits, white papers, webinars and entire organizations created that are dedicated to turning health care on its head and centering efforts around improving the patient experience. The industry has a long way to go, but some incredibly useful and, at the same time, simple examples are emerging for proactive providers and health care organizations to consider.
New Tech Leads the Way
It’s not surprising that technology sits at the center of many patient engagement initiatives. Take, for example, the Cleveland Clinic and their data-centered efforts around improving the patient experience. The much-lauded organization began its efforts where most other hospitals can too: their patient satisfaction scores.
The Cleveland Clinic realized that starting as far back as 2009, their scores had plateaued and they were ranking surprisingly low when it came to physician-patient communication, leaving them lagging behind other top organizations, including Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic. They decided to hire an outside firm to evaluate them on both quantitative and qualitative levels and determine exactly what their patients wanted. Their findings? Patients were looking for improvement in three key areas:
- Respect: Patients wanted providers to treat them as individuals and engage with them personally.
- Good communication among staff: They wanted doctors, nurses and other staff to communicate clearly with each other (i.e. not being asked the same question by multiple staff members or having to relay the same information multiple times).
- Happy providers: They also wanted staff who is approachable and easy to come to with questions or concerns.
President and CMO Dr. James Merlino admits that they were surprised by the results and also that they would not have found these answers without the help of analytics.
Applying These Lessons at Your Facility
Keep in mind that your facility can make enormous strides in improving the patient experience even without using complex patient satisfaction analytics. The Cleveland Clinic also made use of patient comments in re-thinking their approach to patient satisfaction. You can do the same, and also engage even simpler solutions by focusing on improving the environment at your facility.
Don’t underestimate how much a well-kept, efficient and organized work environment can impact patient satisfaction. Consider the three key findings from the Cleveland Clinic’s efforts. A facility that is clean, easy to navigate and well designed projects an image of respect, keeps employees happy and, in turn, helps lay the groundwork for open and effective communication plans.
Perhaps most important, though, is patient perception, much of which is established in the areas patients first encounter. Research from Steelcase Health found that waiting rooms in particular are a key element in positively influencing patient satisfaction. This includes the waiting room itself, restrooms, lobbies and entryways. Steelcase’s research also revealed that many providers made simple mistakes, such as poor chair configurations, not giving patients enough space to place their personal items or having insufficient charging stations for their mobile devices. These changes reflect an important point that pertains to all areas with which patients come in contact: the appearance and features of your facility not only directly impact the patient experience, they’re also likely the cornerstone of that experience.
Other simple elements that can help boost the patient experience include clean mats and floors in entryways, hallways and patient rooms, which establish the image of cleanliness that is so important to a hospital’s reputation. Easily accessible dispensers may send a clear message that a facility prioritizes health and doesn’t inconvenience patients (let alone staff) in meeting health and safety standards. Clean, easy-to-identify employee uniforms may keep patients comfortable and not feeling foolish or confused when speaking with doctors, nurses and staff.
When analyzing how you can enhance the patient experience in your organization, remember the Cleveland Clinic as an example, and don’t overlook simple solutions that may address the much more challenging question of improving patient satisfaction.