OK, it’s a bold title. But also a statement about remembering that improving, even on a large scale, need not be overly complicated. Let’s consider our three step approach. We’ll start with a review.
No healthcare provider reading this will dispute the importance of delivering high-quality care for their patients. It’s the goal, the mission, of every good facility out there. These days, the complete patient experience is top-of-mind for most healthcare providers, not to mention the resident Chief Experience Officers who remain laser-focused on measuring and improving experience scores.
And it’s top-of-mind for good reason, patient experience is becoming increasingly tied to a facility’s success and—in many cases—funding. The overall ratings given to an institution can dramatically impact their ability to compete in the healthcare market. And as more care choices are provided to the consumers, competition increases which places more emphasis on delivering a good patient experience.
With rising importance placed on this issue, it’s no surprise that many organizations are implementing ongoing projects to monitor and improve their patient experience evaluations—even during the critical span between formal evaluations like CAHPS. These types of well-structured, continuous projects ideally result in a gradual culture change that permeates every corner of a facility, affects all staff, and drives toward consistently high ratings from their patients.
Step #1: Understand Your Patients’ Top Priorities
(They’re Not Always What You Might Think)
When organizations first embark on improvement projects, a surprising number of them report a disconnect among their caregivers’ perceptions of what their patients most value during their experience and what they actually value. Often, what patients value is not what the caregiver staff expect.
When asked, caregivers initially tend to think that patients react to more tactile issues, the mechanics of the visit—things like wait times, office and waiting area cleanliness, the patients’ physical comfort levels (like waiting area seating), and privacy levels around handling information like insurance, medical history and payments.
In actuality, those issues are closer to the bottom of the scale. What most organizations report is a priority on more personal issues, the basics of interacting with the entire staff—the human to human interaction. Four of the top items most reported as having high value to patients are below. How would your organization rate across these key issues?
The subject matter expertise difference between doctors and patients makes clear communication a must-have for patients who don’t understand (let alone have the ability to accurately record) the fast litany of medical terms coming at them during a visit. Caregivers must be prepared to be straightforward and clear in talking about all elements including specific medical procedures, what to expect during treatment, condition details, medications, next steps—all ideally supported with hardcopy material, also written for layman consumers.
Many patients feel at a disadvantage, out of their element and slightly uncomfortable, when speaking to a doctor or nurse about their visit details. At the end of the day, they don’t want this perceived disadvantage to equate to disrespect. Caregivers must show courtesy and genuine care and concern for the patient at all times, and not let the medical-education knowledge gap affect the tone of their conversation such that it becomes condescending. All communication must remain on a professional, respectful level at all times.
It’s important that patients feel that they’ve been heard, that the nurses, doctors, technicians, and administration staff are closely listening to the patient and responding directly to what they’re hearing. They must remain in-the-moment and fully-focused on the patient in front of them to ensure the patient that messages are being received at all times.
Also under the umbrella of the basic human interaction experience is the overall demeanor and attitude of the caregiver. Patients need to feel that they can approach their doctor with questions and dialogue without feeling like they’re bothering and angering the caregiver. Genuinely being happy, approachable, and focused in the moment is best when attending to patients and translates to a higher comfort level with a more successful exchange.
Of course, there are more issues to add to this simple, starter list. But let’s turn now to talk about taking action.
Step #2: Evaluate Your Own Facility & Test for These Issues
So, what can you do to begin to evaluate your facility’s alignment with these top patient priorities?
1. Experience Your Clinic as a Patient
From the parking lot to the payment window, attempt to see your facility from your patients’ point of view. Watch the level of engagement and interaction. Take note of specific phrasing or body language that represents alignment with the issues listed above.
2. Focus on Activity Goals, Not Just the Tactical Elements
Here we’re talking about the “WHY” answer to what your staff is doing for a patient minute-by-minute. Not simply giving a specific procedure or completing a form, but the overall purpose of the activity. This helps them color their dialogue with the patient toward these larger goals and keeps focus on helping the patient understand its importance.
3. Engender a Culture That Supports Bi-Directional Flow of Communication
All feedback—both good news and bad—serves as source material for improved learning. Staff must feel empowered to share this information upstream and down to more completely educate and inform all involved of important trends, issues, milestones as you focus on improving the patient experience.
4. Get All Staff to Improve
You’re all in this together as a team. Each patient encounters many people during their visit–reception, technicians, nurses, doctors—both those who are directly related to their visit as well as people not related to their specific visit but still walking the halls—other doctors, nurses, even your maintenance staff. All of these interactions can affect your patient’s opinion of his or her overall experience. Everyone should be placing high value on the patient’s minute-by-minute engagement.
Step #3: Create a Feedback Loop to Drive a Patient Experience Improvement Initiative
Arguably the most important element here is to initiate a simple patient experience improvement process and support that process by creating a highly-accurate continuous feedback loop between patients and caregivers at your facility. Accuracy is important here to address the disconnect mentioned above in contrasting what caregivers think is important and what patients think is important.
It is essential to capture patient feedback as quickly and as close to their visit (if not during) as possible. This emphasis on capturing information quickly—nearest the point-of-care—is a core ingredient in driving highly-accurate patient feedback. The shorter the time between care and feedback, the more accurate and honest feedback—and valuable, actionable feedback—you’ll
receive. In fact, according to information technology research firm, Gartner, feedback captured immediately after an interaction is 40% more accurate than feedback captured 24 hours after the event.
Fortunately, leading enterprise survey technologies, like Opinionmeter’s Patient Experience Survey Solution make easy work of setting up a Patient Experience Improvement Initiative and capturing feedback right at that point-of-care, from sources that span multiple channels, both online or offline. Patients are engaged over time with surveys to capture key aspects of their experience. This feedback is immediately available to caregivers (often when the patient is still in the building!) in the form of intuitive online analytics, reports and dashboards that enable informed responsive decision-making that, in-turn, helps continually shape the patient experience improvement initiative.
This instantly allows teams to take both short-term and long-term action. Short-term while the patient is still on premise (through real-time service recovery alerts), engaging them to clarify communication about treatment, next steps, etc. Long term in the form of continually nurturing and improving a culture of patient-centric care delivery.
Take a moment at your facility to consider whether your staff is addressing these top issues, and how you can implement changes that improve your patients’ experience.
To learn more about how Opinionmeter’s Patient Experience Survey Solution can play a supporting role in your improvement plans, please contact Opinionmeter at 888.676.3837 or visit www.opinionmeter.com. And please share this with any of your colleagues who might find it of interest. Thank you.