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Posted on 08.06.2013

The Patient Experience: More Important Than Ever

When we launched our company blog in 2009 my first post was about customer service. I recounted a personal experience at a local hospital as an example of bad customer service. Since our firm specializes in healthcare, and I've helped execute customer service programs in hospitals throughout the country, I had a thorough understanding of the importance of a positive patient experience.

Now, fast forward to 2013; the patient experience is more critical because a bad hospital stay can directly affect a hospital's reimbursement. 

This is why I was so intrigued by an email I recently received from Catalyst Healthcare Research that provided findings from a study they conducted in partnership with The Beryl Institute. The study was called The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals. The purpose of the study was to determine "if hospitals are now being reimbursed for quality patient care and a positive patient experience, what are they doing to improve it?"

According to more than 1,000 executive leaders at hospitals throughout the country, roughly 70 percent said their number one priority in the next three years is patient experience/satisfaction, closely followed by patient safety.

When asked about the key elements of their patient experience efforts, the top responses were that they share patient satisfaction scores throughout the organization and they encourage regular rounding by clinical staff as well as the hospital leadership team. Since transparency is often key to helping employees feel engaged with the overall mission of the organization, it's no wonder sharing satisfaction scores topped the list. If employees don't understand how you're performing and how that translates to the bottom line, it's often difficult to build a "team" mentality.

To monitor patient satisfaction performance, respondents said they rely on various metrics, but the three most popular were HCAHPS scores (86%), patient survey findings (80%) and discharge follow up calls (70%). From a patient perspective, I think the most interesting question was how hospitals plan to further improve the patient experience. I was intrigued because the answers prove hospitals really understand customer service is important. Answers included reducing noise, more physician rounding, improved cleanliness, increased physician communication, better food service and more attention to pain management.

Approximately 70 percent of the respondents felt positive about their efforts to improve patient satisfaction, and we can only hope this is an accurate representation of hospitals across the country. Starting in 2014, the hospital Value-Based Purchasing program will tie at least 1.25 percent of hospital payments to their performance on various quality and patient experience indicators. So, what does this mean? According to a recent article in Becker's Hospital Review, the financial impact will be significant on low performing hospitals. The article provided the example of a 300-bed hospital with poor quality metrics that would be penalized approximately $1.3 million a year, beginning in 2015.

This study proves hospitals are putting a great deal of importance on patient satisfaction. Fingers crossed it is enough.

 

Robin Embry is a Vice President at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Robin’s blogs here. Connect with Robin at robin@lovell.com

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