The effort to improve the patient experience is one of the paramount issues in the modern healthcare industry–in part because patient satisfaction is tied to financial incentives. To make a real difference, hospitals must create an “overall experience of caring,” Forbes contributor Micah Solomon writes in a recentarticle.
In regard to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), hospitals shouldn’t “game” the assessment by too narrowly focusing on the individual questions, and instead aim to create a generally positive experience for patients and their families, says Solomon, a customer service, patient satisfaction and patient experience consultant. That way, when they fill out the assessment, they will be more likely to forgive the hospital for minor lapses in customer service because overall, they will feel they’ve been treated well.
Patients’ perception of their experience isn’t just tied to better opinions of healthcare facilities: Recent research found that patients who feel they were treated with respect had better outcomesincluding lower rates of hospital-acquired infections.
With that in mind, here’s three of the eight tips Solomon provides for how hospitals can optimize the patient experience:
• Put yourself in the patients’ shoes. In order to understand what patients experience during their visit, hospital leaders must experience it themselves, Solomon writes. He encourages providers to take a tour of the facility with a newcomer; park their cars where patients do and try to get to the front door on crutches to gauge ease of access to the facility; and cut down on behaviors that can communicate indifference, such as avoiding eye contact with patients.
• Remember that patients are customers. Writing that “it’s not as if patients stop being consumers–customers–when they put on a hospital gown,” Solomon encourages providers to take cues from non-healthcare, customer-service-oriented industries when it comes to devising best practices to improve patient satisfaction.
Get everyone involved. As the Cleveland Clinic discovered in its transition to improve patient satisfaction, commitment to the patient experience must be “ingrained in the culture of the organization”. From Solomon’s perspective, that also means encouraging all employees to think about the higher purpose of their job–not just the basic function–as well as teaching each staff member how to address patient concerns. Furthermore, using a strengths-based management approach can harness each employee’s best attributes to improve the overall patient experience.