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Patient Satisfaction Becomes Critical Concern for Hospitals

More than half of healthcare organizations value patient satisfaction just as much as they value patient safety and clinical workflow improvements.

By Sara Heath

Patient satisfaction is ranked as a top issue at healthcare organizations, according to Vocera’s Rise of the Healthcare Chief Experience Officer: 2016 report.

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The report, which details the growth of patient experience and satisfaction in healthcare organizations, shows that 64 percent of organizations value patient experience leaders the same as they value patient safety and clinical workflow leaders.

Some conflict arises when these three priorities compete with one another, however. To account for these separate priorities, some hospital leaders are employing creative strategies.

“Eight percent of respondents are solving this by making experience the top strategic priority and aligning quality/safety and performance improvement under the experience umbrella, knowing that efficient delivery of high-quality healthcare service is a critical component of a humanized healthcare experience,” the report’s authors wrote.

Patient satisfaction improvement is also getting support from C-level executives. Forty percent of the over 100 respondents stated that they report directly to their hospital CEOs, and 46 percent reported that the hospital board monitors their patient experience projects. Another 10 percent said the board is actually involved in implementing those projects.

READ MORE: 3 Best Practices to Improve the Healthcare Patient Experience

Where support may be lacking is in the physician realm. Nearly 60 percent of respondents categorized physicians as “passive” in the patient satisfaction agenda, and another 6 percent described them as “obstructive.” Only 4 percent said physicians are actually leaders in the organization’s patient satisfaction efforts.

The limited role of physician leadership appears to be a trend. Only 12 percent of patient experience leaders have some sort of medical degree, such as an MD. A vast majority of experience leaders come from the medical administration and nursing fields, with 35 and 33 percent respectively.

Perhaps these disparities are due to the fact that physicians see some of the fewest incentives for patient-centered care.

While between 60 and 70 percent of C-suite executives and service line and clinic leaders see incentives for patient experience, only 50 percent of physicians do. Even fewer physicians see incentives for staff and physician experience. Nearly half reportedly see no patient engagement and hospital experience incentives at all.

Despite this smaller physician role in patient experience efforts, it appears that experience officers are looking to another important stakeholder in their projects – the patient and family. A total of 28 percent of respondents stated that they include patients and families in the rollout of improvement projects.

READ MORE: Are Health Orgs Doing Enough to Support Consumer Experience?

Over 50 percent reported some sort of patient and family consultation practice. Fifty-four percent of organizations have patient and family response focus groups and a single patient and family advisory council. A total of 63 percent of organizations monitor social media for unsolicited patient and family feedback to determine better practice solutions.

These collaborative patient-centered projects are a response to patients’ increasing desire to be involved in their care.

“In a recent survey of patients and families, we asked if there is any part of healthcare that patients and families should not be part of improving. One respondent answered, ‘Isn’t healthcare about patients?’” the reported stated.

Healthcare organizations are also looking to technology to help them boost patient satisfaction, but only with a narrow scope. Almost 95 percent of organizations have adopted a patient portal, giving patients full access to their health data. Approximately 60 percent of those organizations have fully implemented the portal. Other technological innovations have less robust adoption.

A majority of organizations have also adopted common best practices, including compliments and complaints management, daily shift huddles, leadership rounding, hourly rounding, and bedside shift handoffs.

READ MORE: Building Successful Healthcare Patient Advisory Councils

Overall, 64 percent of these efforts are geared toward achieving organization-wide goals of improving practice culture, or creating a new one that is centered on patient experience and satisfaction. Sixty-three percent of respondents also reported a heavy emphasis on improving patient satisfaction scores, namely the HCAHPS score.

However, despite this emphasis on hospital quality scores, leaders from Vocera say the future of patient satisfaction will include new and better measures than the current HCAHPS scores, and they encourage industry thought leaders to help develop those measures.

“Today’s HCAHPS and employee engagement surveys don’t capture key elements of the human experience, including wellbeing and joy,” the authors wrote. “Experience leaders, academics, and entrepreneurs will join forces to define new measures for experience that will help guide improvement to accelerate innovation.”

Vocera also claimed that patient satisfaction will adapt to less tangible measures, like a culture and feeling of better experience, rather than a box-checking mentality. These efforts will include industry experts designing a new path for satisfaction, the creation of more seamless and streamlined clinical workflows, and the full integration of health technology to help engage the patient in and out of the hospital.

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