- At Nemours Children’s Health, improving patient satisfaction scores hasn’t been some long, tedious endeavor. Instead, it’s felt something like a game, engaging the competitive side of each of the health system’s doctors.
As healthcare professionals across the country work to up their patient experience reviews and CAHPS scores, clinicians at Nemours have been in competition with each other. Using a clinicians-only app that openly ranks the highest-rated doctors for patient satisfaction scores, the pediatric health system has been able to increase their overall patient satisfaction score by 60 percent since 2006.
This approach came as traditional patient satisfaction reporting proved inefficient at Nemours, according to Nemours president and CEO David Bailey, MD.
Each month, physicians would receive an email update of their patient satisfaction scores. Providers could go into their accounts, download the report, and parse through the data to understand how they themselves were delivering a positive patient experience.
But this process fell short of provider expectations, Bailey told PatientEngagementHIT.com in an interview.
“Physicians are busy,” Bailey asserted. “They want to be in the exam room or the operation room or in the radiology suite doing their thing. So they don’t open their emails perhaps as frequently as someone on the business side does. Many of them wouldn’t see satisfaction scores for a long time. Providers were saying, ‘Well, can’t you just send it to my phone?’ Well, at that time we couldn’t.”
This new approach pushed the patient satisfaction scores right to doctors’ phones, allowing providers to assess their performance without being tethered to their office computers. Clinicians can see how they rank across the health system and at each of Nemours’ sites in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
This quest for better patient satisfaction and provider performance comes as the industry continues to focus on patient-centered care. However, at Nemours, patient satisfaction has always been a top priority, Bailey asserted.
“There are some industry wide forces that are pushing folks to do this, but those aren’t necessarily the ones that led us at Nemours down this path,” he noted. “We’ve been very focused on serving patients, including patient satisfaction, patient experience, for at least twelve years now.”
Bailey and colleagues maintain that they are in the service industry, making it Nemours’ job to serve children, parents, guardians, and other family caregivers to the best of their abilities.
Of course, there have been some regulatory forces that have also pushed providers to assess patient satisfaction. Most notably, CAHPS scores, which influence some value-based reimbursement programs, put an emphasis on patient satisfaction across various care sites.
Additionally, Nemours – like nearly every other healthcare organization – has been grappling with the shift toward consumerism in healthcare.
“We have, more importantly, this tsunami of consumerism which is hitting the healthcare industry harder and harder every year,” Bailey explained. “That same type of consumerism is now augmented by a technology. It is driving things in healthcare such that satisfaction is beginning to be one of the things people looking for healthcare providers are looking at very seriously.”
While Nemours is cognizant of these priorities, they still defer to their core values of positive patient experiences.
“We try to operate in concert with our core values and how we see ourselves as an institute, why we exist,” Bailey noted. “Certain trends or fads may be with that sense at times, and others may not.”
For example, the link between patient satisfaction and care quality will always be present, Bailey argued. Attentive clinicians who listen to patient needs are not a fad, but an essential part of the care equation. Gone are the days where providers can say delivering diagnosis and treatment are the key parts of their jobs.
It has become clear that patients need to see providers who fundamentally care about them. Providing a diagnosis and treatment options is doing the bare minimum, Bailey said.
“Patient experience and satisfaction is really what helps patients understand that as an institution we really do care for them,” he noted. “We care about how their child is doing not only when they are sick, but when they’re well also.”
Clinicians who are ranked highly on the Nemours patient satisfaction app understand this, Bailey continued.
“The physicians who are top ranked understand that you have diagnosis and treatment on one side of the coin and on the other side there’s patient experience and patient satisfaction. They are inextricably linked,” he pointed out.
“There’s now a lot of data that shows high patient satisfaction scores are associated with lower hospital readmissions and better quality and safety performance,” Bailey added. “We don’t really know why. It’s similar to how I don’t need someone to prove to me that the sky is blue. I don’t really need the proof of the link between satisfaction and quality.”
Although healthcare stakeholders will assert that delivering a positive patient experience is complex, patient satisfaction might in fact boil down to one simple point, Bailey contended.
“If we ask families and patients what they want, they tell us,” he said. “When physicians or other care providers – such as nurse practitioners – understand what patients want and deliver that, uniformly their scores go up.”
Through interviews with both their highest- and lowest-performing clinicians, Bailey and the Nemours team were able to determine the difference between the two groups. It turned out that high performers nearly always asked their patients what they wanted out of the care experience.
“There are a lot of presumptions about what families want, but if you go directly to the source with the families themselves, family advisory councils – you can even do it virtually – patients will tell you,” Bailey reasoned. “Then if you deliver, you get rewarded with high scores.”
None of this is to say that regulatory requirements for patient satisfaction are not important. However, if healthcare professionals and hospital leaders want to embed patient satisfaction improvement into their underlying care priorities, they must make their efforts about more than just checking a box.
Organizations that see patient satisfaction as a principle of quality care will likely see more success, Bailey concluded. By viewing patient satisfaction as an extension of quality and comprehensive patient care, healthcare providers will be better positioned to deliver a positive patient experience.