• 7 Leadership Tactics for Improving the Patient Experience

    May 15, 2014

    While they may not engage directly with patients on a day-to-day basis, healthcare leaders can do a lot to improve the patient experience.

    Many patients never personally encounter an executive or mid-level leader while visiting a healthcare organization. But leadership commitment to improving the patient experience—particularly by C-suite executives and clinical leaders—is cited by most experts as crucial to improving HCACPS scores. The research is scant on what specific leadership strategies contribute to higher patient experience scores. But those in the trenches highlight a number of approaches that are working for them:

    Bring leaders and patients together so leaders can see the patient experience from the patient’s perspective. For example, at Park Ridge Health in Hendersonville, N.C., all managers and leaders spend an hour each week greeting and helping patients when they arrive at the hospital, according to a BlueRidgeNow.com article. “It's amazing the stories we've learned by just being at the front door,” said Camy Horrell, director of patient experience.

    Another approach is to start off executive and board meetings with a patient story. This approach is advocated by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), as described in a guide put together by the NHS’s Patient Safety First campaign.

    Define what “patient experience” means to your organization. A 2013 survey by The Beryl Institute found that organizations with a formal definition of “patient experience” are 10 percent more likely to score in the 75th percentile and above on patient satisfaction surveys.

    Involve patients and family members in designing and improving care delivery. Spectrum Health uses input from its patient and family advisory councils when wrestling with key issues and pinpointing opportunities for improvement, according to an hfm article. For example, the councils helped executives prioritize strategies and tactics to ensure smooth transitions in the delivery of care from one provider to another.

    Hire the right staff. After consulting with the In-N-Out-Burger corporation on how to replicate their employees’ friendly attitudes, the University of Utah Health Care changed its hiring practices. As a result, clinics that used the new hiring approaches increased their friendliness scores to the 90th percentile, according to a Becker’s Healthcare article.

    Improve employee engagement and satisfaction. Research correlates high employee satisfaction with higher patient satisfaction scores. A 2013 study in Health Affairs found that the percentage of patients who reported they would “definitely recommend” a hospital to their loved ones decreased by 2 percent for every 10 percent of the nurses who expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs.

    Provide regular and targeted customer service training to staff. Children’s National Medical Center designed a one-day learning program for faculty, staff, patients, and families called “Patient Experience Day.” From 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., participants could attend eleven 50-minute sessions, according to an article from the Association for Patient Experience. Topics were selected based directly on key drivers of patient satisfaction in the hospital’s key settings (i.e., inpatient, NICU, outpatient specialty clinics, and ED).

    Measure the patient experience, dig deep into the results, and share with staff. In addition to traditional, formal patient satisfaction surveys, some healthcare organizations are trying to track down “in the moment” experience of patients so bad experiences can be quickly corrected. For example, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital delivers simple instant surveys to inpatients via the TV in the patient’s room. If the scores are not all top scores, 20 staff members are notified via email and within 15 minutes, someone is in the patient room to discuss the issue, according to a 2012 PwC report.

    Return to related infographic: Improving the Patient Experience (Strategically)