• How one hospital improved its call-bell responsiveness

    By Laura Ramos Hegwer May 21, 2019

    Main article: Executive-level strategies for optimizing the patient experience 

    * NewYork-Presbyterian asks all employees to respond to call lights on patient floors as a way to improve “responsiveness of staff” scores.

    * Staff describe patient handouts as “discharge information” to help patients make the connection on their satisfaction surveys.

    * As the organization’s experience shows, C-suite leaders should accept consumerism as a driving force in healthcare.

    NewYork-Presbyterian’s comprehensive patient-experience strategy has led to year-over-year improvements in key metrics during the past three years, says Rick Evans, senior vice president and chief experience officer for the Manhattan-based health system.

    He credits the organization’s rolling, three-year patient-experience plan, which defines targets and sets strategies for a variety of metrics, including responsiveness of staff.

    Creating a culture that values responsiveness

    Today, responding to call lights outside of patient rooms is everyone’s job at NewYork-Presbyterian, whether they are nurses, chaplains, transporters or C-suite leaders. Leaders have implemented “no-pass zones” to improve call-bell responses and create more accountability for the patient experience at all levels of the organization.

    Rick Evans“Call-bell is a proxy for how much the patient thinks we care,” says Evans (pictured at right). “We’re trying to implement a culture where you don’t walk by a call light, no matter who you are.”

    Evans responds to call lights when he is on the patient floors, sometimes fulfilling a simple task such as getting a patient a jacket. “While I am not going to ambulate a patient or give meds, I am perfectly capable of helping a patient put on a jacket — and I saved the nurse a call bell so that she could be operating at the top of her skill set,” he says.

    After implementing the change, along with proactive rounding by nurses to address patients’ pain, positioning and personal hygiene, the hospital has boosted its “responsiveness of staff” score on the HCAHPS survey by six percentage points in the past few years.

    Improving discharge information 

    Another low-tech change — keeping a discharge envelope in a bedside bin throughout a patient’s stay — has helped the hospital raise its “discharge information” scores on the HCAHPS survey by 10 percentage points.

    Before the change was made, Evans says, patients did not always recognize that the handouts they received were discharge information if staff did not explicitly refer to them as such. Now, when nurses provide the patient with any type of handout about their medication or care plan, they place it in the discharge envelope and inform the patient, “This is your discharge information.”

    From low-tech to high-tech

    Beyond focusing on staff communication and responsiveness to improve the patient experience, leaders at NewYork-Presbyterian are investing in more technology-driven strategies. One is the health system’s new telemedicine initiative, which allows patients to receive virtual consultations via kiosks in New York City drugstores or on their smartphones or desktop computers.

    Using technology to improve patient access is increasingly important as patients evolve into consumers of healthcare who value convenience when selecting providers, Evans says.

    “Let’s not pretend consumerism isn’t here,” he says. “We have to acknowledge that we are dealing with marketplaces where choice is becoming more and more of a factor.”


    Laura Ramos Hegwer is a freelance writer and editor based in Lake Bluff, Ill.

    Interviewed for this article: Rick Evans, senior vice president and chief experience officer, NewYork-Presbyterian, New York City.

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