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Making Progress on Patient Satisfaction

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 13, 2011
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Many healthcare human resources professionals believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the new demands it places on hospital workforces will enhance the role of HR, particularly with respect to improving employee engagement as a means of boosting patient satisfaction.

Under the federal reforms, Medicare will put a price tag on patient satisfaction as part of the value-based purchasing initiative. Improving patient satisfaction may prove to be difficult, but the formula is simple: Higher Medicare reimbursements will require higher patient satisfaction scores, which will require higher employee engagement, which will require strong HR initiatives. 

Stephanie Drake, executive director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration, says employee engagement and its impact on patient satisfaction has gotten a lot of focus of late in healthcare HR circles. “Without a doubt, HR will play a role, but we don’t necessarily know what it will look like,” she says. “Many HR departments are still struggling to find their place in patient satisfaction and quality.”

John Lacy, senior vice president of human resources at Methodist Health System, a seven-hospital system based in Dallas, says the growing realization that HR will have an even bigger impact on the bottom line on issues like patient satisfaction, and staff and physician recruiting and retention is changing C-suite attitudes about HR.

“I don’t have to opine or predict that. I am actually experiencing this,” Lacy said. “I am part of the top senior team which in the history of this health system was not the case prior. Talking to my peers in HR, there is a lot of attention being paid. In years past it was, ‘Yes, we need to do customer service training. It’s a nice idea.’ Now it’s very serious with the onset of value-based purchasing.”

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