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Patient Experience: Four Benefits and Five Priorities

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2009

Hospitals and health systems have had an eye on patient satisfaction over the past few years and have, more recently, been ramping up their patient experience initiatives—and it's starting to show. Patients were more satisfied with their care at inpatient facilities than during any of the previous six years, according to a recent report from Press Ganey Associates, Inc.

Patient satisfaction has steadily increased since 2003, with 85% of those surveyed reporting satisfaction with care in October 2008, according to The 2009 Hospital Pulse Report: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care.

But the best news in the study is data that shows it's not just the patients who are benefitting from a better experience. Hospitals are reaping rewards for their efforts, as well.

According to the study:

  • There is a direct correlation between highly satisfied caregivers and satisfied patients—that in turn helps recruitment and retention of doctors, nurses, and technicians.
  • Organizations with high satisfaction ratings are the most successful financially—satisfied patients are more likely to recommend the facility to family and friends and high ratings enhance community reputation, both of which increase market share and volume, according to the report.
  • Better staff buy-in to improvement efforts leads to a more positive atmosphere for patients and better quality care.
  • And research continues to show more satisfied patients are less likely to file malpractice suits.

But there's still room for improvement, according to the South Bend, IN–based agency. It recommends hospitals focus on five areas related to questions to patients about their likelihood to recommend the hospital to others. They are, ranked in order of importance:

  1. Response to concerns and complaints made during the patient's stay
  2. Degree to which hospital staff addressed the patient's emotional needs
  3. Staff effort to include the patient in decisions about his or her treatment
  4. How well the nurses kept the patient informed
  5. How promptly staff responded to the call button

The top priority—response to concerns and complaints—is a real opportunity for hospitals, according to the report. Service recovery "can make a big difference for patients," the report notes. "A key differentiator of 'good' versus 'very good' care is what happens when something goes wrong or the patient's needs are not being met."

The survey report includes a number of charts, graphs, and statistics, including a list of states with the highest inpatient satisfaction, inpatient satisfaction by specialty, type of admission, bed size, and patient age. (Care to guess which age group is the least satisfied?) There's also a case study about the Oakwood Southshore Medical Center in Trenton, MI, which took a team approach to improving patient satisfaction.


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