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How One Hospital Works to Win Over Patients

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, August 30, 2012

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

The Stony Brook (N.Y.) University Medical Center's staff role-plays scenarios about what can go wrong with patients at the 597-staffed-bed hospital and how to make it right. In these make-believe scenarios, "patients" may fuss. Demand. Need above-and-beyond assistance.

They are ... well ... being impatient patients, and the idea is for hospital staff, especially nurses, to keep their cool, while showing that they are concerned. Do the right thing. Care.

The medical center on Long Island's North Shore finds that playacting improves its staff's performance in real life, and it uses this approach to learn more about keeping patients satisfied during their hospital experience. While a hospital stay often lasts for fewer than four days at a time, the patient may encounter dozens of healthcare professionals and other hospital personnel during that time. "We have actors pretending to be patients, and these four-hour sessions are scenario-based, for nurses specifically to hone their communication skills," says Michael Maione, director of customer relations for Stony Brook. Maione is responsible for evaluating patient satisfaction measures for the hospital.

Indeed, the hospital is among thousands across the nation trying to not only improve patient satisfaction, but also obtain ROI for doing so. Under the government's value-based purchasing program, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to pay bonuses from an $850 million pool to hospitals that score above average on certain quality measures. In fiscal 2013, patient satisfaction scores will account for 30% of the bonuses, while clinical process of care will make up 70%.

Stony Brook is among many high-achieving clinical facilities that have done well at improving patient satisfaction scores in some areas while struggling in others. For instance, Stony Brook won awards this year for its cardiology care, but scored only a 73% from patients—compared with 77% for the national average—for how well nurses always communicate with patients. The hospital also scored just 57% from patients about receiving medication information, compared with 61% for the national average.

The scores are part of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems 27-question survey given to a random sample of eligible patients after discharge to assess their perspectives on their healthcare. Questions include: Would you recommend this hospital to your friends and family? How often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand? How often did doctors listen carefully to you? How often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain? How often was the area around your room quiet at night?

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1 comments on "How One Hospital Works to Win Over Patients"


Michael Kape (9/5/2012 at 11:57 AM)
It's great seeing Stony Brook getting accolades for this now, but it's been a program at the medical school since it started in 1971, actually, before the hospital was even built. (I only know this because I remember playing one of those "difficult" patients back in the Fall of 1971.)