"It really is patient experience overall that drives people toward where they choose. With that increasing amount of transparency, patients can see what others think about you," she says.
"It's sort of like TripAdvisor. You can go anywhere and learn about a healthcare system—and not just about what the quality of care was, but how [consumers] were treated."
Empathy Boosts Efficiency
"The evidence suggests that you can actually save time by making a single empathic statement," says Chief Experience Officer Adrienne Boissy, MD, MA.
"The rationale behind that is that if someone is coming to me emotionally charged and I ignore those cues and continue on my own agenda, those cues will either continue to surface and escalate," she says. "Or the patient will stop talking because you've demonstrated that you're not willing to 'see' the emotional human in front of you."
Addressing the cue the first time takes less time, she says.
A patient who is angry about a long wait before an appointment, for example, is more likely to be distracted by that frustration and less engaged in talking over medical concerns with the provider, potentially snowballing into poor adherence, which may in turn contribute to a preventable hospitalization, to name just one plausible scenario, notes Miller.
Since 2011, Cleveland Clinic caregivers have learned how to handle these situations with a course in relationship-centered communication. "We tell the doctors it's almost like an MBA for communication," Miller says. "It's to give them more tools in their tool belt," he adds.
In 2016, Boissy and colleagues compiled this curriculum into a book entitled, Communication the Cleveland the Cleveland Clinic Way.
"My hope is that these communication skills remain central to how we train leadership," Boissy says.
Ignoring Experience Can Cost You
What's more, organizations engaged in patient experience—hiring not just for clinical skill but also behavior—see lower rates of costly turnover, says Kondas.
And patients who feel heard are less likely to sue, research has shown.
Ultimately, the business case boils down to this: "If you want patients to come to your hospital, you better make them happy," Kondas says.
Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.