There is a lot of chatter these days about improving the patient hospital experience. Ask any C-suite hospital executive to list his or her priorities and some variation of patient experience (patient satisfaction, patient safety, quality care, etc.) will likely top the list.
Money is the root of some of this interest. The federal Affordable Care Act and the creation of Accountable Care Organizations have healthcare stakeholders looking at ways to measure improvement in the healthcare delivery system. It's easy to see why. The soon-to-be-implemented value-based purchasing program will pay hospitals for their actual performance on quality measures rather than just for the reporting of the measures. That means performance will be attached to federal dollars.
But here’s the rub: no one is quite sure what really makes a patient hospital experience a good one. A few years back hospitals started offering amenities such as Internet access, parenting classes, and concierge services all in the name of making patients happy. Lately the patient experience debate has centered on process-driven metrics such as reducing emergency department wait times or improving the time it takes to get a patient from registration to a bed, or from a bed to the front door.
While the ACA has tipped its hat in favor of measureable goals, Jason Wolf, executive director at the Bedford, Texas-based Beryl Institute, argues that while improving the patient experience “should take some process into account, it really needs to be broader and more strategic. Successful organizations see improving the patient experience not as an initiative but as something that becomes intrinsic to the organization.”
The Beryl Institute, which consults with hospitals about patient experience, recently released a survey about what hospitals are doing to improve the patient experience. Wolf noted that for all the talk about the importance of the patient experience, more than 40% of the respondents said a committee has the primary responsibility and accountability for the patient experience and that such committees meet on average about once a month.