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Improving the Patient Experience

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 13, 2011
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Resolving the noise issue, however, isn’t the only thing Lehigh is doing to get its scores up. The system is conducting training sessions for every one of its 9,500 employees—from groundskeepers to physicians and even vendors—using the AIDET tool (Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, and Thank You) on patient interaction, developed by the Studer Group.

“This is a team thing; we’re all in this together,” Ardire says.

Seven hundred miles west in Grand Rapids, MI, Kris White is coping with challenges at Spectrum Health, where she is vice president for innovation and patient affairs for the nine-hospital, 1,370-bed system. But White insists that unlike many other hospitals trying to improve patient experience, Spectrum “is not designing a strategy for HCAHPS. We’re just not going to do that.

“Our intent as an organization, our strategic priority, is to create an experience for fully engaged, informed consumers who are our partners, and HCAHPS is only one indicator of that experience.”

Rather than “teaching to the specific question,” Spectrum is aiming for a change in its entire system’s culture. “If you’re hearing me say ‘Go out and try harder and smile more,’ that’s the opposite of what we’re actually doing. In fact, I say, ‘This is not about being nice.’”

What Spectrum is trying to create “is an environment in which patients feel they can speak up and share their fears and concerns and worries,” White says.

Every employee is expected to think of his or her job in terms of how it actually impacts each patient’s stay. One day, White invited 1,000 of the system’s workers to a leadership event to hear a trauma patient talk about the care he received when he was airlifted to the hospital. First, the patient acknowledged the doctors on the flight.

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