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Trying to Win Over Patients

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2012
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Regular, personal interaction

At Stony Brook, two Fridays a month, administrators and senior staff personally make rounds and interview patients and staff to ensure quality goals are achieved. If there are any problems, emails are sent to the responsible hospital official, whether it's a nurse manager, administrator, or physician, Maione says. "It's very comprehensive in areas ranging from how well the room is cleaned, to the quietness of the room, to how well they have maintained the patient's pain."

Solberg of Baptist Health agrees that a standardized protocol for nursing staff is a key element for improved patient scores—and the hospital is still working on that element. "Nurse communication is the domain driving the focus [of patient satisfaction]. If you nail that, you can get a lot accomplished," she says. Although much has changed over the years, some patients still have a lower expectation of physicians in their day-to-day care. "If a doc saved your life, do you really care about that stuff?" Solberg asks, referring to meeting the patient's daily needs. "But a hospital staff has to care about that. It has to be accomplished with a number of nurses, the ratio of nurses on the floor, and the education component," she says, referring to how nurses talk to patients to meet their needs.

For many hospital systems, improving clinical techniques is the path they pursue to improve patients' attitudes about their facilities. These medical providers focus on reducing readmissions after 30 days, addressing patient medication adherence, and initiating medical homes to let patients know that their healthcare system cares.

Considering readmissions and care processes

While the Iowa Health System strategic plan examines its clinical improvements such as reducing readmissions, it also focuses on HCAHPS scores to improve care, says Gail A. Nielsen, director of learning and innovation for the 2,421-staffed-bed system based in Des Moines.

The health system has established a patient experience team—which includes physicians, nurses, nurse educators, managers, executives, data analysts, and performance improvement experts—that emphasizes how to communicate with patients in ways that they understand. The team wants healthcare professionals to ask patients whether they will have the help they need at home and to consider what information the patient may need after leaving the hospital.

"These teams are joining the efforts of the readmissions teams because we believe that the best way to improve patient experience is to improve and redesign the processes of care that touch our patients and their families," Nielsen says.

"Patient satisfaction and experience scores have improved as teams and clinical units improved their process of problem-solving and focused on ideal care," says Nielsen.

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