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Doctors' Challenge: Boost Patient Satisfaction, Maintain Clinical Excellence

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, August 30, 2012

The Iowa Health System is another system that is not only examining its clinical improvements, but also focusing on HCAHPS scores through a Patient Experience Team, says Gail A. Nelson, director of learning and innovation for the Iowa Health System, based in Des Moines. The system includes 10 hospitals in Iowa and one in Illinois. The team, which includes physicians and nurses, emphasizes that patients should be communicated with in ways that they understand.

While HCAHPS surveys are important, they only go so far. "We have a broader focus on patient satisfaction and experience than what we can learn from surveys," she adds. "In this work, we have defined for each Patient Care Unit the meaning of 'ideal care' – what our patients and families will say to us (is) the care they want and need," Nelson says.

"These skills are spreading from our hospitals to our home care agency and physician practices across the state," she says. Nelson adds that the hospital uses the adaptive design initiated by John Kenagy, MD,  author of Designed to Adapt: Leading Healthcare in Challenging Times, that emphasizes creating solutions to problems "as they happen on the front line."

"We are extremely pleased about our work with adaptive problem solving. It changes culture, engages everyone, reduces harm to patients and alters the way we think about moving patient experience and satisfaction scores," Nelson says. "It isn't about chasing HCAHPS scores; it's about smoothing processes, working together as teams and delivering on ideal care. Patient satisfaction and experience scores have improved as teams and clinical units improved their process of problem solving and focus on ideal care."

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