Patient Experience: Old School Approach May Be Best

Jacqueline Fellows, September 4, 2013

The simplest, most effective patient experience strategy may be listening to the patient, directly through personal discussions and indirectly through survey data analysis.

This article appears in the July/August issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

"Real change begins to happen when physicians, nurses, and staff hear the voice of the customer, the voice of the patient."

"It's really about cultural change and maintaining that, which is probably twice as hard as getting to cultural change."

"Patient experience is not a campaign. It's an actual, critical part of culture."

"If anything makes physicians act, it's not being the best, and wanting to be."

"It was horrible. When I pressed the call button, I couldn't get anyone to answer. I could hear other patients crying in their room and the nurses weren't attending to them."

Those comments were part of a six-sentence paragraph described by a patient during a telephone survey after a three-week hospital stay in October 2012. It's something no hospital wants to believe is happening, but the reality is that scenes like the one above play out in patients' hospital rooms across the country.

That feedback is hard to read, but even harder to hear says Kevin Gwin, vice president of communications for Nashville-based Ardent Health Services, parent company of the hospital where the incident occurred. Gwin is providing new insight into how patient experience scores can be improved at Ardent Health and believes that the voice of the patient is the most effective change agent. The C-suite at each Ardent hospital is in charge of patient experience, but Gwin is in charge of getting patient experience scores up. That's why he asks nurses to read this patient's comments in full and out loud at staff meetings.

"Nurses become emotional when they hear a comment like this," says Gwin. "But that's how you change behavior. We're going to read it in a voice that makes the comment come alive."

Jacqueline Fellows

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.


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