"I spent hours with my mom and watched her get more and more depressed because of the noise. Because of that experience, noise has been my primary focus. I want to make sure our patients can go home faster and with less emotional distress than they would otherwise," she says.
St. John's recently began giving quiet kits to all its patients. Each kit includes earplugs, an eye mask, a "voices down, please" card, a notebook patients can use to jot down questions for their care team, lip balm, and Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
"These are things that can be used by the patient throughout the day," Frontczak says. "Patients may be bored or in pain, and these diversions can help alleviate pain or anxiety and can actually decrease pain and the need for pain medication. We have had such incredible feedback from patients and their families. Hospitals tend to be very busy places, and they are not always conducive to the patient getting a good night's sleep. Drowning out noise and light helps patients rest, which is important for healing."
Harting estimates that the quiet kits save St. John's about 8% compared to what it would cost to buy the items individually and deliver them separately when requested by patients. "We are really getting some bang for our buck," she says.
St. John's efforts to improve its HCAHPS scores have paid off significantly, Harting adds.
"We've made tremendous strides. The result is we have gone from the bottom quartile to the top quartile, and that doesn't just happen," she says. "It's been very rewarding. With any kind of change in culture, it takes years. The most impatient person in this whole organization is me, but I know to change a culture is a three- to five-year journey. We are now heavy into year three of this journey, and I can taste it. I can feel it. I can touch it."
While the financial benefits of improving the patient experience are harder to analyze than HCAHPS scores, Robert Wardwell, chief financial officer for Dignity Health Southern California West, says meaningful economic gains are also being made.
"It's not an easy calculation, but we certainly believe there is a return on investment," he says. "Our HCAHPS scores have soared, and from a value based purchasing aspect, we've done well. We have averted hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses by improving our value-based purchasing metrics."
One of the reasons St. John's has been able to make a noteworthy turnaround in its HCAHPS scores is that it regularly shares data with staff and patients, Frontczak says.
Rene Letourneau is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.