Positive Patient Experience
Respondents in our survey say that the top three areas in which a positive patient experience is most important for their organizations are discharge and follow-up (51%), the emergency department (50%), and outpatient/ambulatory visits (45%).
A positive patient experience at discharge and follow-up is beneficial, because it can help reduce hospital readmissions.
Likewise, a positive first impression in the ED may encourage patients to use other hospital services in the future, and a positive experience in an outpatient/ambulatory visit also helps promote the potential use of a provider's inpatient capabilities.
"If you don't create a great first impression, it's much harder to achieve a positive lasting experience," Gierlinger says. "If you have a bad experience, it can play out in a variety of ways. I think that, visually, what you see when you first walk in a space is extremely important. And when that first human contact or interaction is warm and inviting, with a smile—it makes you feel comforted and safe, and that's ultimately what we all want from any healthcare experience."
Gierlinger also notes that when going over survey ratings and doing patient interviews, he's not necessarily interested in only reviewing the low scores.
He says it can be illuminating to look beyond the scores to understand the patient's perception of his or her care, and cites an emergency department example, an area where Northwell Health has applied process improvement methods extensively.
"I want to figure out what's the difference between good and great, what's the difference between 'probably recommend' and 'likely to recommend,' because our leaders who are rounding mostly find satisfied patients with no issues, but you don't really know if they gave you a 'probably' or 'definitely recommend.'
"A good example of this is when we identified that how we insert the IV in the emergency department is actually painful, which posed an issue. Many patients actually told us that this intervention was extremely stressful and painful, and our clinicians were not as compassionate as they would have hoped. When looking at our inpatient survey, I believe this had a significant impact on our pain management scores. Asking our patients about pain actually triggered a response to the pain they received from the IV in the emergency department. To really move the dial on performance improvement, we must be mindful of the whole experience through the lens of our patients."
Jonathan Bees is a research analyst for HealthLeaders.