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Why the patient experience matters

JaNeal-Peck,-RN-and-patient.jpgEmployees at Inland Hospital are deeply in tune with the importance of the patient experience—they’ve been heavily focused on it for more than ten years through their Customer Service Initiative (CSI), a structure of service principles supported by respectful behaviors in their Standards of Personal Conduct.

“From key words at key times, discharge phone calls, rounding with purpose, service recovery, and more, CSI has evidence-based strategies for successful service interactions and it’s working for us,” says Rick Barry, vice president of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Inland. Rick adds, “We want to deliver a positive patient experience because it leads to better clinical outcomes. In addition, it makes sense for the health of our organization—it builds long-term patient loyalty.” Fast-forward to the current healthcare environment where hospitals are rewarded financially for favorable patient experience and care outcomes, rather than paid based solely on an episode of care, and Inland’s approach is still a winning formula.
 
Lets-Get-Specific-V2.pngIn June, Inland reached the ninety-fourth percentile of overall performance on the standard patient experience survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). In May, Inland celebrated its outstanding achievement of being in the top ten percent of national performers in nine out of the eleven HCAHPS categories. Areas of focus include everything from cleanliness of the hospital to rating how well the patient felt their doctors and nurses communicated with them. The survey and its results serve as the voice of the patient about the care received, are publicly reported, and are directly tied to CMS reimbursement for health services—there is a lot at stake.
 
Everyone plays a role
The patient experience does not begin and end with a hospital’s inpatient setting. How a patient interfaces with other departments along the care continuum shapes their attitude and beliefs toward the organization.
 
Adding new employees into this environment can also be an art rather than an exact science. Courtney Cook, RN, director of Inland’s Birthing Center, explains, “We try and hire the right personality that fits our service culture—experience isn’t the most weighted factor. We can teach the skills according to best practices, but we need a person that is passionate and adaptive to change.”
 
The take away
While Inland has achieved a remarkable benchmark in HCAHPS scores recently, other EMHS member organizations have also been shining examples of the hard work behind creating a great patient experience. For example, in this same timeframe, Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital, Mercy Hospital, and Sebasticook Valley Health, all exceeded the national average for hospital ratings. Acadia Hospital and VNA Home Health Hospice, which use slightly different patient satisfaction assessment tools based on the nature of the type of care provided to patients, have also sustained their benchmarks above national averages.
 
HCAHPS is one measure of how patients perceive care at our hospitals. What proves most beneficial to the future of a healthcare system is the conversations among care teams. “I think we show our strength when our organizations can be vulnerable, admit when we don’t have all the answers, and learn from one another,” reflects Tara Elliott-Greene, RN, director of Inland’s Acute Care Unit. “In terms of how far we can go together, the sky’s the limit.”

To learn more about EMHS Patient Experience and Engagement initiatives, find educational tool kits and resources for your organization, or to contact your local EMHS Patient Engagement and Experience lead, visit the system portal at http://intranet.emhs.org/EMHS/Portals/Experience.aspx.