Earlier this week, InformationWeek HealthCare posted the article, Hospitals Elevate Patient Satisfaction to the C-Suite. While the meat of the article may pass the test of being necessary, it did not come close to passing the test for being both necessary and sufficient. Why? Because the approach discussed in the article left out far more than half of the people who interface with the hospital. The article credited the fact that one hospital created a screen saver reminding the staff to be quiet.
Hospitals continue to do a disservice to themselves and their patients by limiting their definition of patient experience to what it has always been, or to how the regulators define it. Patient experience as defined by most includes only those events that occur within the hospital, and only to those individuals who happen to be inpatients.
That implies that once someone is discharged, or if a patient happened to be an outpatient, that any experience that person had is of no consequence. Most hospitals sure treat it that way, and they do so at their own peril.
So, if you are a hospital administrator — CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CIO, or CXO — why should you be alarmed?
You should be alarmed because you have no idea about the experiences of most of the people who interact with your hospital. And not knowing whether those experiences are good or bad is costing you patients — lots of them. Those people include outpatients, discharged patients, former patients and prospective patients. It includes people coming for labs and therapy. It includes people trying to schedule an appointment, those calling for a refill, and those calling to speak to a nurse.
If I have a bad experience as an outpatient, I will never consider being an inpatient.
If I cannot get an appointment or a refill, I will go somewhere where I can. How many thousands of your hospital’s prospective patients do that every year?
Implementing a screen saver will not improve any of those experiences. Measuring the satisfaction of individuals at those touch points and designing an excellent experience will improve them.
I spoke with a woman last year who was undergoing chemotherapy at a top cancer hospital in the US. She called the hospital to schedule an appointment because her medications were making her ill. She spent three hours on hold having her call transferred. She volunteered that she will make it her mission in life to tell others how poor her experience was with that hospital.
So while there may be merit in trying to bump your HCAHPS score from 64 to 65, there may be just as much merit or more in making sure that the experiences from each patient touch point are excellent.
More people visit your hospital every day online and by phone than are admitted. Who is in charge of improving their experience? Who is in charge of retaining them and their family members and making sure that their experience was so good that they refer other people to your organization?
If the answer is ‘nobody,’ you had better have one heck of a screen saver.