So your healthcare facility has done its exit survey and follow-up phone call to gauge patient satisfaction. Job done, right? Wrong. Evidence suggests a handful of problems with driving overhauls and outcomes with subjective patient survey data. Not only do patients often leave out or avoid completely truthful responses, especially about not so great experiences with your organization, but lack of formal medical training and their own ideas of what ‘goals for success’ were may vary from what your survey details.
Not to say patient satisfaction surveys aren’t helpful and don’t encourage better care across the industry. There are tons of useful takeaways that can enhance everything from facility design to employee training. If your healthcare organization is looking for trending patient satisfaction improvements, don’t miss this list:
Look Up From Your Screen
Giving off signs that you are indifferent, don’t care, or aren’t listening can quickly foster both feelings of dissatisfaction as well as insecurity from the patient. As more and more healthcare administration becomes digital, charts make their way into tablets and laptops that doctors carry with them everywhere, constantly gazing at the screen to input new information, look up patient history, etc. Just like you would hate for someone to be staring down at their phone if you are trying to talk to them, so do patients find it difficult to take you as a healthcare provider seriously if you are not making eye contact but instead typing away the entire time they’re speaking.
Be Informative & Educational
Few things are more stressful and frustrating for patients than the “unknown.” Waiting on a diagnosis, test results, or simply to see a doctor to begin with is arduous and painstaking, especially if a patient is experiencing disconcerting symptoms including pain, seizures, nausea, etc. The patient (and their family) must be met with answers, and if not answers, information and an educational approach to helping them understand what is known about their condition and next steps.
Popping in and out to let them know “the CBC eliminated the possibility of infection but your systolic pressure is still worrisome” might sound helpful to a physician, but what does that mean to the non-medical school trained person who is under a lot of stress? Instead, a more comprehensive dialogue including simple information may help. For example, a physician could instead say “With the blood test we were looking for these markers which would indicate there was some sort of infection going on, and great news, right now it shows there is none. We recommend tracking your blood pressure at home with a blood pressure pump and logging it for a week, and we’ll order home health to pay you regular visits for a couple weeks to monitor symptoms.”
Don’t Feign Empathy, Practice It
In a hospital or home health situation, actions speak much louder than words. When a patient raises a concern or asks for some help, saying you’ll do something about it means little if it never gets addressed or done. Train healthcare professionals and employees to follow through on practicing empathy, putting themselves in the patient’s place and striving as much as possible to complement superior care with comfort and friendliness can go a long way to patient satisfaction.
Do some details simply get missed or overlooked? Yes, no healthcare facility is perfect. Taking responsibility, however, and avoiding placing blame can help patients feel even more taken care of and give employees more freedom to work harder at getting it right the next time.
Remember the Little Things
An oxymoron is a neurologist’s office without a handicap accessible doorway. When people with conditions ranging from epilepsy to MS and Parkinson’s, many of whom use mobility aids and wheelchairs to get around, go to their specialist and can’t even make it in the door without a whole lot of effort or waiting on someone to help them, there is a problem. Things like that, or having change-only vending machines in your hospital waiting room with no way for people to make change, send very clear cues to patients that your health care management simply does not care on some of the most basic levels.
For patients with chronic conditions like advanced MS or Alzheimer’s, scheduling plays a critical role in their day to day existence. Waking, sleeping, meals, meds, toiletings, naps, etc. all happen at the same time each day to maintain stability and structure for daily success. For health care providers, recognizing the importance of scheduling seems second nature – shift changes happen at the same time everyday, rounds relatively occur around the same time each day, so what’s the big deal? When it comes to patient satisfaction, especially with home health agencies, scheduling regular nurse visits and communicating expectations clearly with patients and caregivers is crucial. A patient receiving a text the night before from a nurse that says they may be able to make it sometime in the morning simply isn’t good enough.
Experience Care for Yourself
Want to know what the experience of your patients is like? Then live it. Park where they park, tour the hospital with a new patient, or engage a home health nurse as though you are a new patient who has never had home health care before. Walk the halls of your facility, try to get a snack or a drink of water. See how easy or hard it is to find a nurse, to get out of bed to the bathroom, to even read the whiteboard in the hospital room that lists date and care attendees. First-hand simulation can provide much more insight than surveys where patients may have an overall positive feeling of their stay but avoid sharing any negative or constructive criticism.
Evaluate Entire Care Teams Not Individuals
No health care environment will ever be without complaints. It is critical for healthcare professionals and management to address and answer complaints without brushing them off, and in evaluating patient satisfaction to look at the interactions of entire care teams and not just single providers. Why? Because the employee engagement between nurses, physicians, aides, techs, and administrators is a clearer reflection of experience. How does the care team work together to better the patient’s experience? When a complaint or concerned is raised, a health care employee should find the right person on the care team to address the complaint, not just say “it’s not their job.” Understanding the dynamics of the care team will also help healthcare organizations find gaps in care, efficiency, and human relations.
Look How Other Industries Are Succeeding
How are industries outside of a seemingly insular health care universe succeeding in people (user/customer) satisfaction? It might be a hotel that has instituted state of the art parking spaces with technology that helps People Park and get inside faster. Or an online e-commerce company that utilizes gasified digital surveys to encourage wider, more in-depth feedback from customers regarding their experience. Successful tactics might translate across industries and verticals – it’s important for management to keep their eyes peeled and follow the lead of others who are paving the way for more efficient and vigilant attention to user experience and sentiment.
Seek Out New Technologies
As the digital landscape starts to include more and more healthcare organizations, leveraging technology becomes more and more pertinent to patient satisfaction. Not only can new medical technologies aid health care organizations and patients in tracking medical history, symptoms, and changes more efficiently, but digital solutions and communications systems are speeding up waiting and response times as well as helping people get around hospitals and facilities with more ease and less stress.
Nathan Bradshaw is an expert marketer who specializes in promoting and growing physician practices. He currently works with UrgentWay to help improve their online footprint and garner interest in their Urgent Care, Occupational Health and Health Services.