3 Strategies to Increase Patient Satisfaction Scores
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Owensboro Health Regional Hospital’s initiatives to improve patient care.
By Sara Butterworth, MHA, RTI(CT)(MR), Radiology Operations Manager, Owensboro Health Regional Hospital.
Most people who work in healthcare are motivated to give patients a good experience simply because it’s the right thing to do. Recently, our motivation has gotten an added boost from consumer-driven healthcare and other external factors. Ratings of our healthcare facility – and yours! – are readily accessible on sites like Leapfrog and Care Compare.
In addition, a high reliability rating (safety) and top reimbursement stem from a solid patient experience. For Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, this means that low patient satisfaction scores could put 2% of our Medicare reimbursement at risk. It is clear that it is more important than ever that our patients feel as if their overall experience in our hospital was a quality one. For all these reasons, we made “Person and Community Engagement” a priority in 2021. The initiative has as much focus and importance as Clinical Outcomes, Safety, and Efficiency and Cost Reduction in our quality domains and weights for the year. Here is a closer look at several initiatives we implemented that might help your facility improve your patient experience scores.
Strategy 1: Improve Communication
It is not surprising that communication is critical; after all it is foundational to all human relationships. Within healthcare in particular, communication – and information – have the power to ease fears and to reassure patients and their families that they are being given the best care possible. However, hospitals are busy places and multiple people are involved in a patient’s care, so it was not surprising that we found communication gaps that needed to be addressed.
Here is an example around imaging procedures for inpatients. To begin with, does the patient even know they are getting an imaging exam? The patient might not have received the information from their provider and then suddenly, someone from the radiology department appears in the patient’s room. At other times, a patient’s condition has changed, and the planned exam needs to be postponed – but the patient was not informed of this.
And then there are the times when a patient is well informed about the imaging exam and the scheduled date… but the appointment is delayed. This is not unusual in a busy hospital. In imaging, we are seeing inpatients, outpatients and ER patients. A 2 p.m. follow up CT scan will be pushed back to accommodate an emergency patient.
Here is our process for keeping our patients better informed. The radiology department faxes the day’s schedule to the inpatient departments. Then our Guest Relations Department texts the schedule to the patient’s nurse, who shares it with the patient.
Of course, unplanned emergencies still happen that impact a patient’s scheduled imaging exam. For that reason, we give a 2-hour timeframe for when the planned exam will happen, and we do our best to narrow that window for patients when we can. Our goal is to be more transparent and to include patients in the communication loop as much as possible.
Now we are working with our IT department to get radiology scheduling available on EPIC. In the future, any imaging procedure scheduled on EPIC will be visible to a patient – on the TV monitor in their room! Additionally, we plan to display other ancillary areas, like lab work and occupational therapy visits, on their monitor.
Knowing the day’s schedule gives patients a feeling of some control. Also, they can schedule visits from family members and friends, knowing that they will be in their room when visitors arrive. Having the schedule visible also helps the hospital staff. For example, nurses can schedule a patient’s bath when it won’t interfere with scheduled services.
We also are working on these additional patient communication initiatives:
- Communicating the discharge process
- Hospitalist schedule and handoff communication with patients
- Orientation video for inpatient units
Strategy #2: Improve Responsiveness
At Owensboro, when a patient pushes their call button, the alert goes to the nurse, the nursing assistant, and possibly even to Guest Relations. Knowing that alerts were sent to multiple people resulted in everyone thinking that someone else was attending to the patient. To improve our responsiveness, we set an expectation with the team that the call is their responsibility to respond to. And we put in place a routing system so that it moves on to the next person if the initial person does not respond.
We also started a program to increase awareness among all team members to be vigilant to patients in need. We routinely remind everyone of the “no pass” policy. If they see a light on in a patient room, they either stop in themself, or find someone else who can.
Another new initiative is a Bereavement Cart. The cart will be stocked with items like tissues and scripture that might comfort a family in mourning. We are working with our hospital Foundation to fund this cart and keep it stocked. Our goal is not just timely communication, but also compassionate interaction with patients and their families.
Strategy #3: Improve the Environment
Here is an eye-opening task for you: lie down on a hospital bed and take a close look all around the room to see what a patient sees. Do the walls need painting? Is there a stain on a ceiling tile? We are acutely aware of how we greet patients and the care we give them, but honestly, we hadn’t thought much about what the patient sees – and that came through loud and clear in a patient satisfaction survey. Here are three small actions we’ve taken that are contributing in a big way to a nicer environment for our patients:
- Created a central location for trash. This eliminates the pervasive small trash cans outside of rooms that are often overflowing.
- Created isolation caddies to store our PPE so it is no longer in the line of sight of visitors, but still easily accessible to staff.
- Asked hospital staff to use separate hallways and separate elevators than those used by patients and visitors. This limits patients from overhearing staff conversations.
Our goal is to present not just a clean environment, but an inviting one. We are moving some of the behind-the-scenes activities out of the sight of patients and their families to make the environment more appealing and comfortable.
You might have noticed that all these changes are focused on improving the experience for inpatients. We plan to make improvements for our outpatients sometime in the future.
Team Buy-in is Crucial to Success
As a radiology administrator, you likely already know that staff buy-in is critical to the success of any new initiative. If you don’t have your team on your side, your plans will likely fail. Here are a few best practices we’ve adopted to keep our employees engaged and supportive of our new initiatives:
How we say something is as important as what we say. The majority of people in healthcare – including the staff at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital – want to provide the best possible experience for the patient. We are careful to emphasize to our teams that we weren’t failing before, but rather we need to make improvements. Just like we need to change to adapt to new technology, we need to adjust how we care for others.
Leadership drive values, behavior and culture – and culture drives performance. Your leadership team needs to be supportive and engaged in the efforts. They need to communicate that delivering an enhanced level of patient care is an expectation for the entire organization.
Find your champions: We identified members of different teams who are passionate about patient care. They are working on the front lines and helped identify opportunities for improvement. They continue to provide important feedback to make improvements.
Recognize and reward your staff: I can’t overstate the importance of letting your staff know that what they are doing to improve the patient experience is noticed and appreciated. Our Employee Engagement group is recognizing our stellar staff members by giving them recognition pins, warm pretzels and other surprises. When your staff loves what they do, your patients feel it – and that is perhaps one of the biggest ways to improve the patient experience.
I hope you found this information on our initiatives helpful. What are you doing in your facility to improve the patient experience? Please comment below.
Sara Butterworth, MHA, CRA, RT(R)(CT)(MR) is the Radiology Operations Manager at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. She delivered this presentation at AHRA 2021.
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