Providing a quality experience for patients means accounting for every single touch-point in the care journey.
From the initial phone call or online appointment scheduling, to receiving care, to the follow-up and all the transitions in between, there are countless opportunities to develop a strong provider-patient relationship and ultimately, better clinical outcomes.
In our recent webinar, Kate Slonaker, Vice President of Growth Initiatives at Binary Fountain, and Carol Santalucia, Director of Business Development in the Office of Patient Experience at the Cleveland Clinic, discussed initiatives taking place within their organizations that are giving providers a new perspective on patient experience and explored how to better treat patients as a partner, rather than simply a consumer.
Here are some of the key takeaways from their discussion:
3 Improvements Areas for Providers are: Communications Skills, Viewing Patients as Partners and Leadership Rounding
Carol made a point of saying that many doctors and providers already possess the empathy needed to treat their patients and create a good experience, but they may not have the communication skills or the perspective to show it properly.
“One thing I learned early on in my career is that not everybody has these skills,” said Carol. “They can be brilliant, compassionate people but they may not have the communication skills that are necessary to demonstrate empathy.”
Carol went on to explain how the Cleveland Clinic models good behaviors for providers to use through its “Communicate with H.E.A.R.T.®” patient experience program:
“We instruct them to tell their name and role, and explain what they expect to do using active listening and providing assistance where necessary. We tell them to make sure they’re focusing on rapport and relationship building and, finally, thank the person, so those become expected service behaviors.”
She adds that these behaviors are not meant to be scripted or feel robotic, but rather to set the stage for care and provide guidelines for providers to give the best care possible.
Cleveland Clinic has also implemented a Healthcare Partners program, in which 350 community volunteers are brought in on various projects and special-focus councils to provide outsider input on what the organization can do to improve outcomes for patients.
Additionally, their Leadership Rounding program has been a simple yet effective solution for digging down to the root of some patient experience issues they have faced. Once a month, leadership will focus on a specific theme like Communication, then go out into the hospital and make observations. Once they’ve completed this data collection, all doctors are then brought to an auditorium to analyze the findings and provide input on what’s working or what needs improvement.
“We don’t only want to only ask patients how things are–we go to the employees as well, because we’re all part of the process,” said Carol.
Empower Employees to Deliver World-Class Care–Data Analytics Can Help Show What’s Needed Most
Carol emphasized that while measurements such as HCAHPS scores and survey results are important for tracking success, data analytics must be paired with culture changes to make an impact.
“Keep in mind that HCAHPS is simply the measurement of the work that you’re doing,” said Carol. “When people focus too much on the score and not on the culture, I think that’s when things start to crumble.”
However, when employee engagement and patient experience scores both rise, providers see other areas improve as well. Kate brought up a study featured in the Harvard Business Review that found that for every one-point increase in a hospital’s HCAHPS rating, there was a 0.2% increase in net operating profit margin. Put another way, a five-point increase in hospital rating is associated with a 1% increase in profit margin, which goes to show that patient experience and employee engagement are not only good for a provider’s reputation–it also makes good business sense.
Set the Bar High for Patient Experience and Commit to a Plan to Get There
An important distinction for the Cleveland Clinic to make when it began implementing patient experience initiatives was treating everyone in the organization as an equal contributor to the caregiving process.
“One of the big pushes [in the beginning] was to say ‘we are all caregivers,’” said Carol. “Our organization before this time had a hierarchy of patients at the top, then doctors, then everybody else. Our leadership said no–we are all caregivers and we must look at each other as part of a team, and without any piece of that team we cannot do our work.”
Carol tied this philosophy to a folk-tale about a NASA janitor who’s contribution, however small, helped to put a man on the moon.
“If we could have employees believe in the mission and vision of the organization and know that they play a huge role in making it happen, then everything changes,” continued Carol. “That’s when culture changes.”
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