In the United States, over 35 million patients stay in hospitals every year. For physicians and hospital staff who see hundreds of patients each day, it can be easy to lose sight of individual experiences. However, for each of those patients, their healthcare journeys are unique and deeply personal.
The Impact of the Patient Experience on Health Outcomes
It’s not only the patient who is impacted by the quality of their care experience. As reimbursements become tied to quality of care metrics, patient experience also has a direct impact on an organization’s revenue.
An Accenture study found that hospitals in the US that provided a “superior” patient experience gained net margins that were 50 percent higher, on average, than those that deliver an “average” patient experience.
As patients become more personally involved in their healthcare decisions, promoting a positive patient experience is more important than ever. It results in better health outcomes, lower readmission rates, and increased patient loyalty. By following these 5 steps, providers can drastically improve the patient experience.
5 Tips for How to Improve the Patient Experience in Healthcare
1. Take a patient-centered approach by committing to patient rounding
Effective patient rounding offers the opportunity to not just treat illness, but also prevent it. Putting programs in place to support effective patient rounding, such as implementing a software tool for entering rounding data, can go a long way in driving improvements in patient experience.
It’s important for healthcare teams to round on every patient and give them the opportunity to bring up questions or concerns about their care. These questions or concerns should be followed up on in a respectful and timely manner, and also documented so that the patient’s experience can be tracked and improved upon over time.
2. Focus on employee engagement to improve patient satisfaction scores, outcomes, and prevent turnover.
Engaging employees through tactics like training programs and anonymous employee engagement surveys can help organizations gain honest feedback and recommendations for improvement.
Employee engagement has a direct impact on patient outcomes; a Gallup study of 200 hospitals found that the engagement level of nurses was the number one variable correlating to mortality, even beating out the number of nurses per patient day.
Another review of engagement and clinical outcomes at the NHS showed that for every 10% increase in engagement there was a reduction in MRSA by .057 cases per 10,000 bed days and one standard deviation improvement in engagement reduced mortality by 2.4 percentage points. The same study showed a strong correlation between engagement and reducing employee turnover and absenteeism.
Effectively training employees and making sure that they feel well-equipped to do their jobs can go a long way in reducing employee turnover and promoting a positive patient experience. Studies have found that higher rates of employee turnover were directly linked to higher patient mortality. In fact, patient infections are estimated to increase by roughly 30% with each loss of a nurse.
3. Use a survey tool to track patient satisfaction
Give patients a voice by implementing a survey tool to track patient feedback about their healthcare experience. Surveys are incredibly useful for care teams to understand and monitor progress, identify areas of improvement, and track data over time.
Patient satisfaction surveys are also becoming increasingly important in the healthcare industry’s transition to value-based care, as quality outcomes start to impact reimbursement and the bottom line.
4. Implement a software solution for incident reporting and tracking patient complaints/compliments
Implementing incident reporting software and tracking patient feedback ensures prompt notification of patient safety events and allows healthcare teams to quickly respond to patient concerns. It also allows organizations to track incident reporting trends over time across departments, as well as identify areas of future improvement.
5. Prioritize strong communication with the patient and family members
Strong communication is important in any industry, but it’s particularly important in healthcare, where the patient’s health and safety are at stake. When providers take the time to truly understand a patient’s concerns and explain treatment plans clearly, it facilitates understanding and invites the patient to be an active participant in his or her own care.
As co-managers and co-creators of their care, patients’ involvement in discussions regarding their health is vital.
According to the National Health Service, communication is in the top 5 most important aspects of care for patients. Realizing the importance of strong communication and integrating it into all aspects of care results in improved patient satisfaction and experience.
Family involvement also has the potential to drastically improve patient care. Family members can help participate in care coordination and assess care practices for consistency, accuracy, and safety. For example, one study found that family members gave new information 46% of the time when present during rounds, helping to increase the quality of care provided to the patient.
For these reasons, educating and engaging the patient’s family is equally as important as engaging patients in their care. When providers make an effort to keep family members informed and involved throughout the patient’s stay, it can improve the patient experience and higher quality outcomes.
Focusing on the Patient Experience Leads to Better Care
By following these steps, healthcare organizations can greatly improve the patient experience, leading to higher quality outcomes and healthier patients. Using a technology that tracks patient feedback, employee engagement and satisfaction, and incident and event reporting for patient safety can help healthcare organizations of all types create the most positive experience possible for their patients.