It’s on all of our minds. It keeps us up at night. HCAHPS scores are not improving (or at least not fast enough). Value Based Purchasing is becoming more and more established. The competitor across town just remodeled their patient rooms and are wooing our patients their way. Employee morale and engagement are stagnant or declining. To top it off, your board members and CEO are demanding action.
Is this a worst case scenario? Perhaps. However, improving patient experience tops the list of strategic priorities for many health care organizations around the country. Medical school, nursing school, nor business school has prepared today’s healthcare leaders to manage, much less improve, the patient experience. A common misconception is that improving patient experience is a huge and complex undertaking, but in reality, improving patient experience doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, in many ways it’s simpler than you think.
During my years working across the continuum of healthcare including hospice, long-term, acute care and now as a Patient Experience Improvement Coach, I have seen some simple and inspiring ways that healthcare organizations have improved the experience for patients and their loved ones. I share two examples of easy to implement initiatives below.
Every Patient Is My Patient
At a community hospital where I served as the Patient Experience Lead, we implemented an innovative patient experience program called "Every Patient Is My Patient” in response to declining HCAHPS scores around staff responsiveness. The program hinged on the philosophy that every employee and volunteer has an impact on the patient experience. The ask: Employees and volunteers were expected to respond to call lights immediately if they noticed one illuminated. Although it was known that on occasion there would be needs that fell outside of the expertise of the responder, we believed that the impact of responding to the call light right away would be important to patients and would communicate that the organization cared about them.
What we found was that the "Every Patient Is My Patient” program reaped immediate and sustained improvement in the patient experience and an increased level of team member accountability. In less than 6 months, this simple initiative resulted in a 5% increase in HCAHPS scores around staff responsiveness.
Through The Voice of Our Veterans
By leveraging insights gleaned from real-time patient feedback and improvement coaching support, one of our Veterans Affairs partners found that Veterans were having a difficult time finding their way to their appointment, securing post-discharge assistance and basic post-visit transportation services. Faced with these issues impacting their patients, a Roaming Ambassador program was put into place. The Ambassadors main objective: seek out Veterans who appear to need assistance and offer to assist. This was contrary to the traditional approach of having Veterans looking for assistance. The Ambassadors assist Veterans through every aspect of the discharge process and ensure that the needs of each veteran are supported. Comprised of volunteers and work study students, the Roaming Ambassadors worked weekdays with a team of about 30 on rotating shifts. To make the Ambassadors more visible to Veterans and others visiting the facility, donated funds were used to purchase Navy blue vests which on the back read "The Price of Freedom is Visible Here.”
The result of the initiative paid off with Veterans raving about the great service of the Ambassadors. This simple approach has made a big difference in the patient experience at this medical center and has helped create a more warm and inviting atmosphere at the medical center.
Creating an exceptional Patient Experience in today’s healthcare marketplace is extremely important. Everyone within the organization should be focused and committed to delivering an exceptional patient experience. Similar to a rowing team, progress becomes easier when all of the team members are working together towards the same goal. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Quick wins that sustain are possible with focus and attention.
Joel High, MDiv, MBA is a Performance Improvement Coach with TruthPoint. Joel’s passion is in helping healthcare organizations to transform their culture and create patient centered processes and practices. Joel has been engaged in patient centered care and patient experience work at both locally and nationally for more than a decade.