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Patient Experience Case Study - North Memorial Medical Center
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Improving the Patient Experience by Focusing on Physician Communication

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What was the challenge, opportunity or issue faced?

Across the country, physician communication with patients is a universal opportunity. North Memorial Medical Center successfully focused on their HCAHPS Physician Communication scores and implemented some proven tactics yielding measurable results.

North Memorial Medical Center engaged DTA Associates to provide an initial assessment and roadmap for Patient Experience in the fall of 2012. As part of that work, DTA noted the need to focus on Physician Communication and recommended a spectrum of strategies for the organization to adopt.

What did you do to address it?

One of the key strategies was offering doctors the opportunity to participate in Physician Coaching. North Memorial leaders presented the coaching opportunity to the entire group and allowed interested physicians to sign-up. A total of 25 providers were shadowed by a coach between February and October of 2013 with more than 150 patient-provider interactions observed.

After each observation, the coach and provider debriefed on the personal strengths and opportunities observed, and each provider was sent an evaluation form as well as their own written report. This written report was kept confidential between the coach and the physician and provided a valuable summary take-away for the participant.

Physician comments on their coaching:

  • "I thought it was helpful to have someone observe and make suggestions on my communication style.”
  • "[The Coach] provided very specific and useful feedback.”

North Memorial also employed several strategies to improve their physician communication including:

  • 2-to-Dos (short newsletters written by physicians for physicians regarding key communication tips and techniques)
  • Discussing physician group level data at Med Exec meetings
  • Writing thank-you notes to physicians who were positively named in patient surveys
  • Starting meetings with patient comments
  • Offering "Leadership Engagement Experience: A Day of Education for Physician Leaders” centered on patient experience, physician communication and quality
  • Placing a care board in the physician’s lounge with tips and examples of what to write

What were the outcomes?

In a composite where the nation moves at a snail’s pace (.12% top box per 9 month reporting period), North Memorial realized an increase of 1.07% top box in their HCAHPS Physician Communication scores in 2013. They have sustained this performance into 2014 seeing an additional 2.17 % top box increase. This equates to 59 Percentile improvement.

According to Janiece Gray, Founding Partner of DTA and leader of the Patient Experience practice: "The hallmark of our success is enabling our clients to continue to realize improvements and see results long after our engagement. North Memorial is such a great example of this in action.” In an era of diminishing resources, healthcare systems are achieving success by utilizing some powerful approaches and best practices to improve physician communication across the continuum.

About North Memorial Medical Center

North Memorial Medical Center is a 353-bed community hospital located in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. It is one of four Level I trauma centers in Minnesota. It has been serving the Twin Cities area and beyond for nearly 60 years. North Memorial Medical Center is named America’s 50 Best Hospitals™ in 2015 by Healthgrades. It is the fourth consecutive year of North Memorial being the only hospital in Minnesota to be awarded this distinction by Healthgrades.

About DTA Associates

DTA is a patient-centered and quality improvement consultancy serving hospitals, clinics and healthcare systems. They have core competencies in process and technology improvement aimed at enhancing the patient experience and empowering physicians and other clinical staff to resolve quality shortfalls. Leveraging technology and analytics that engage physicians and drive process improvements, they help clients make progress on specific goals, ultimately leaving them with the skills and tools to achieve goals independently and with confidence.

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