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Patient Experience Case Study - Christiana Care Health System
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Integrating Healthcare and Hospitality to Create a Patient Experience Academy

What was the challenge, opportunity or issue faced?

Christiana Care Health System is committed to providing respectful, expert health care that our neighbors value. Among the key ways we measure the effectiveness of care and its value to those we serve is by measuring the patient experience and patient satisfaction through surveys and a variety of other channels. This includes evaluating direct and indirect services, including quality of accommodations, communication and auxiliary services.

These services are not entirely medical; they have much in common with hospitality service management. Our goal is to make hospitals truly hospitable and prepare current and future healthcare providers, doctors, nurses, healthcare scientists, students and allied healthcare professionals to deeply connect to the emotional side of patient care and experience. These emotional experiences, which rely heavily on effective communication with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, are critical to patient engagement, patient confidence and healing.

Through our partnership with a university, we brought together expertise in health care and expertise in the hospitality industry to create a unique training program that will give our staff the skills and tools they crave to achieve excellence in delivering an exemplary patient experience.

What did you do to address it?

The Patient Experience Academy is a first-of-its-kind joint venture between Christiana Care Health System and the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management Department. This program helps us to deliver on The Christiana Care Way: We serve our neighbors as respectful, expert, caring partners in their health. We do this by creating innovative, effective, affordable systems of care that our neighbors value.

This 10-week course, part of the patient experience curriculum of the Christiana Care Value Institute Academy, takes proven customer service and engagement strategies from the hospitality industry and adapts them to a healthcare setting, aligned with the principles of The Christiana Care Way.

The Patient Experience Academy was launched April 29 with a cadre of 40 Christiana Care employees, primarily of front-of-house staff — patient guides, valets, guest services and environmental services staff. They learned skills and techniques that are helping them to create an outstanding first impression for patients and visitors at Christiana Care. The program incorporates:

  • Managing expectations and change.
  • Service generosity.
  • Working with confidence.
  • Stress management.
  • Service recovery.
  • Empathy, encompassing cultural competency training and critical issues in dealing with diverse patients.

The program incorporated many key components of adult learning, including application of learning goals to real situations, sharing achievement stories using crowdsourcing technologies and daily pre-shift meetings to maintain effective communication and inspire a culture of engagement.

The first class of the Patient Experience Academy was a resounding success. In the coming fiscal year, this program is expanding rapidly to train a diverse mix of health care professionals at Christiana Care to be leaders in delivering an outstanding health care experience to everyone we serve.

What were the outcomes?

Knowledge Outcomes: There has been a 50 percent increase across-the-board in program pre-and-post evaluations, including a 40 percent increase in understanding how to apply the new learnings back on the job. Participants' pre-test results averaged a grade of 5.37 (out of possible 10), testing knowledge and competencies targeted as part of the Patient Experience Academy. A post-test was conducted to measure knowledge acquisition in the same competencies. The average grade reached 9.32 (out of possible 10), demonstrating an impressive knowledge acquisition improvement.

Business Results Outcomes: The FY14 HCAHPS Index for the system ended at the target of 73 percent. The leadership at Wilmington Hospital improved the HCAHPS index by 3 percent over last year, exceeding maximum target. Overall, 12 patient care units improved their overall HCAHPS index over the prior year’s results. Overall rating of the hospital improved to 72 percent. We also saw improvement in the Hospital Environment domain, which improved our COTH ranking by 10 percentile points.

About the University of Delaware’s Hotel, Restaurant and Intuitional Management and Hospitality Associates for Research & Training (HART)

Consistently ranked as a top ten hospitality program, the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM) in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware prepares students for a career in the hospitality and service industries. The Bachelor of Science degrees and Masters in Hospitality Business Management consists of a curriculum founded in academic disciplines including business and specialized courses in theoretical and experience driven managerial components for the hospitality and service industries. Students gain a foundation in the traditional academic areas to complement state-of-the-art business and hospitality courses.

Tapping into the University of Delaware’s high profile and one of the world’s very best research institutions, HART within the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management engages in health and hospitality research, training and innovation to address modern business challenges. For more information, visit

About Christiana Care Health System

Christiana Care Health System is one of the country’s largest health care systems, ranking as the 22nd leading hospital in the nation and 12th on the East Coast in terms of admissions. The health system includes The Christiana Care Medical Group, a network of primary care physicians, medical and surgical specialists as well as home health care, preventive medicine, rehabilitation services and patient/family advisers for core health care services. A not-for-profit teaching hospital affiliated with Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care is recognized as a regional center for excellence in cardiology, cancer and women's health services. Christiana Care has an extensive range of outpatient services, and through Christiana Care Quality Partners, Christiana Care works closely with its medical staff to achieve better health, better access to care and lower cost. Christiana Care is home to Delaware's only Level I trauma center, the highest capability center and the only one of its kind between Philadelphia and Baltimore. Christiana Care also features a Level III neonatal intensive care unit, the only delivering hospital in Delaware that offers the highest level of non-surgical care to the most critically ill newborns. Christiana Care includes two hospitals with 1,100 patient beds. For more information about Christiana Care, visit

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