Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Patient Experience: Why It Is Important to Providers

Academic journal article Frontiers of Health Services Management

Patient Experience: Why It Is Important to Providers

Article excerpt

Patient experience is the new driver of success for healthcare organizations today. In their feature articles in this issue of Frontiers of Health Services Management, Wolf of The Beryl Institute and Guler of Adventist Health System describe the critical elements required to deliver a positive patient experience in an evolving healthcare climate. Many of the examples and tactics that Wolf and Guler share resonate with the approach we have taken at White Plains Hospital to provide high-quality, patient-centered care.

Both feature articles underscore the importance of culture, accountability, and teamwork, and these critical elements also define the approach White Plains Hospital has taken to driving success in patient experience measures. our success is gauged quantitatively through Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Services (HCAHPS) surveys, which provide a standardized comparison tool for hospitals nationally. In 2008, when the HCAHPS program began, there was some disdain for the surveys, especially among clinical professionals. Many believed the survey did not focus on the important issues. For example, physicians griped, "I saved a patient's life, but all that matters is that I didn't spend enough time communicating with the family." That viewpoint has shifted over the years, partly out of necessity as HCAHPS metrics have become publicly reported. But as reimbursement has moved from a volume-based model to a value-based one that emphasizes quality and outcomes, healthcare professionals have come to recognize that communication is instrumental to patient empowerment and the success of healthcare organizations. Success with HCAHPS requires an understanding that the metrics that assess a patient's perception of care are based on specific questions validated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about what patients and families feel are the most important aspects of their healthcare experience.

Growing evidence shows that patient satisfaction is directly correlated with the quality of care. One study analyzed data from the HCAHPS survey and found that hospitals with more satisfied patients generally provided higher-quality care as measured by standard quality metrics (Jha et al. 2008). In particular, hospitals that earned high marks on patient satisfaction were more likely to have provided appropriate care for heart attack, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and prevention of surgical complications.

My training as a pediatric intensive care nurse in the 1980s showed me that healing extends well beyond achieving positive clinical outcomes-it must include the overall experience of each patient and family member. Today, as president and CEO of a 292-bed tertiary care hospital just north of New York City with roots in its community for nearly 125 years, I value with a new intensity and understanding that a positive hospital experience can address every need our patients and their family members have while under our care. Providing an exceptional healing environment is a cornerstone of our culture and our mission.

Culture Is Crucial

Both Wolf and Guler highlight the importance of culture in driving organizational success. At White Plains Hospital, we work to instill a culture in which all employees understand their unique role in creating a positive patient experience. Staff at every level, even those in nonclinical areas, are dedicated, mindful, and passionate about the impact they make on our patients' healing. Staff and leaders frequently talk about caring for patients as if they were family. We encourage them to ask themselves, "If it were my mother, sister, or child in that hospital bed, would I do anything differently?" That philosophy prompts our staff to take that extra step in every interaction with patients, every day. Our environmental services (EVS) team, for example, has made significant gains in patient satisfaction scores over the course of a recent year (discussed later in a case study). …

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