Academic journal article Journal of Healthcare Management

A Strategic Framework for Improving the Patient Experience in Hospitals

Academic journal article Journal of Healthcare Management

A Strategic Framework for Improving the Patient Experience in Hospitals

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Hospitals face a continuing challenge to reduce the gap between consumers' expectations and the actual services provided. Since the 1990s, hospitals have recognized that customer service and provider-patient interactions are important in creating successful outcomes, and they have emphasized the measurement and reporting of patient satisfaction measures (Fottler, Ford, & Heaton, 2002). As a consequence of intensifying market pressures, pay-for-performance tied to HcAHps (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare providers and systems) survey scores, and greater consumer expectations, hospitals are focusing on maximizing the patientexperience.

To establish and maintain a competitive advantage, hospitals must acknowledge and prioritize patient experience as a key to organizational success and sustainability. Although healthcare leaders recognize the value and growing implications of the patient experience, hospitals struggle with consistency in addressing the patient experience. Misunderstanding of consumer expectations and inconsistent organizational practices leave room for improvement. By identifying the dimensions of patient experience valued by the customer, hospitals can tailor services according to customer expectations.

Improving the patient experience should be fundamental to the mission and goals of any healthcare organization, because it will result in high return on investment, quality improvements, and increased customer loyalty (Betts, Balan-Cohen, Shukla, & Kumar, 2016; Charmel & Frampton, 2008). Although HCAHPS scores are important to meeting short-term goals, a hospital that strives for long-term success and market leadership must implement patient experience initiatives that go beyond HCAHPS. Hospitals have a duty to seek more than financial gains; they must operate a people-centered organization that promotes "purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference" in the lives of patients (Studer, 2003, p. 4).

Hospitals will fulfill their duty to patients if they establish a culture that supports the patient experience, facilitates patient-provider communication, improves information transparency, increases patient engagement, makes the organization accessible to consumers, creates an empathetic environment, and prioritizes quality clinical outcomes. The purpose of this essay is to provide a strategic framework for hospital administrators to maximize the patient experience by focusing on satisfying patients' wants and needs.

BACKGROUND

In the 1990s, hospitals began using patient satisfaction surveys to identify their strengths and weaknesses (Fottler et al., 2002). Hospitals have learned that patient expectations have an important influence on patient satisfaction. In 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandated that U.S. hospitals gather data on patient satisfaction by distributing the HCAHPS survey. This standardized survey has provided hospitals with a baseline comparative model by which to measure patient-assessed hospital performance. Because reimbursement rates are now tied to HCAHPS scores through the value-based purchasing initiative, hospitals are now motivated by more than competitive market pressures (Ferrari, 2012). The HCAHPS requirement reflects a systematic focus on quality outcomes that highlights the patient experience as a key quality measure for healthcare organizations.

The HCAHPS generates publicly available data that allow fair comparisons between hospitals, incentivize hospitals to improve quality, and hold hospitals accountable for services paid for by public funds (Long, 2012). HCAHPS survey items fall into eight experience-of-care categories: communication with physicians, communication with nurses, pain management, cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment, responsiveness of hospital staff, communication about medications, discharge information, and overall rating ofthe hospital (CMS, 2016). …

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