Patient Satisfaction: Let’s Talk About It

Learn how communication and patient satisfaction are linked.

Patient experience is critically important in reimbursement and reputation and is also directly linked to care delivery and patient outcomes. Communication and coordination are key pain points identified by patients worldwide when asked about their experience through national surveys.  It is no surprise that most organizations try to put systems and processes in place to improve in these areas; however, time, lack of care team buy-in, organizational silos, and lack of training often get in the way of systemic progress and maintaining gains. 

Improved communication with patients allows for pain points to be addressed real-time through tools such as hourly rounding, AIDET, and SBAR. Ideally, information and goals from the care team and from the patient is iteratively improved upon and fed-back through these same communication channels. Patients feel heard and are likely to have improved outcomes when observable change is initiated real-time by their feedback, resulting in better patient reported satisfaction. 

Traditional communication tools scratch the surface of how to engage patients over a very discrete experience or period of time. If systemically used by all care providers who touch the patient, these tools can create a more meaningful connection and shared goals between patient and care-giver. However, these methods often fall short for both the provider and the patient in three primary ways:

  • Lack of training and autonomy: Providers are not trained on tips and tricks to engage the patient and extract mutually useful information from the conversation. As a result providers can often “get stuck” in rooms with patients who are asking them to solve problems which they have no control over. As a result, the patient feels that they are not being listened to and the provider has no mechanism to escalate key feedback.
  • Inauthenticity: Often care team members rush and sound scripted when they deliver information and ask questions in rigid frameworks using only yes or no questions. Patients may come away feeling like the person rounding on them was purely “checking the box”, which can leave a lasting undesired impression instead of the opposite.
  • Lack of systemic foresight and communication: anticipating commonly reported pain points and shared goals creates lasting patient experience improvements. Predicting what patients are going to tell you and already having the solution in place indicates that the care team is receptive and cares about what the patient wants.

Most often, what patients request are items that can be on hand or solved in a low-resource way.  One common ask of patients is access to outlets or longer phone cords to be able to talk with family.  While adding outlets in old facilities may not be possible, having a number of long phone charging cords certainly is. The value is easy to see given the anxiety that not having access to one’s phone, and therefore family or support people, can cause (especially during a pandemic). It also reinforces that the team is listening to what patients want and acts upon it immediately.  Simple, yet meaningful action such as this, demonstrates to both staff and patients that their requests do matter and are more likely to win high experience survey remarks.

What’s Next?

Break the script and ask patients open ended questions to engage and gather actionable information from the source on how to improve experiences. Use this method to help care teams build empathy and view the experience through the patient's eyes as it’s happening and not months later. Once analyzed, most qualitative data reveals actionable themes that leaders can address without significant resource investment (i.e., longer phone charging cords). 

Increased communication and the ability to feed back changes being made to patients not only affects patient satisfaction, but allows employee engagement and joy in work to soar. Ability to deliver improved experiences and outcomes to patients creates an environment with minimal turnover and increased employee retention. As is the case with surveys, co-designing more ideal experiences calls for the involvement of all stakeholders and actually doing something with the data that is being collected. Leaders modeling these behaviors on staff rounds, and staff rounding on patients, invites all stakeholders to have a voice in active change and improvement so long as the data comes together for analysis and action. 

Learn how to use co-design tools like this and other opportunities to build empathy and understand experiences through all stakeholders points of view in the Co-Design Champion Course.

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Posted on

April 7, 2021