Patient Satisfaction: Why it Matters to Your Patients

Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC / December 2017

Patient Satisfaction: Why it Matters to Your Patients

I wrote recently on the impact of patient satisfaction on hospitals. But there is another consideration: why patient satisfaction matters to the very people you care for.

Patients arrive at your healthcare facility doors with expectations for their care, and expectations of the healthcare providers within. They are well-researched and have goals in mind.

They are discriminating consumers who are aware they have options for where they receive their care.

In short: They are armed with the knowledge that they can take their care elsewhere if they are not happy.

 

Today’s informed patient

Today’s patient is well-informed and more educated and up to date on research than ever before when they arrive at your facility.

At a minimum, they have talked to their family and friends, or perhaps reached out to their community medical clinician and tapped into their expertise. They’ve probably had multiple discussions about their symptoms, condition, and potential or known diagnosis.

In addition, today’s generation has digital communication at its fingertips – it is more technologically savvy, and is recognized as the “now” generation… the Millennial generation.  They are more likely to stay connected on social media and seek out peer reviews to avoid the mediocre, or status quo. Especially in healthcare.

And, let’s not forget “Dr. Google” is readily available, providing an abundance of information. This is not a bad thing; intelligent, accurate information can be useful. And we have all gone to the internet for information at some point or another. Today’s informed patient can tap into healthcare scores, reviews, complaints, and referrals from peers… And they can share them as well.

 

Patient satisfaction

Bottom line: patients expect to receive high quality care more than ever before. They expect hospitals to have a vested interest in patients, and to work tirelessly at keeping patient interests at heart.

In order to provide the highest quality care, hospitals need to find out more about their patients and to understand the entire patient experience.

Patients are often asked to provide opinion feedback about their hospital experience. Acute care facilities, providers, and organizations are asking about and want to get feedback on perception of care.

 

Patient satisfaction surveys

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is the standardized patient satisfaction survey instrument that hospitals are using to measure patients’ perspective of hospital care.

The HCAHPS survey is multidimensional, and is meant to look at the whole hospital experience. It contains 18 patient perspectives on care around eight key topics:

  • Communication with doctors
  • Communication with nurses
  • Responsiveness of hospital staff
  • Cleanliness of the hospital environment
  • Quietness of the hospital environment
  • Pain management
  • Communication about medicines
  • Discharge information
  • Overall rating of hospital, would recommend the hospital

HCAHPS patient satisfaction surveys are sent to adult patients after discharge. Their principal diagnosis at discharge is used to designate one of three service line surveys: medical, surgical, or maternity.1

Additional, tailored questions are incorporated into the survey for these three patient groups.

As an example, the maternity service line survey has a question asking about nurse support received for breastfeeding. This one question is designed to understand a patient’s experience with receiving lactation support, and to discover if the patient’s goals were met.

 

Opportunity for improvement

Prakash (2010) writes about the importance of obtaining feedback from your patients, and recommends correcting any shortcomings.2

This is doubly important when it comes to the power of social communications. Remember today’s digital native, the well-connected “now” generation. Patients discuss their experience with family and friends in person AND online.

Well-researched information reveals that when a customer is unhappy, they are more likely to share their story or experience many more times with others. And with the advent of social media, your patients can quickly share patient dissatisfaction with many, many others… all with a few clicks on a keyboard (or smart phone!).

This can have significant hospital impact on returning patients, loyalty, and referrals.

 

Access to healthcare scores

Patients want to learn as much as possible about your hospital, and the care provided, in order to choose where they want to receive care. One source of information is to compare hospital performance as it relates to satisfaction.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes HCAHPS scores and is updated quarterly. Your future and current patients can go to Hospital Compare website to view this information. The data is presented in a format for consumers to make valid hospital comparisons to support consumer choice.3  

 

Being proactive around patient satisfaction

Patients today are more informed than ever before, thanks to the increase in resources and ready access the Internet provides.

They are more educated, resourceful, and as a result, have higher expectations for care. Your hospital can manage these patient expectations by proactively anticipating their needs.

And finally, simply listening to your customers will offer valuable insight for improvement. Combined with quick resolution to challenges, it can make a difference and will get your facility where it wants to be:  servicing satisfied patients who will become lifelong customers, who will refer others, and who will share positive reviews of their experience.

 

References:

  1. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. HCAHPS: Patients’ Perspectives of Care Survey. www.cms.gov
  1. Prakash, B. Patient Satisfaction. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 3(3):151-155. Hospital Compare website. www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov

About the Author

Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC, began her practice more than 24 years ago as a neonatal nurse working in NICU. She has experience in various nursing leadership roles including neonatal transport nurse, outpatient nurse manager, and administrative nurse manager overseeing operations of large intensive care units. She has special interest in quality improvement and improving clinical outcomes for neonates. Patrice currently works full-time as a Clinical NICU Specialist for Medela LLC.

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