4 ways to engage patients, staff to improve satisfaction and quality

Engaging patients and staff has a multitude of benefits beyond improving patient satisfaction scores--it can also reduce costs and improve care quality. 

In a new report, the American Hospital Association Committee on Research outlines the benefits of engaging healthcare users--communities, healthcare organizations, healthcare staff and individual patients. The report offers the following advice:

1. Create patient and family advisory councils
Organizations can engage patients and families by creating advisory councils. For example, at Georgia Health Sciences Health System in Augusta, healthcare consumers are involved in all aspects of operations, according to the report. More than 200 patient and family advisors guided decisions including anesthesia staffing, medication dispensing, patient handoffs, patient and family rounds, safety and the design of new services. Patient satisfaction scores increased and medication errors dropped over the course of three years.

2. Conduct patient- and family-centered rounding
Although traditional rounding has been led by healthcare staff, patient- and family-centered rounds involves the consumer in healthcare decisions. Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., completely revised its procedure to include patients in the day's care plan. Doing so helped the nursing units receive patient satisfaction scores in the 90 percentile after implementation, up from the 50th percentile.

3. Remove restrictions on visiting policies
Although heightened flu activity has some hospitals limiting family visitation for patient safety reasons, the report suggested removing restrictions on visiting policies, when appropriate. New Jersey's Atlantic Health System, for instance, eliminated hour restrictions on visits--a policy supported by internal staff. It also has increased patient satisfaction.

4. Use social media
The AHA report also points to the role of social media as a way to improve communication and networking.

Jason A. Wolf, executive director of The Beryl Institute, however, noted in a previous Hospital Impact blog post that the real value of social media is in the power of patient voice. Although social media can act as a platform to toot the organization's horn, it's also an opportunity to get patients' thoughts as a tool for "continuous dialogue that can and should inform your experience efforts."

"Engaging patients, families and communities has the potential to be a 'game changer' in the transformation of the healthcare system in the United States," the AHA report noted.

For more information:
- see the AHA report (.pdf)

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