5 patient-care observation tools for hospital execs

Guest post by Andrea J. Simon, Ph.D., former marketing, branding and culture change senior vice president at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. She also is president and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants.

In my last Hospital Impact blog post, I wrote about recent research that my firm conducted for a healthcare client, contacting various hospitals in the Northeast to better understand how they treated patients searching for cancer care options.

This mystery shopping experience, particularly from our anthropological perspective, raised questions about what healthcare leaders are missing if they really want to deliver the exceptional patient- and family-centered care they so often promise and promote. Disappointingly, they seem unwilling to see, feel and think about their business with fresh eyes.

To address this gap and offer some easy-to-use tools for healthcare leaders, I interviewed a number of colleagues who specialize in medical mystery shopping. Kris Baird, a registered nurse with more than 30 years in healthcare and one of the leading experts in applying mystery shopping methods to healthcare environments, was very helpful and shared her wisdom with me. Kris and her team work with medical organizations to transform patient and family experiences across all types of institutions and in a multi-disciplinary way.

Some of the challenges Kris found are rather confounding, yet we also saw similar attitudes. They typically fall into three categories:

  • All about clinical care: Healthcare facilities that think clinical care should take place regardless of how a physician, nurse or technician interacts with a patient or family member. "As long as I do it right, I shouldn't have to worry how it is done."
  • Resistance to evaluation: Some workers and systems don't like being observed doing their job. A common retort: "I have to worry that every word I say is being observed by a mystery shopper?" Shouldn't you deliver excellent patient experiences every time, regardless of who's observing you?
  • We already do things right: "We tell our staff to treat patients well so of course they do. What more is there to know?" If only their HCAHPS scores were higher, maybe they would actually deliver what they promise, instead of what they imagine. This fear of seeing what really is rather than what you wish it to to be is rather disturbing yet all-too-often a major inhibitor.

>> Read the full commentary at Hospital Impact