6 ways to improve hospitalist-patient communication

Frustrated by its low communications scores for its hospitalists in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health­care Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, eight years ago Chicago's Rush University Medical Center set out to improve hospitalist-patient communication as part of a patient-centered care initiative.

Its efforts have paid off, according to a NEJM Catalyst blog post that explains how the medical center has now achieved a domain score for doctor communication above the 50th national percentile. And the rate of improvement in communication for Rush hospitalists has improved faster than for non-hospitalists, according to the post. 

The post offers the following suggestions for hospitals that want to open channels of communication between hospitalists and patients--efforts that may lead to higher patient satisfaction scores, reduced readmissions and greater compliance with after-care instructions:

  • Provide hospitalists with your current patient survey results. Make sure the reports are timely and transparent.
  • Make communication a priority and include it as a group performance measure. Provide hospitalists with ongoing education and feedback. 
  • Encourage hospitalists to use facecards, whiteboards and rounding protocols to enhance communication.
  • Use the HCAHPS database to create a more vigorous measurement tool for hospitalist programs.
  • Create and standardize a protocol for physician-nurse bedside rounding. 
  • Use Lean strategies to identify drivers for variations in scores over time.

Ideally, said the Rush University team, "this ongoing effort is one of continuous improvement, until the performance gap between hospitalists and non-hospitalist colleagues closes completely."

To learn more:
- read the post