Patient satisfaction projects unify systems post-merger

It's not enough for a healthcare merger to go through on paper; to truly succeed with regard to patient satisfaction, the merger must create a new, company-wide culture, writes Charles Lauer for Becker's Hospital Review.

Following a merger, it's all too common for staff to think of themselves and the other participants' employees as "us" and "them," writes Lauer, the former publisher of Modern Healthcare magazine. The way to counter this, he says, is to create a sense of "systemness" across the organization.

One way to accomplish this is by assigning a shared project with a clear objective. These can vary in scale and ambition, he writes, ranging anywhere from hitting the 99th percentile on patient satisfaction scores to leading on a key measure in local or regional markets.

The first step, according to Lauer, is organizing an all-hands meeting to lay out the details of the program.  "You have to persuade the staff that a really first-rate customer service program requires total commitment to succeed. You have to follow through by seeking updates at every executive meeting and going out to meet with staff at every opportunity."

Over the course of the project, hospital leaders must train staff in not only broader customer service principles, but the finer points as well, such as lessons on empathy. During such a project, patients should be kept in the loop as well, Lauer writes, giving them a spot on customer service committees that also include doctors, nurses and other department representatives.

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