Dignity Health aims to improve patient experience throughout care ‘journey’

Pregnant woman getting checkup
Sanjay Shah, director of strategic innovation at Dignity Health, says that providers who want to improve the patient experience must examine the full “journey” of care. Photo credit: Getty/byryo

Providers who want to improve the patient experience must examine the full “journey” of care. 

Sanjay Shah, director of strategic innovation at Dignity Health, told FierceHealthcare in an interview that when the California-based system examined ways that it could improve the patient experience, it wanted to look at a variety of moments along that journey. So it partnered with a startup focused on maternity care to kick-start that process.

Sanjay_Shah_Dignity_Health
Sanjay Shah

Maternity was a good place to start, Shah said, and the system wants to expand what it’s learned so far to other areas, including oncology and orthopedics.

“The vision if this is done well, and so far things are going well, is ‘How do we take that experience and extrapolate to other patient experiences?’” Shah said. “[Maternity] was one we thought if we did right first we could replicate for others.”

Related: The clinical ROI of patient experience efforts

Data collected so far from both organizations show positive results. Dignity Health's partner, Docent Health, examined Yelp responses for maternity patients at four Dignity facilities in Arizona, and found that more than 60% of maternity patients who posted reviews had a favorable view of the experience.

Many of the comments in the mined data were related to staff and how the patients were treated, with commentary about the hospital staff mentioned in 43% of the studied reviews. The study also identified a surprising area these patients were less interested in: Just 2% of reviews mentioned billing, an interesting discovery as the costs for maternity care can fluctuate widely.

Related: An impossible task: Finding out the true cost of maternity services

The data analysis also illustrates the value of providers embracing online reviews and other non-traditional avenues to gauge patient experiences, Shah said. Providers sometimes forget that every element in the care journey, from parking to registration to actual care, all play a role in patient satisfaction.

“Those are mediums that people are engaging with and that’s now starting to, rightfully so, come into healthcare,” he said. “I think the results that you see there are opening our eyes collectively on the types of things that impact the patient journey.”

Related: Docs, hospitals should embrace Yelp reviews

In addition to mining online reviews, Docent has also conducted “welcome calls” about 15 weeks out from delivery that provide an idea of what patients expect from care.The organization identified top requests from expectant mothers, information that organizations can use to benefit other types of patients:

  1. Offer a tour: Some pregnant patients would like the opportunity to visit the labor floor and the maternity ward before they give birth.
  2. Provide clear instructions prior to registration: It can be confusing for some patients to understand the requirements for registration and how they can learn more about the care a facility provides.
  3. Ask about prior experiences: Pregnant patients who have had children before want to share their experiences, and that information can be valuable for clinicians to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.
  4. Make referrals easy: Expectant mothers will need to set up pediatric care quickly. Offer resources that can speed up that process.