Interactions--between providers and patients, and between providers and other hospital employees--play a major role in how patients perceive their hospital visits. To ensure positive patient encounters, consider the following:
1. Implement staff, leadership rounding
Although not an entirely new concept, hospitals should instruct caregivers to conduct hourly rounds to address any patient needs. "Consistent rounding on patients and visitors provides staff the opportunity to build relationships with those they serve, which increases trust and positively influences the perception of care," says Laura E. Hamblin, manager of patient satisfaction at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Edgewood, Ky.
When establishing rounds, hospitals must not forget about the C-suite; executives should perform rounds on their employees and patients. "Leader rounding provides a chance for healthcare leaders to connect with associates, gain insight through the voice of the patient, and keep a pulse on the hospital environment," Hamblin notes.
"Although healthcare administrators are extremely busy, their investment of time is imperative in the improvement of the patient experience and their visibility significantly impacts associate buy-in."
2. Conduct quality meetings
To learn what is (and isn't) working to improve patient experience at the hospital, quality stakeholders should get together to share insights.
Board of director members and hospital staff make up Windsor Regional Hospital's Quality of Care Committee. At their monthly meetings, physicians and front-line staff present a patient story.
"The patient story highlights an experience of a patient that did not go well. This could have resulted due to an error, communication breakdown, or gap in the system," says David Musyj, president and CEO of the Ontario, Canada-based hospital.
The meetings show that the board of directors support quality and safety and also facilitate an open discussion about what went wrong, what changes have been made to resolve the issue, and what kind of support that staff members need to make permanent changes, according to Musyj.
But don't limit such quality meetings to only once a month. Windsor Regional recommends holding 15-minute "Monday morning huddles" that allow staff to examine patient safety and quality of care data using real-time information from the previous week.
"The weekly huddles provide an opportunity to see how the whole hospital is doing with patient safety and quality, for everyone to think about how they could personally contribute to making progress with an indicator, for leaders to have more influence and to empower staff, and to present and respond weekly to identified actions for improvement," Musyj says.
3. Adopt a communication framework
Having structured communication is essential to improving patients' views of the hospital experience. Some hospitals adopt Studer's AIDET guidelines for communicating with patients and their families, as well as each other:
- Thank You
Others implement Cleveland Clinic's S.T.A.R.T. rules for all patient, family, and caregiver interactions, which the Clinic emphasizes to conduct with heart:
- Smile and greet warmly
- Tell your name, role, and what to expect
- Active listening and assist
- Rapport/relationship building
- Thank the person
"With communication frameworks, staff personally engage with everyone they encounter, introduce themselves, focus on information important to patients and visitors, provides an opportunity for questions, and show gratitude," Hamblin notes.
"In addition to keeping our guests well informed, it helps to reduce anxiety, provides a consistent display of courtesy and respect, and builds loyalty," she adds.