How Nonclinical Activities Impact Patient Experience

Why You Shouldn’t Call Your Patient “Honey”

Due to changes in Medicare’s policies, patient experience is playing a larger role in hospital ratings and reimbursement, and hospital executives are taking note. While many hospitals understand the major factors that contribute to improving patient satisfaction, providers are finding that seemingly insignificant nonclinical activities can play a large role in the patient’s overall experience.

In one example from the Cleveland Clinic, a patient was reluctant to point out that he was irked as a nurse called him “honey” when she came in to help change his gown. While this seems like an insignificant exchange, the patient was offended, and it tainted his experience regardless of the level of clinical care he received.

Clinical Excellence Isn’t Enough

Hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic and Mount Sinai Health System in New York City are implementing new training programs to help educate care providers on ways to improve patient experience. The training includes how to engage patients in open dialogue about their experiences. While these programs take away from clinical time, the potential improvement in patient satisfaction makes them well worth the investment.

These facilities understand that patients seek them out for excellent clinical care, so “the only way they can really judge us is on the rest of it,” according to Sandra Myerson, senior VP and chief patient experience officer at Mount Sinai.

Shadowing Programs

Shadowing programs enable caregivers to follow the journey the patient goes through in the health system, placing them almost literally in the patient’s shoes, to really understand the patient perspective. Other efforts focus on ensuring that patients have a point of contact if they wish to make a complaint or comment. For example, Mount Sinai makes sure nurse managers round with patients daily and they hand out cards with their photo and contact information.

Communications Training

The largest improvements will come down to bettering communication, not just with clinical caregivers, but with all hospital staff who come into contact with the patient—even housekeeping staff. The simple concept of changing how providers ask about patient experience can make a difference. Staff should be encouraged to ask open-ended questions rather than yes-or-no prompts.

These programs represent a concerted effort on the part of hospitals to supplement what providers learn in their academic preparation. “We’re spending a lot of time and effort around coaching people to be really effective communicators because it’s not something that we learned in school,” said Myerson.

Whether it’s the rounding physician, the night nurse, or even the dining representative delivering dinner, communicating with the patient, seeing how they are doing as a person—not just as a patient—and showing compassion should all be priorities.

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