How do you best measure happiness? Perhaps with much more than a smile. Advancing the art of patient experience is a delicate task within the healthcare space that is often difficult to fully understand. Just because a patient fails to complain, for instance, does not necessarily mean all is well.
Study questions, research methods, and overlooked reporting minutiae are supposedly failing to meet the healthcare system’s demands. Collecting both meaningful and actionable data in real time is often a challenge.
Successfully evaluating patient satisfaction, patient experience, and patient happiness levels perhaps merely requires the right methodology. Here are 5 top strategies to do so.
Focus on data aftermath
An abundance of patient engagement data is reportedly present within the healthcare industry. But knowing what to do next once a high volume of patient or provider responses come rolling in is not always easy.
“We have more data than the average healthcare organization can manage right now. We’re going to have to be very proactive this year to make sure our organizations are equipped with data governance policies that will serve all aspect of care they are providing to their patient,” said Randy Hountz of the Purdue Regional Extension Center.
As care provided within a home setting is increasing, more focus may be needed on consumer engagement initiatives, asserted Hountz. Consumer engagement “becomes more important as patients are seeding information into these systems.”
Or, consider a non-holistic approach to data collection. A focus on one particular patient moment amidst a hefty plethora of captured qualitative data is imperative, said RJ Salus, El Camino Hospital’s Director of Patient Experience, to RevCycleIntelligence.com.
“We don't look at it holistically. We just look at that point in time because that's where it's captured,” he stated. “It helps the patient understand what their service recovery needs may be. You can quantify to some degree whether or not they're happy with you. If they start talking to their neighbors in a bad way, you start losing market share.”
Promote the power of consumer choice, but with accuracy
Greater transparency efforts and initiatives mean healthcare consumers have more choice. But are they always able to make the right choice?
A newfangled five-star hospital patient experience rating system from The Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) aims to help healthcare consumers decide which healthcare provider serves them best. Benefits and detriments of this ratings system have been touted among leading healthcare experts.
In an internet-savvy world where many determine where their child attends college based on a national ranking or where to eat dinner based on favorable online reviews, an online ratings system arguably has widespread clout. Are some hospitals "creating" ratings by promoting an artificially padded patient experience?
As the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE) asserted, hospitals may become so obsessed with earning a 5-star rating from CMS, they may start spending more money on frivolous things like thicker doors and fancier bed sheets and less money on perhaps more weighty facets like breakthrough clinical advancements.
CRE noted among many other points that some information tied to the CMS’s star ratings methodology appears to come from third parties. CRE urged CMS to publish information about which specific data was OIRA-approved, including accompanying OMB control numbers and reference numbers. Such will only benefit healthcare consumers, CRE maintained.
Know if sharing is caring, so is accountability
Sharing a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) data may promote smoother communication efforts. Passing medical charts along from person to person cannot become a nostalgic game of “telephone” where the necessary information is continuously diluted with each completed transaction.
Promoting accountability via more intelligent EHR adaptation may be a solution to making sure patient records are accurate. Without this focus, patient experience may simply disintegrate.
“As someone who has been acting as a patient advocate for my mother-in-law for over a year, I’ve seen and appreciated all of the data in the EHR,” said EHRIntelligence.com writer, Robert Green.
“Unfortunately, her patient experience has been defined by vascular cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. With every encounter, physicians and nurses have been open with that data in the EHR and even helpful if offering their guidance regarding the meaning and implications of that data. The problem is that with this diagnosis the health outcome has resembled a free-fall.”
Don’t put your phone away just yet
Although not exactly an innovative concept, the fact of the matter is people – and not just those allegedly tech obsessed, dangerously entitled Millennials, that is – tend to enjoy being glued to their phones.
This may be very good news. Mobile technology is apparently driving patient engagement onwards and upwards.
Nearly three-quarters of 500 healthcare professionals and 1,000 mobile health app users surveyed by Research Now said health applications will encourage patients to be greater advocates for their healthcare.
Eighty-six percent stated mobile devices will enhance patient knowledge about a medical condition. Half of those surveyed confirmed mobile devices will advance patient treatment.
"Smartphones and wearables are driving a major behavioral shift in consumer health and wellness," said Gil Bashe, Executive Vice President at Makovsky Health regarding these findings.
"Beyond a desire to speed access to information, consumers are using technology to engage proactively in managing their health.”
Ignore the ‘experience’ in ‘patient experience’
Is the term “patient experience” itself merely old news that gives people the wrong idea about where to focus their energies?
"Patients shouldn’t have an experience,” said Ried B. Blackwelder, President-Elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to American Medical News.
“[Patients] have problems that need to be solved. This is not like Disney World. This is about safety and outcomes. The phrase is too slick and avoids what it’s all about, which is we take care of [patients] and minimize the risks,” stated Blackwelder.
Perhaps a simple and effective strategy involves telling a patient’s story as opposed to focusing on filling out a dry, symptom checklist. A spotlight on security in regard to texting, patient portals, email systems, or a mobile infrastructure may erase the “experience” from patient experience.