There are a lot of problems with how our healthcare system functions in the United States. High costs and negative patient experiences are often the norm, and the vast majority of healthcare is reactive rather than preventative—research indicates that at least 75% of healthcare in this country is reactive. This further contributes to low patient satisfaction and poor outcomes.
Leaders in healthcare are beginning to examine how the industry can start making major changes to these challenges facing the industry. With changes to Medicare reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are now being held accountable for patient satisfaction in order to receive their reimbursement. So how are hospitals working to make the patient experience better and provide quality care? Here are three key ways.
- Deliver superior customer care
Patient satisfaction is key for any hospital, but most institutions could be doing much better. In 2016, average customer satisfaction in the industry was just 63 out of 100. Healthcare workers are busy, and may not think about how their communications with patients and families affects patient satisfaction and quality care. Delivering superior customer care means more than getting appointments through the door in a timely manner and ensuring patients have what they need. It’s also about communication and proactively taking care of patient’s needs. Conducting thorough hourly rounds, making it a policy to always answer patient and family members’ questions, and making it simple for patients to schedule appointments are all ways healthcare providers can provide exceptional customer service.
After noticing low customer satisfaction, some hospitals have begun to make small changes that end up making a big difference. During an internal audit, the Cleveland Clinic noticed that customers were most unhappy with the “dirty, noisy” environment, difficulty making appointments, and poor communications. With this information, they were able to make simple customer service upgrades that improved the overall patient experiment. Hospitals need to first realize there is a problem before making a change.
2. Have a fast and efficient internet system in place
The internet has become such a huge part of everyday life that we expect to be connected wherever we go. It’s often unavoidable to have long wait times in a clinic or hospital, which is why it is so important to make sure fast and free wifi is available to patients and their families.
An efficient internet system and modern CRMs are also important features for hospital staff. These systems can help employees work more quickly, communicate more efficiently, and access patient files more easily. Nearly all healthcare organizations have adopted electronic health records (EHR), but having the infrastructure to leverage them properly is key. Internet may seem like a small part of the healthcare equation, but rural hospitals especially have seen benefits from gaining faster internet connections.
3. Have mental health support and resources available
Mental health is often overlooked in this country, but it’s just as important as physical health. The body’s systems are all interconnected, and many patients who need mental health services do not get the care they need—even in a hospital setting.
Beyond prescribing drugs, doctors can help patients get through tough emotional situations, such as not having a support system or family to help them. This is especially true for patients who may be new to the United States and unable to speak English or are struggling to acclimate to their new surroundings. Something as simple as empathy can go a long way, but providing support from a trained social worker or counselor can help patients feel calmer and more supported during their time at the hospital. Translators for non-native speakers help to ensure that patients get the mental health support they need.
What Patients Really Want
These solutions are not always easy to implement, but they are simple: they focus on caring, comfort, and empathy to make the patient experience better. Overall, people just want to be appreciated and cared for when they’re in an emotionally-charged environment like a healthcare facility. Changing the healthcare system can help improve care, and make health more accessible. Ultimately, the patient’s experience matters when it comes to providing quality care—not just the medicine itself. How patients are nurtured and healed goes a long way toward ensuring a good outcome.