Critical Path Network

Patient ed affects patient satisfaction

Use survey results to improve services

What role does patient education play in patient satisfaction scores for health care organizations? How important is patient education to the patient's opinion of the entire health care experience?

"There is a lot more interest around the topic of the correlation of patient education to patient satisfaction," says Christy Dempsey, vice president of clinical and operational consulting at Press Ganey, a South Bend, IN-based quality improvement company. "We have found that when education begins at the first contact with a patient, the patient reports a higher level of satisfaction," she says. Conversations with patients should always include a discussion of expected time frame for discharge, she suggests. When a nurse or patient educator talks in terms of discharge, such as, "Are there any questions you have about your medication before you go home tomorrow?" the patient has time to think about questions when he or she is not on the way out the door, she explains. "This increases the patient's perception that nurses and educators are trying to make sure instructions and teaching [are] thoroughly understood," she adds.

A focus on patient education does mean that the mean score for two of the measurements in Press Ganey's national patient satisfaction survey have increased over the last seven quarters. The level of satisfaction with instructions given for care at home have increased from a mean score of 86.0 in January 2009 to 86.8 in July 2010; and the level of satisfaction with explanations of tests and treatments have risen from a mean score of 85.0 in January 2009 to 85.8 in July 2010.

Hospitals will continue to place an emphasis on improved patient education as reimbursement is tied to outcomes, including patient satisfaction reports on HCAPS [Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems], says Dempsey.

Patient satisfaction surveys can also provide important feedback on how to improve your service to patients, says Kimberly A. Hume, MSN, RN, FAHCEP, manager of the Family Resource Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital in St. Louis. "I think that most resource centers conduct some sort of satisfaction survey," she says. "We include a survey form in every packet of information we provide to patients," she explains. Although it is nice to be able to report levels of patient satisfaction to show that you and your staff are doing a good job, don't let your review of satisfaction surveys stop at numerical ratings for your service, she suggests.

"We want to do more than satisfy the patient's or family's immediate need; we want to establish a relationship so that they come back to us in the future or recommend us to others who need information," says Hume. Questions on her survey form ask if the resource center was easy to use, if the information provided was easy to read and understand, and if the family member or patient would recommend the center to other people, she says. "We also ask how the information was received, because we want to know if our customers want to receive written information, e-mailed information, or print information mailed to their homes," she says.

As a result of the survey information, Hume's resource center now tailors delivery options to the recipient's preferences, she says. "We've gone from mailing all information to the homes, to a combination of e-mail, fax, and mail," she explains. "If a patient is still in the hospital, we give families an option of visiting the resource center to pick up information or asking us to deliver it to the patient's room," she says. The most important thing Hume's staff learned from satisfaction surveys is that patients and their families want to be asked how they prefer information to be delivered to them. She adds, "Just asking them how we can make the process easier increases their satisfaction with our service."

[For more information, contact:

Christy Dempsey, Vice President of Clinical and Operational Consulting, Press Ganey, 404 Columbia Place, South Bend, Indiana 46601. Phone: (417) 877-7666. Fax: (574) 232-3485. E-mail: cdempsey@pressganey.com.

Kimberly A. Hume, MSN, RN, FAHCEP, Manager, Family Resource Center, St. Louis Children's Hospital, St. Louis, MO. Phone: (314) 454-2767. E-mail: kac1293@bjc.org.]