Communication key to patient satisfaction scores
Communication key to patient satisfaction scores
Let patients, families know staff are there for them
As part of its efforts to create an excellent patient experience, Newton-Wellesley Hospital has made constant and comprehensive communication with patients and family members a key part of the hospital's culture.
"We want to create an environment where every patient and family member feels comfortable speaking to the staff. That means it's critical for the front-line caregivers, the doctors and the nurses, to learn to communicate effectively with our patients. We developed key words that the staff can use at key times to educate the patient on what they are doing and why," says Patrick Jordan, senior vice president, administration and COO for the 250-bed hospital located in Newton, MA.
For instance, some patients have commented that they didn't understand why the nurses or case managers kept closing the curtains and doors when they came to examine, treat, or talk to them.
"Some thought it was because their condition was too gruesome for other people to see. Now we tell them upfront that we are closing the door for patient privacy," he says.
"If you leave a void in information, people have a tendency to fill the void with something worse than reality," adds Elaine Bridge, RN, MBA, BSN, senior vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer.
Before staff leave the room, they ask the patient, "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"They often get an answer. This is a great way to increase communication between the patients and the staff. If the staff find out patient needs and things that they can fix immediately, that reduces call lights," Jordan says.
Patients have said that they didn't want to hit the call button, because the nurses seemed busy so they waited until someone came to the room to ask to sit up or be taken to the toilet, says Monica Ferraro, RN, MS, manager of care coordination.
"We want the patient to know that the staff are here for them, and we work with the staff to identify phrases that get that idea across," Bridge says.
Members of the hospital leadership team spend time each month in the lobby, greeting patients, families, and visitors; answering questions; and giving people directions.
CMs developed formalized process
The case management department developed a formalized process that staff use to introduce themselves to patients and/or family members.
"We actually role-played this during a staff meeting to create some fun around the script. The goal is to reassure the patients by introducing ourselves and explaining our years of experience in coordination care, as well as how we can help them prepare for discharge," Ferraro says.
The case managers and social workers may vary what they say based on the needs and conditions of the patients, but, according to Ferraro, a typical statement may be:
"Good morning. My name is Monica. I'm your case manager today, and my role is to help you with discharge planning. I've been a case manager for 20 years, and I feel comfortable knowing that we can work together to make sure you have a safe discharge."
"We always end the conversation by thanking them," she adds.
The team uses the same type of script to reassure patients that their treatment team is experienced and will provide first-rate care.
"There's a lot of activity going on in the operating room, so when a patient is in pre-op, we use that opportunity to reassure people about their surgery. Everyone who talks to the patient mentions their own credentials and the credentials of the anesthesiologist and the surgeon. This often helps to reassure patients and reduce their anxiety," Bridge says.
The hospital has gone so far as to develop scripts for the staff to use when answering the telephone on the unit.
"In a busy day, people can move away from the basics very quickly. We want the staff to treat people the way they or their loved ones want to be treated. These are basics, but they have a big impact," Bridge says.
When they encounter someone in the hallways, all members of the staff are expected to stop and ask if they need help finding something and offer to take them there.
"A single individual in a unit can have a profound impact on the experience of patients and visitors. Offering help to someone you see in the hall is basic, but it can have an impact on the patient experience," Jordan says.
All of the top leaders in the hospital meet once a week and examine every negative patient comment from the Press-Ganey and HCAHPS surveys. The person in charge of the particular section where the complaint originated calls the patient to find out what happened, Jordan says.
"The hospital has a huge commitment to patient satisfaction. This includes more than just case managers and nurses. It involves everyone in the hospital," Bridge says.
Following the weekly meetings, the team members address the negative comments with patients. Depending on the situation, they may send a letter of apology, flowers, or a coupon for the hospital gift shop, Bridge says.
For instance, a patient complained that she was given the wrong information about the home care nurse's appointment. When she looked into the situation, Ferraro determined that the social worker was clear about the appointment; however, the home care nurse failed to show up.
"The home care agency dropped the ball. We acknowledged the problem with the patient, sent a letter of apology, and included a coupon for free parking for her return visit. This is just one example of how we made a patient feel like her complaint was taken seriously," Ferraro says.As part of its efforts to create an excellent patient experience, Newton-Wellesley Hospital has made constant and comprehensive communication with patients and family members a key part of the hospital's culture.
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