Patient Satisfaction Planner-Hospitals get kudos for patient satisfaction

Press, Ganey Associates names contest winners

Teamwork and commitment transform hospitals from good patient care providers into stellar ones. That's the message from the 1999 winners of Press, Ganey Associates' Annual Success Story Contest.

Press, Ganey Associates specializes in producing satisfaction surveys, comprehensive management reports, and national comparative databases to monitor patient satisfaction in health care delivery systems. Each winner of the Success Story Contest has demonstrated creativity, improvement, and ongoing dedication to providing exemplary health care. How those attributes are exhibited within each organization, however, is what makes the facilities even more special.

The winners, chosen from the company's clients, were Bristol (CT) Hospital, Miami Valley Hospital (Dayton, OH), Union (NJ) Hospital, Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (Burlington), and Thunderbird Samaritan Medical Center (Glendale, AZ). Here are some highlights of the winning facilities' efforts:

Boosting morale.

Thunderbird Samaritan Medical Center set out to create sweeping changes in response to poor patient and staff satisfaction scores and high employee turnover. By addressing staff attitudes and perceptions, the facility's scores have shown dramatic improvement. The facility used the following principles as a foundation for positive change:

— Place people before profit.

— Respect loyalty.

— Have fun.

— Be creative.

— Create and promote leadership and personal development.

— Measure success.

— Communicate.

Poor design, old equipment hinder care

Improving ED care.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center focused on improving the level of care in its emergency department. The problems were poor patient satisfaction, poor communication between nurses and physicians, and a lack of sensitivity toward patients, their families, and staff members. The department's design did not provide for patient or staff privacy, created congested traffic flow, and lacked a triage area. The department also had to contend with outdated equipment. The medical center turned the situation around by instituting several initiatives, including:

— developing a triage system supported by appropriate staffing levels;

— physical renovation of the emergency department;

— recruiting a motivated, improvement-focused medical director;

— performing ED and lab time studies to set benchmarks;

— addressing physician behavior regarding delays;

— initiating team-building meetings;

— constructing a system for staff to provide food and beverage tokens to patients;

— adding a clinical nurse specialist to focus on practice issues and a case manager to review the appropriateness of ED usage by patients;

— changing staffing patterns during peak service times and adding midlevel providers;

— improving communication among staff members by using the Myers-Briggs assessment;

— commitment training, conflict resolution workshops, and staff support groups.

Hospital communicates data via Web page

Double-teaming.

Miami Valley Hospital wanted to improve its ability to communicate the results of its ongoing patient satisfaction efforts to all of its 5,000 employees, simplify the process for managers to track performance in their areas, and monitor trends for the hospital and individual nursing units. The hospital accomplished those goals by adopting the following initiatives:

— instituting several teams to identify and implement the patient satisfaction initiatives;

— having a measurement team and the nursing team co-design an information delivery system;

— assigning the quality management department to work with the measurement team to design insightful and easily interpreted formats for the data;

— converting performance data to HTML format for use on the Miami Valley Hospital home page. Users log onto the home page and can view the data and trends.

Ambulatory care in the next decade.

Hackensack University Medical Center's goal was to create a premier ambulatory care center that combined sophisticated technology and an environment conducive to improving patient satisfaction. A new facility was constructed to accommodate the medical advances expected within the next 10 years, taking into account the concepts of privacy, aesthetics, and service. Issues include patient parking, registration processes, pre-op phone calls, room temperature monitoring, and a playroom for children. Also, monthly staff meetings are used to discuss issues and brainstorm for ways to further improve the facility.

Making the ED a window to the community.

Union Hospital set out to expand services, build market share, and improve the overall level of care. Because the hospital admits 80% of its patients through its emergency department, the process began there. A performance improvement committee was instituted. The facility was then redesigned, and the following innovative strategies were implemented:

— putting weatherproof storage sheds in the ambulance driveway to provide quick and convenient access to backboards, collars, blankets, etc.;

— mandatory customer service and conflict resolution training for staff members and the creation of internal rewards and incentives;

— standing orders for common ailments to implement X-rays, blood work, and IV protocols;

— making diagnostic test results available when the physician arrives;

— a special pediatric supply cart to speed processing;

— a treatment room for fast-tracking certain diagnoses and injuries;

— having radiology technicians carry wireless telephones to reduce patient wait times;

— making an operations manager responsible for coordinating the key activities of the admission process.

Patient partners meet with patients daily

Shooting for the top in patient satisfaction.

Bristol Hospital's goal was to rank within the top 5% nationwide for inpatient satisfaction. To achieve that goal, the hospital created a set of values that are the mainstay of all of its patient satisfaction initiatives and made several changes:

— The hospital began a process of removing or decreasing patient irritants, such as paid television services, overhead paging, and conversational noise. Valet parking was instituted.

— The hospital created a position for a manager of patient satisfaction to oversee the process of surveys and reports and provide management with appropriate policies and programs.

— Three patient partner positions were created to meet with patients shortly after admission, visit the patient daily, and tend to patients' special needs.

— A series of rewards, recognition, and internal communication programs was instituted to keep patient satisfaction at the forefront of every employee's mind.