US Healthcare: Leading in a World that Emphasizes Patient Experience

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Patient experience is becoming a key consideration for hospitals in the United States. Improving patient experience often means a greater investment in time and attention up front, yet this meshes neatly with the healthcare industry’s shift toward value-based care. More meticulous healthcare strategies ultimately reduce anxiety, decrease health risks, and lower recidivism.

A growing number of hospital leaders are expanding their facilities’ amenities and adjusting their procedures with a critical eye on the patient’s experience. Providing a better experience can have far-reaching benefits throughout any healthcare organization.

The Importance of Patient Experience

A hospital patient uses technology.

Patient experience is a critical factor in the healthcare industry that’s closely associated with nearly every other aspect of healthcare. The Press Ganey Special Report on Achieving Excellence in Healthcare indicated that there’s a direct positive correlation between patient experience and quality outcomes related to safety. The report states that “data tell us that patients know safe, quality care when they see it, and that when they receive it their overall experience is better.”

Though you might expect better patient experiences to come with a higher price tag for the facility, this isn’t always the case. Improving patient care transitions not only eases the experience for the patient, it also saves facilities anywhere from $12 billion to $44 billion annually by reducing readmissions and cutting back on unnecessary procedures.

The shift to value-based care reimbursement in the United States also emphasizes the importance of patient experience. Patients are more satisfied with a paradigm that rewards healthcare systems for positive outcomes rather than reimbursing them per procedure. Value-based systems emphasize the importance of treating patients with as few tests, procedures, and visits as possible.

Patient Experience and Loyalty

Hospitals that offer a better patient experience have a competitive edge in the healthcare industry. Dr. Cosgrove, the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, adopted the principle of putting patients first over a decade ago. He notes that the hospital chose this approach “because we knew our patients had choices for their care.” Facilities with low performance in critical areas of patient experience have an increased risk of patients switching providers, which results in a loss of income for the hospital.

According to the Press Ganey Special Report on Achieving Excellence, key considerations include:

  • Patients’ confidence in their care providers
  • The providers’ ability to work well together delivering care
  • Providers’ concern for patient questions and concerns
  • The provider’s ability to communicate clearly with the patient
  • Providers’ listening skills
  • Demonstrations of courtesy, respect, and compassion

Cosgrove credits analytics with giving his clinic its boost in patient satisfaction. The facility was struggling with patient scores in 2009 and implemented a qualitative and quantitative study to determine patients’ wants and needs. The study’s findings were consistent with the Press Ganey report and showed that patients’ top concerns at the Cleveland Clinic were respect, communication between caregivers, and happy, approachable providers.

Understanding and serving the patient’s desire for courteous, collaborative healthcare improves the experience and increases the likelihood that patients will stay with their current provider, securing much-needed revenue for these facilities and minimizing turnover.

Patient Experience and Improved Outcomes

Improving patient experience isn’t just about increasing prestige or hospital rankings. Joe Leggio, Director of Patient and Consumer Experience at Lenox Hill, says that “If your mental state is good, that affects your physical state in a positive way.” He goes on to note that “If we can elevate your mood, you’ll rest more, which will help you heal faster and be discharged sooner.”

Leggio’s program offers more upscale amenities, such as chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne for new parents to celebrate the birth of a baby. Though these types of perks aren’t directly associated with a patient’s outcome, following Leggio’s logic, one can see how offering seemingly unrelated benefits such as these may improve patients’ satisfaction and health in the long-term.

Success Stories in Patient Care and Satisfaction

Healthcare facilities across America are finding new and innovative ways to serve their patients and improve experiences. These address a variety of needs in the healthcare setting.

New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center addressed issues with transitions by implementing a bridge program. An inpatient nurse was assigned to explain both the admissions process and the patient experience for those moving from the ER to inpatient care. This included a description of alarms, noises, and nurse visits. Implementing this one adjustment increased patient scores and provided a better experience.

The Mayo Clinic presents another ideal example of how value-based care can improve patient experience. It uses a Frozen Section Pathology Lab to analyze tissue samples during lumpectomies and partial mastectomies to determine whether the cancer has been removed. While many labs take up to 24 hours to process this information post-surgery, Mayo Clinic is offering an alternative that takes just 20 minutes.

Analyzing the samples while the patient is still in surgery allows the surgeon to go back and remove all evidence of cancer in the same procedure. Patients don’t have to deal with the strain of waiting 24 hours for results, and 96 percent of those at the Mayo Clinic find that there’s no need for a repeat lumpectomy thanks to this approach. The national reoperation rate for lumpectomies is 13.2 percent, but the Mayo Clinic has shaved it down to 3.6 percent.

Intermountain Healthcare in Utah is working on patient rooms that give individuals a greater sense of control over their healthcare. Patients will receive a tablet in their room that controls the temperature for greater comfort, provides videos to help them understand their diagnosis and treatment, and allows them to call a nurse with a quick tap.

Improving the patient experience is something every healthcare provider should be passionate about. Whether it means listening more, explaining more slowly, or simply putting on an extra smile, any efforts in this direction can prove invaluable to the patient.

If you’re interested in taking a leading role in the effort to improve patients’ healthcare experience, consider furthering your education with a New England College – Master of Science in Management – Healthcare Administration degree. This program can equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to build an environment where patients thrive.