CVForward  >  The Customer is Always Right: Tips for Improving Patient Satisfaction

We live in an increasingly consumer-driven world. As a result, more and more industries are examined through the lens of customer service – and healthcare is no exception. But how do we know if patients are happy with their treatment? And even if we did, what can we do to get better?

For answers, we turned to Ram Chettri. Chettri’s career has seen him working in case management, as a registered nurse, and as an education coordinator. In 2009, he helped launch the Heart and Vascular Care program at Goshen Health, and has functioned as the Program Administrator since 2012. With such a wide-ranging purview, Chettri brings tremendous insight to the table. For this article, Chettri discussed the importance of patient satisfaction, how his team measures it, and how that information is used to foster organizational change and ultimately increase patient satisfaction.

 

4 Tips for Improving Patient Satisfaction


 

1. Putting the Patient First

Customer service is fast becoming a focus for healthcare. Chettri boils it down to a well-known phrase: “The customer is always right.”

The saying rings especially true for Chettri. While patient-centered care has very real outcomes for patient safety, Chettri considers the patient’s overall experience and satisfaction to be a vital component of their service as well. “Whenever we think of big healthcare policies or principles, it revolves around patient-centered care,” he says. Customer service is at the center of everything Chettri does. At Goshen, it’s a pillar of their mission and values.

 

2. Measuring Patient Satisfaction

Putting patients first requires understanding how patients feel about the care they are receiving. Patients, regardless of whether they received inpatient or outpatient care, are given a survey to help the team understand patient satisfaction.

At Goshen, there is an entire department dedicated to the patient and family experience. Chettri also has a dedicated team member – a patient customer experience specialist - that he works closely with in this area.

Each month, Chettri meets with the patient customer experience specialist to review patient satisfaction scores. The specialist has even started to obtain first-hand experiences, getting permission from patients to be an observer in the room. The team proactively measures patient satisfaction with the help of tools like Press Ganey and NRC Picker and the results are delivered to each area of service.

Chettri notes that instilling these practices has helped increase satisfaction scores, highlighting the strengths of each provider while making recommendations for the future.

 

3. Interpreting the Data

Obtaining patient data is one thing – knowing what to do with it is another. Interpreting satisfaction scores is an important task that requires ongoing effort and critical thinking.

Each month, Chettri receives updates and looks at the scores with his team. Reporting efforts end up involving the entire service line and those whose work may be impacted by their findings.

Together, they not only examine new data, but reference long-term trends. “These discussions are happening on an active basis to address key areas that we believe we can do a better job at,” he explains. They can judge scores at a granular level based on monthly, quarterly, or yearly performance. The team can even compare their performance to cohorts in the state or other parts of the country.

In addition to reviewing results, the team periodically reviews what is being reported on. While some metrics remain constant, others need to be revisited occasionally. The survey organizations will review metrics on a regular basis and, as Chettri puts it, “see which metric has topped out, which metric is less relevant or significant to the patient experience,” and pivot to new metrics if needed. It requires persistent effort and reinvigoration to ensure that the team obtains valuable information.

 

4. Instilling Change

Collecting and reporting on customer satisfaction data is only valuable if it improves a caregiver’s practice. “What we do with each of these areas that we review each month,” he says, is ask, “How do we maintain this? How do we sustain this? Or how do we increase this in an area that we're not doing well?” Fortunately, Chettri has plenty of examples of how insights have gone on to enhance the patient experience.

In one particular instance, Chettri’s team identified a trend. Patients were saying they had been asked the same questions multiple times over, either during a single visit or over multiple years. They were hinting that providers may not have been properly communicating with patients, or that they were unfamiliar with a patient’s history.

Of course, this was not actually the case. Providers had access to patient histories, could review charts, and would often see patients for many years a at time. Providers would be familiar with patients and their families, but the patient perception was different.

As a result, the clinic decided to institute a transformational change. Their patient care shifted away from a series of separate patient-provider interactions to an all-hands-on-deck approach called Team Care. Now, the provider, patient, medical assistant and family all confer in the same room and have a conference about the patient’s top concerns.

The result has been overwhelmingly positive. “There's a level of trust and confidence in the care provider because the patients are part of the conversation,” remarks Chettri. And the change would never have happened without Chettri’s team monitoring data and pulling out trends.

 

Moving Forward

As financial incentives evolve and healthcare continues to shift its focus to the consumer, it’s clear that challenges will arise. A concerted effort to focus healthcare around patients, measure their satisfaction, and interpret the results will be required of any organization hoping to remain competitive. As Chettri shared, improving patient satisfaction is well worth the effort.
 

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