Respectful Communication is Key to Improving the Patient Experience 3

Today, patients are taking a more active role in matters related to their health and how they are treated when they enter the healthcare system. In fact, they are encouraged more and more to share their experiences (good and bad) when answering survey’s, sharing their experience at patient and family council meetings and by writing letters to leaders about their experiences. Progressive leaders are using the information to identify areas of concern so they can be corrected.

Patient experience has always been an important metric for hospitals and health systems because of its impact on patient outcomes. Now, more than ever before, patient experience scores have a financial impact due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The PPACA ties a portion of hospitals’ reimbursement to their patient experience scores. Additionally, Medicare uses certain patient experience scores to measure the progress of its accountable care organizations. Beyond the quality and financial implications, providing excellent patient experience also gives hospitals and physicians a boost over their market competitors, as happy patients tend to tell others about their positive experience.

To assist hospitals and other settings address their patient’s experiences and to how best handle complaints by patients and their families a new role in the organization leadership has been created.  The Patient Experience Officers is essentially charge with making sure every patient has a positive experience in the hospital or health system. They are charged with education and instituting innovative ways all staff members can integrate into practice to improve patient experience and boost satisfaction scores.

The handling of complaints is a challenge that needs to be addressed with skill and tact. All complaints should be investigated thoroughly. All involved should to interviewed so that the facts can be identified and evaluated. When a patient or a family member makes a complaint, they should not be ignored or patronized. They need to receive a respectful answer with an explanation of what happened and what will be done to correct the problem in a timely manner.

Recently, I shared my Blog, Nurse Advocate with a friend as I wanted her to read my latest post, so she was aware of how I was doing.  In her note back to me, she shared an experience that she had when she wrote a letter alerting the CEO of the health system she used when she went to the ED recently. Keep in mind; she is an intelligent woman who had a bad experience and took the time to share her experience with the CEO of the organization so the situation could be addressed. This was a portion of the note that she sent me back: “in the past year, I have had much exposure to the healthcare system, including a hip replacement, emergency gallbladder surgery and subsequent “provoked” pulmonary emboli (all requiring 3 ER visits), and now stretched ligaments in my knee. I experienced some of the best and the worst of the healthcare system.” When I wrote a letter of complaint to the CEO about one of the ER visits that was horrendous so maybe it could be remedied for other patients, I got a letter back that was filled with insulting platitudes from a nurse he farmed it out too.” She closed her note to me saying it sure would have been nice to have a “Nurse Advocate”!

When I read her words, I felt embarrassed and sad as I know we (as a healthcare system) can and must do better. When a patient or a caregiver takes the time to share a complaint on what happened to them in an organization, they should not be patronized or talked down to, but should be addressed with respect and provided with an explanation as to how their experience will be used to improve the process. I am not sure if the hospital system where my friend visited has a Patient Experience Officer, but they may wish to look into it!

Thank you for reading Nurse Advocate.  Please feel free to share your own ‘patient experience’ in the comment box so we can see how your experience was addressed.   

Have a good week!

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