Patients are increasingly becoming consumers of healthcare, expecting high standards of service from all organisations, public or private.
Hospitals in the US are buying into this, and compete by providing amenities associated with hotels, such as nail salons. This isn’t just confined to the US, though. Shopping facilities, further than just a coffee shop and sandwich place, are becoming common in newer NHS hospitals.
Some US doctors even take patient experience into account when referring. Clearly, there are differences – hospitals aren’t a fun place for a holiday, and the infection prevention and control people would be horrified if ornaments and tasselled cushions were introduced.
Much has been written about personal behaviour that can make patients feel welcome. Technology can also help.
A customer calling a hotel who gets no reply and is repeatedly told “Your call is important to us” would soon book elsewhere. Callers can become frustrated if they have to wait on hold while an operator tries various extensions to get hold of someone.
First contact resolution improves satisfaction and cost efficiency – before a patient has even stepped through a hospital door.
An integrated centralised appointment system allows telephone operators to book appointments in different departments in one call. An alert can be raised when calls are building up, so a colleague can be deployed. Callers can request a callback if the line is busy, and be contacted by email and text messages.
A system that gives operators an overview of staff information also helps; they can tell callers if someone is not in or if they are unable to take calls, instead of putting callers on hold while trying to get hold of someone.
Data collected about calls delivers an evidence base on which to base staffing, and has shown that such systems make efficient use of staff and improve patient satisfaction.
A pleasant stay
A hospital room is rarely as welcoming as a hotel’s. They are often shared with strangers, and infection prevention and control measures mean they lack homely touches.
However, a bedside console offering multimedia entertainment, internet access and internal and external calls can greatly improve a stay. Patients do not have to share a TV, and can watch without disturbing others. They can also block calls to their dedicated number if they do not want to be disturbed. A call bell system is included.
Providing nurses with wireless handsets means they do not need to attend each call in person immediately. They can also call in colleagues from different areas using the same system.
Terminals in each room allow staff to access and update records, so they can answer patients’ clinical questions. Login by smart card allows practitioners (including agency staff) to move between patients without having to log in and out for each application. If a nurse is administering medication to 10 or 15 patients, it frees up significant time for care.
Enhancing the physical environment can foster healing and influence perceptions of service quality.
There are many benefits to patient-centred care, according to research compiled by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare. “Broadly categorised as care experience, clinical and operational benefits. Studies show that when healthcare administrators, providers, patients and families work in partnership, the quality and safety of health care rises, costs decrease, and provider and patient satisfaction increase.”
Other benefits compiled by the ACSQHC associated with patient-centred care include decreased mortality, decreased emergency department return visits, fewer medication errors, lower infection rates, higher functional status, and improved clinical care.
A recruitment advert in the 1970s said healthcare was the only field where you were glad to see the back of your customers.
You won’t necessarily see the back of your customers today.
Support after discharge is key to reducing readmission, so a “hospital without walls” culture, with support for carers and condition management, should be developed. Putting right causes of dissatisfaction may improve concordance with treatment.
Social media has been found to minimise length of hospital stay, reduce complications and improve patient satisfaction in paediatric diabetes care.
Your patients can tell everyone about their stay on social media. Like canny hotel operators on TripAdvisor, hospitals need to respond to both good and bad reviews – and many providers are oblivious to the social perception of their organisation.
Although 72% of adults who use the internet engage in social media, little is known about its prevalence among hospitals and the ways in which hospitals use it. Patients have choices over their care, and in larger urban areas where choice isn’t so inconvenient, more patients are having their referrals changed from one provider to another. The word needs to be out that they should choose you.
- As patients increasingly exercise choice, their experiences are becoming more important.
- A better physical environment can foster healing and influence perceptions of service quality.
- Resolving patients’ phone enquiries the first time they call improves satisfaction and cost efficiency.
- While wards lack homely touches, a bedside console offering entertainment, internet access and telephone calls can greatly improve a stay.
- Assume patients will report their experiences online – respond to both good and bad reviews.
Call to action
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