I was recently asked to sit on a committee designed to improve patient satisfaction scores for an individual unit at a large metropolitan hospital. A well-known organization was invited to present their program they designed to improve patient satisfaction scores for neonatal intensive care units. The rather expensive program was based on the premise that increasing patient education and providing consistent messages would improve scores. It all sounded great and the reputable organization did an impressive job selling this massive program. The handouts were professional, the list of hospitals that already bought into their program was impressive. Everything looked great, except for one problem: that they got it all wrong. Overall patient experience is not dependent on educational materials, scripted consistent messages or even, oddly enough, outcomes. Overall patient experience is about how you make someone feel when they are in a different and sometimes frightening place.
In the best-selling book "If Disney Ran Your Hospital" Fred Lee draws an important distinction between patient satisfaction and patient experience. Walt Disney knew 50 years ago what the healthcare industry still won’t learn: it is the experience that counts.
When analyzing what factors dictate whether a patient would recommend a hospital or doctor to a friend, two organizations (Press-Ganey and Gallup) came to the same conclusion: communication and being treated with respect are the most important determining factors.
Yet hospitals continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. It evokes visions of Charlie Brown believing he can kick the football and having Lucy pull it away every time. As with Charlie Brown, hospitals continue to believe that by reducing wait times in the Emergency Room or changing the colors of the lobby or having the staff speak in scripts will help improve their scores. And every time Lucy pulls the football away.
My advice to hospitals whenever I am consulted is the same: “It’s All in the Delivery”. It’s not how long a patient waits for a doctor that counts. It’s how they are treated once they see the doctor. Teach your physicians and staff how to communicate. Not by memorizing scripts and repeating slogans over and over again, but truly how to communicate. Stop trying to kick the same football and learn from your mistakes.
I hope you will continue to read my blog.
Anthony Orsini, D.O.
Neonatologist & Vice-Chairman, Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, FL
Founder & President, BBN