Five Straightforward Ways To Improve Patient Satisfaction In Hospitals

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 6:55am
Suneel Dhand, M.D.

Patient satisfaction and improving the hospital experience is being discussed in hospital boardrooms across the country. Now that financial reimbursements are directly tied to HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey scores, there is a significant incentive to do so. A multitude of ideas are being put forward into how this can be achieved, and hospitals are investing heavily to get tangible results. Many involve complicated and expensive methods that unfortunately border on being a bit gimmicky. Examples include reorganization of medical floors and staff, computer-based solutions, pamphlets,  and other free “treats.”

However, what is often overlooked is simply listening and acting on patients’ most basic complaints. Here are 5 of them; straightforward ways to give patients a better hospital experience:

1. Time with doctors and nurses. This is nearly always top of patients’ healthcare wish list. Patients simply want more time with their doctors (and so do the doctors). Time to sit down, talk through everything that’s wrong and what treatment options exist. One of the biggest barriers allowing this to happen is the sheer scale of documentation tasks that are required of doctors and nurses. This has reached epidemic proportions. Slow and cumbersome information technology plays a large part, with some studies suggesting that doctors now spend close to only 10 percent of their day in direct patient care. There is something very wrong when doctors and nurses spend 4 or 5 times more of their day in front of a screen than with their patients. We need to swing the pendulum back to direct patient care.

2. A good night’s sleep. Usually the first complaint I hear when I walk into a patient’s room first thing in the morning. Whether it’s a noisy neighbor, noisy staff or repeatedly having their vital signs taken during the night—there’s plenty to wake patients up in a hospital. How can anyone get better if they can’t rest? Sleep is, after all, when our bodies replenish and heal. Let’s tackle this head-on by making hospital floors quieter and more soothing places to be, rather than so “rough and tumble.”

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