This week I have invited Dr. Bob Quinlan, our system’s Patient Experience Officer, to share his birds-eye view of how we are doing when it comes to ensuring an excellent patient and caregiver experience at our hospitals. Bob has more than 40 years of experience as a breast surgeon, and I value his opinion and insights, as well as those of our frontline caregivers he encounters during his rounds on patient units.
Thank you for reading this and for taking great care of our patients, and each other, Eric
Most caregivers are aware of the need to submit survey data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) in order to be reimbursed by the government for services rendered to patients. In HCAHPS surveys, our patients answer questions on a variety of topics related to the services received, ranging from nurse and physician communication to discharge planning and instructions. Patients are also asked to give an overall assessment of the hospital and whether or not they would recommend our hospital to friends.
For most of my career I didn’t worry about our HCAHPS scores, I just focused on the patient in front of me — usually a woman scared that she had cancer and worried about how her illness would impact her family.
The “patient in the bed” experiences your eyes, tone of voice, compassion and heart! The “patient in the bed” experiences whether you are actively listening. Are you fully present when the patient is speaking to you or are you thinking about something else? The patient can tell. Imagine being worried about whether you are going to live or die and yet the person you are most depending on to help you is distracted and distant as you speak to them. As the cliché goes, patients really don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
How can we demonstrate compassion when stressors on the job, at home and in the world are ever present? We can do it because it isn’t fluff. It is the definition of caring! Although they are important, don’t dwell too much on the HCAHPS scores; instead remind yourself that caring and the impact it has on the patient experience is the soul of health care and why we decided to go into medicine in the first place. Each and every one of us needs to see ourselves as an important part of the patient experience. Consider, “I am the patient experience,” as your mantra. It will be our eyes, our voice, our compassion and our heart that our patients experience.
The majority of written comments and my rounding duties have revealed that despite our current HCAHPS scores our caregivers are putting patients first. However, there are many opportunities for us to improve, particularly in the areas of responsiveness, pain management, “quiet at night” and communication. We will be engaging all of you in our service improvement efforts using our already established idea boards and Innovation Fund. We will also be working to make your employee experience better by focusing on geographic patient cohorting, standardized care plans, IT improvements and reducing ED boarder hours and numbers. We can improve the patient and caregiver experience, but it will take a deep commitment from each of us.
I challenge you as my colleagues to use the same caring with each other as emphasized by our CEO in every one of his sign-offs. We will give each other resilience in a stressful world and in the often stressful environment of patient care.