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Using Patient Complaints to Improve Patient Experience

Re-posted with permission from PDC Healthcare and edited.

In the constantly evolving landscape of healthcare, hospitals are constantly evaluating priorities including quality of care, patient safety, and costs. As healthcare continues to evolve towards value based care, the importance of patient experience and patient satisfaction have become integral benchmarks for all hospitals. Understanding the issues patients and their family encounter can offer tremendous insight for quality improvement in terms of patient safety, patient satisfaction, patient experience, clinical workflow efficiency, and overall hospital quality ratings.

A recent study published in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety titled “Evaluation of Patient and Family Outpatient Complaints as a Strategy to Prioritize Efforts to Improve Cancer Care Delivery” examined patient complaints to better understand patient experience and prioritize opportunities for quality improvement within the hospital.

Top Complaints Highlight Communication Shortfalls

The analysis of the two-year body of complaints found that communication and other patient-centered care principles often fall short of the needs of both patients and their families. The study found that nearly 80% of complaints were focused around patient-provider communication, including those with doctors, nurses, administrators, and any other clinical or non-clinical staff.

Specific complaints data shared by the published research indicates that of the nearly 80% of complaints centered on patient-provider communication deficiencies:

  • 41% reported an overall poor patient-provider relationship
  • 18% reported a deficiency of ‘humanness and caring’
  • 15% reported a general deficiency in communication
  • 5% reported poor patient-staff dialogue (clinical and/or non-clinical staff)

Of all complaints logged over the two year study period, 48% pertained to administrative issues, including billing, provider services, and access to quality care.

Care Quality Complaints Considered Most Severe

While complaints around patient safety and care quality were only 11% of all complaints, these complaints were most often given a very high severity rating. The study also suggests that the incidence of patient safety issues and events may have arisen more frequently than reported, but may have been underrepresented in total complaints, which could be the case if such incidents are handled by good interpersonal communication with patients throughout the care continuum.

Seek First to Understand

The study and data suggest that by gaining a better and more detailed understanding of the breadth of patient and family complaints, healthcare professionals can explore ways to make appropriate changes to their processes that can better help address these issues. This in turn can help the hospital to improve the quality of their patient care, patient safety, patient experience, and patient satisfaction. These improvements could have significant positive impact on a healthcare facility and/or healthcare system’s patient safety and satisfaction scores, clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, financial performance, and overall reputation.

Admissions Department is a Key Communication Hub

As communication is the key to achieving such improvements, gateway departments, such as Admissions and Patient Registration, play a vital role in patient communication. The Admissions Department is uniquely positioned as the point of origin in the communication chain between clinical staff and patients, and among clinical staff, to create more efficient communication that flows throughout healthcare facilities. Such communication improvements at the start of the patient journey can greatly influence a patient’s perception of how they will be treated throughout the patient stay. This perception helps build a patient’s confidence in the healthcare provider and health system, and contributes to optimal patient safety and patient satisfaction outcomes.

Keeping a Pulse through Surveys

As long as hospitals are employing people to provide care for other people, communication will always be a challenge. Organizations must remain vigilant in assessing the effectiveness of communication within their walls and proactively seek ways to continuously improve. Patient satisfaction surveys are telling. Identify recurring communication issues and their root causes, and work with a team to put corrective action plans in place. Improving communication with patients and families undoubtedly improves the patient experience.

Talk to your local ISG expert about other solutions to improve the safety and security of your patients, staff and visitors. From physical and logical access control to visitor management and patient registration, we can help your healthcare organization cover it all.

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