For doctors everywhere, the term “patient experience” can elicit strong feelings. For hospitalists in particular, being held responsible for a patient’s experience throughout an entire hospital stay can seem absurd. Why should a hospitalist bear the brunt of patients’ unhappiness with everything from a nurse having a bad day to unappetizing food? Your job is to heal patients, after all, not make sure that everyone is having a good time.
Two articles in this month’s issue examine the challenges that hospitalists face when trying to “manage” patient experience (as opposed to managing patients). Our What Works looks at one group that created its own internal surveys to improve patients’ experience.
Those in-house results, which doctors bought into much more than HCAHPS scores, led the group to design strategies to help hospitalists connect better with patients. Innovations included having physicians come up with a “memorable” way to introduce themselves. Data are still coming in, but the changes seem to have helped.
And our commentary examines one physician’s interaction with a patient who was depressed and had no family support. As the hospitalist worked through the patient’s litany of complaints, he couldn’t help but think how the man was going to hurt his HCAHPS scores.
Despite that (fleeting) concern, our author goes on to explain that the patient had valid reasons for being upset. The hospital can be a miserable and frightening place, and patients struggle to maintain some sense of control and independence.
Patient satisfaction scores may be easy to dismiss as too vague. But everyone knows that most patients are not at their best in the hospital. In both articles, taking the time to listen to patients’ frustrations and concerns did improve patient care, five stars or not.
Editor & Publisher
Good article [Don’t buy into HCAHPS? Homegrown surveys can help] about a difficult topic. Hopefully, most hospitals are limiting hospitalization accountability to the specific doctor questions on the survey; difficult enough given the prevailing week on week off design of hospitalist work as well as separate evening and night coverage.