Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Patient Satisfaction

One area that occasionally gets mentioned to me is that we need to better engage patients receiving health care services in order to improve the systems that deliver these services. Frequently, the solution is that we need to be doing more systematic surveys of patients, to find out how satisfied they were and how to develop action plans on how the better meet or exceed the expectations of future patients.

On a personal note, customer satisfaction was drilled into me when I worked my way through my undergraduate degree as a waiter and bartender. My employer had an excellent reputation of great service and quality food and beverages. But we did not achieve it through surveys of customers… at least not formal surveys. What every employee felt motivated to do was simply ask the customer “How was the service tonight? Or, How was your dining experience?” etc. And, what every employee felt empowered to do was act immediately on any issue that arose, despite the cost to the restaurant.

Are the employees that make up your health care culture secure enough to ask for the honest opinion of patients and is the management supportive enough to ensure that issues are immediately responded to? What effect is the organization having on employees when they have to face the same issue from patients, time-after-time?

If we want patient satisfaction to a metric for the organization, we have to start with some of the simple building blocks. Don’t engage patient with surveys… ensure employees feel secure in directly asking the question, knowing that management supports them in responding to opportunities to improve the experience not just for the patient at hand, but all future patients.

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