Healthcare News & Insights

Patient satisfaction: High-performing hospitals share simple best practices

healthcare-workerJust like any other business, hospitals are competing for customers. And the ones that seem to be coming out on top are those with a patient-centered care focus. So how do high-performing hospitals get that way? 

To find out, Johns Hopkins investigators looked into this. They sent questionnaires and letters to CEOs and medical personnel from a nationwide sample of 53 hospitals.

Based on the responses they got, investigators were able to pinpointed a number of best practices that most likely give patients a more positive experience. And what’s great is they’re all simple and inexpensive.

Survey ‘top ranking’ facilities

One hundred and sixty-nine U.S. hospitals with a “top ranking” or a “most improved” designation were identified and sent surveys. Designations were based on scores from the December 2012 Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System Survey, which is designed to measure patient experiences and satisfaction.

All 169 of the hospitals’ CEOs were sent letters asking them to participate in the study. Fifty-three hospitals agreed and were then sent anonymous questionnaires to “key informants” that included medical nursing and administrative leaders. One hundred and thirty-eight key informants from 52 hospitals responded.

Of the hospitals that responded:

  • 33% had 500 or more beds
  • 30% had 201 to 499 beds, and
  • 37% had less than 200 beds.

Nearly half of them were teaching facilities and 37% were located in the Midwest.

Shared devotion

The survey findings, which were recently published in the journal Medical Care, showed hospitals that get high rankings for patient experiences have a shared deep commitment to consistency, personal and focused interactions with patients, and a culture that requires involvement of all levels of caregivers and services.

“It’s not just about getting the physicians involved or the nurses,” lead study author Hanan Aboumatar, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Everyone involved at the hospital, all the way up to top leadership, has to place a high priority on the needs of patients and their families.”

In fact, over three-quarters (77%) of the hospitals reported a commitment to the patient and family was embedded in their culture and one of the main reasons for their high performance.

“It may seem a simple thing,” notes Dr. Aboumatar, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. “But if leaders and staff members don’t prioritize this commitment and link it to the greater mission, it becomes easier to lose sight of it in the hectic pace of hospital care.”

Responsiveness key element

One practice that was key in high patient satisfaction at these facilities was “proactive nurse rounds.” Eighty-three percent of the responding hospitals had them.

Proactive nursing rounds are when nurses check in on individual patients on regular intervals and ask questions relating specifically to the patient’s care.

But nurses weren’t the only ones to do proactive rounds. Top performing facilities (62%) also had “leader rounds” — where hospital leaders, including executives, visited patients and staff to check on concerns and issues.

Behaviors the top performers also shared:

  • Always making eye contact with patients instead of looking at their tablet or chart, and
  • Sitting at patients’ bedsides rather than hovering over them.

In a time where hospital budgets are being squeezed tighter and tighter, the great thing about all of these common practices and behaviors is they’re free. While it costs some time in the end, it’s well worth the investment to get high patient satisfaction ratings.

“Importantly, we found that similar practices were occurring across the spectrum of the hospitals in our study,” Dr. Aboumatar said in the news release. “It did not matter how many beds they had or whether they were an academic hospital. Also, these didn’t need any high-tech resources. All that is required is commitment and a set of principles that any hospital can apply.”


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