Healthcare News & Insights

Improving patient experience: Study shows industry making small steps toward progress

For hospital executives, providing a positive patient experience has been and continues to be a top priority. But how are hospitals doing when it comes to improving patients’ experiences?

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It would appear that hospitals are progressing — moving from a point of recognizing the topic is important, to understanding what it means, to dedicating resources, to implementing programs, that’s according to a recent study by the Beryl Institute.

The study, The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals 2013: Positive Trends and Opportunities for the Future, finds that while overall trends are positive, the reality is it’s hard to sustain the effort to keep improving patient experience.

Definition leads to better understanding

The Beryl Institute, which conducted a similar study in 2011, believes having a definition of “patient experience” allows hospitals to more effectively address the topic. In fact the 2013 study found that having a definition leads to better self-reported performance.

Beryl defines patient experience as “the sum of all interactions shaped by an organization’s culture that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Unfortunately, the 2013 study revealed that less than half of the 1,100 respondents have a formal definition.

And while a little more than half have adopted a formal mandate related to improving patient experience — down from 2011’s six in 10 — more than eight in 10 have a formal structure to address patient experience — up from 2011’s seven in 10.

So while hospitals haven’t made huge leaps in their progress, they’re still moving forward.

Top priority

Patient experience won’t be going anywhere soon, especially with reimbursement being partly tied to patient experience. It remains a top priority for hospital executives.

When asked to rank their organization’s top three priorities for the next three years, patient experience/satisfaction wound up in the top three choices for 70% of the respondent, which is up from 2011 (64%). The other top choices include quality/patient safety (63%) and cost management/reduction (37%).

An interesting reveal in the study is that while the majority of execs rank it as a top priority, their positive outlook toward improvement dropped this  year. In 2011, 25% of respondents were very positive when to the progress their organization was making toward improving the patient experience. But in 2013, only 17% said they were very positive. And in 2011, 61% indicated they were “positive,” and in 2013 that dropped to 54%.

Beryl interpreted the drop in positive attitude toward progress as gaining a more realistic perspective on the situation. Hospital leaders now have had time to experience the work and effort it takes  to improve patient experience and their desired outcomes.

The challenge now is to remain focused on and committed to even further progress in the area of patient experience/satisfaction and not throw in the towel.

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