Keys to improving patient experience, from the experts

Since the onset of the pandemic, patient experience scores from Press Ganey, a firm with more than 40 years of experience in patient experience, have taken a drastic dive – with much of the data pointing to staffing shortages and other challenges as key indicators of the decline in scores. However, since February 2023, the firm has observed a steady rise in patient experience scores – at the end of 2023 nearly reaching pre-pandemic levels.

This includes the likelihood to recommend a hospital, plus multiple key indicators such as doctors and nurses treating patients with courtesy and respect and discussing new medicines and possible side effects.

In the new year, as provider organizations focus on getting back to basics and refocus on patient care, Press Ganey believes numbers will continue to increase, taking the healthcare industry above and beyond past patient experience achievements.

We interviewed Chrissy Daniels, chief experience officer at Press Ganey, to get her perspective on what Press Ganey data shows about the relationship between the employee experience and the patient experience, outcomes the firm has noticed from basic kindness, healthcare organizations that have published patient experience data with a downward trend, and how patient experience starts before patients have any kind of care interaction.

Q. What does your data show about provider organizations understanding employee experience leading to improved patient experience?

A. For years, our data has shown organizations that have better employee engagement also have better patient experience outcomes. From the employee perspective, a caregiver’s likelihood of staying in an organization is influenced by their ability to provide safe, patient-centered care.

From the patient’s perspective, a top driver of loyalty is a team working together to care for them. Patients perceived great teamwork as improving the quality of their care and the caring they receive. The healthcare workforce is inherently mission-oriented and committed to caring for patients.

Organizations that promote a culture of safety, respect, quality and compassion make sure their staff are well and have the resources needed to do their work – this translates into better outcomes for patients and a better experience for both staff as well as patients.

Q. Please talk about the very interesting outcomes you’ve noticed from kindness.

A. This is a great space where comments drive our understanding rather than simply responses to questions. Using natural language processing, a form of artificial intelligence, we can connect respondents who are highly likely to recommend our care and analyze the positive themes they convey in their comments.

Across our more than 312 million patient voices, when we look at what patients are commenting on, repeatedly it is the kindness of caregivers who delight patients. Patients perceive kindness as a combination of positivity, helpfulness, and a gentle and comforting approach. In addition to kindness, these patients recognize compassion and empathy as noteworthy.

Q. You’ve noted many healthcare organizations have published patient experience data with a downward trend. What does this mean overall?

A. Simply, it means they are looking at old data. The publicly available HCAHPS data is a year old, and many organizations cite it to describe industry trends. Press Ganey has a real-time national database publishing trends as they are happening.

We saw that during COVID, and we are now able to show that patient experience during 2023 continued to improve in both emergency and inpatient care, which saw the largest drops, as well as in medical clinics and ambulatory surgery, which never declined during the pandemic.

Q. You suggest the patient experience starts before patients have any kind of care interaction. Please elaborate and talk about what provider organizations can do in this area.

A. I often say their journey begins as soon as an individual thinks they might have a problem. And for most of us, that idea occurs outside of business hours. That means the first contact many individuals have with health systems is online.

This is why it is so exciting that healthcare has made the development of digital front doors a top priority. Our safe, compassionate care starts with the findability of our services and providers. Listings management is a top experience priority.

Consumers want to be able to find reliable information about you and your providers. They want to know what other patients have thought about you. And once they choose you, they want ease of access and scheduling. Healthcare has largely embraced digital bill pay but lags in offering digital scheduling.

Patient portals have been widely adopted by patients, but providers still are not consistently responsive. The patient’s voice is clear – healthcare needs to be easier to navigate and digital channels are a great place to invest.

Follow Bill’s HIT coverage on LinkedIn: Bill Siwicki
Email him: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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