As if you needed another reason to invest in quality talent, a new survey from J.D. Power and Associates reports that patient satisfaction is more greatly influenced by a hospital’s staff than by its facilities. These findings are even more interesting in an era wherein hospitals compete for patients by boasting of the latest clinical technology and impressive amenities.
The survey examines both inpatient and outpatient facilities.
Doctors and nurses account for 34 percent of the overall experience ratings for inpatients, and the staff’s influence is even higher (43 percent) among patients in emergency settings.
Among outpatients, doctors and other healthcare professionals represent 50 percent of the patient experience.
Solid interpersonal skills are especially necessary for handling the types of problems that may arise during hospitalization. When problems do occur, they may jeopardize patient satisfaction. According to the study, staff service and staff attitude are the most common types of problems that patients experience. Patients who say they had any problem with their room or hospital staff rate their overall experience a 5.3 a 10-point scale, compared with 8.7 among patients that did experience any problems.
“Hospitals may attempt to attract patients and staff by adding equipment or sprucing up their facilities,” said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “From the perspective of patients, it might be more worthwhile to invest in finding and keeping staff with superior interpersonal skills.”
“When problems occur, they produce opportunities to demonstrate a genuine interest in the patient’s needs,” said Millard. “Resolving problems is clearly associated with higher ratings by patients. This has become more important as hospital reimbursement is now linked to patient satisfaction as measured by the government through the HCAHPS [Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems] survey.”
Millard notes that one area where hospitals can learn from hotels is how transitions occur. The admission and discharge process in hospitals is analogous to check-in and check-out in the hotel industry. Among inpatients, 35 percent of the overall patient experience is predicted by the admission and discharge process; yet the impact is much less in emergency and outpatient settings, where it is 19 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
“The first and last impressions are very important for a patient, much like they are for hotel guests,” said Millard. “Getting a patient into a room quickly at the start of their hospital stay, and ensuring a smooth process during discharge, along with a follow-up call once the patient gets home to make sure they’re doing okay, goes a long way toward achieving high satisfaction.”
The 2012 National Patient Experience Study is based on responses gathered between December 2011 and March 2012 from more than 10,275 patients who received care in inpatient, emergency or outpatient facilities in the United States.