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We’re a smart bunch in healthcare. We are always innovating, elevating and evolving with a tech-centric mindset. But in our quest to achieve quality scores of 3.0, 4.0 or the coveted 5.0, have we forgotten some of the basics so critical to quality, patient-centric care?  The recent hospital stay of a family member fraught with missteps and a mind-boggling lack of communication and human connection, has me thinking of a decidedly old-fashioned tool that needs to be re-emphasized in the health care context: the satisfaction survey. 

In modern terms, it’s actually the user experience survey, but for our purposes it’s the patient experience of care survey. I can hear your response already. “We already have patient review options on Google and Yelp! And then there are physician reviews through CAHPS.” Of course, online review portals abound, but for purposes of overhauling the patient’s experience of care, there needs to be dialogue rather than a complaint or love letter forum.  

I wonder if our adherence to national regulatory organizations like CQA, URAC and The Joint Commission – all important to quality care – have allowed us to be sidetracked from also appropriately measuring the patient care experience. The auto industry has multiple regulatory agencies, but their surveying is so prompt and relentless as to be annoying at times.   

Applying the user experience to one of my favorite steakhouses, it’s obvious that this upscale chain provides continuous training in attentiveness, conversation and top-notch service. Regardless of who waits on us, the shared goal is clear: “We want you to come back.” And with their active and immediate use of diner experience surveys, they’ll know why people do return – or don’t.  

Staying on the retail side (perhaps fitting, given the growing influence of retail in healthcare), I also had a positive experience recently at my regular hair salon. I heard the receptionist calling (and texting) customers that their stylist was running a half hour behind and they should plan to arrive accordingly – or reschedule if necessary. Think of how often physicians and Advanced Practice Providers run behind schedule, albeit usually for very good reasons. But if a practice continually has patients waiting a long time, it’s time to take the temperature of the practice workflow. Are you over-booking? Are your workflow processes slowing you down and impacting the patient experience of care to the point where they either look for another provider or fail to follow provider recommendations of care because they feel rushed, unheard or deemed unimportant because their time appears to have no value? 

If my family member had received a patient experience of care survey within one-week post-discharge, the issues would be fresh and clear. After all, admission, discharge and transfer notifications are now “real-time” so what’s the delay in health plans getting surveys out?   

Three to six months later, the survey would likely be ignored, and the opportunity for an enhanced – or even adequate -patient care experience lost. Granted, the survey responses would not be happy ones. But that need not be the case in health care.   

In a niche treatment clinic for the same condition that landed my family member in the hospital, there were constant displays of empathy and concern. A warm and sincere connection was made between staff and patient. The fact that escalation of treatment was required beyond the clinic did not diminish the patient’s experience. There has been no survey received yet – and perhaps there won’t be. If not, it will be a missed opportunity not for improvement, but for encouragement and continued motivation. To remind clinic staff, who are likely often overworked and overwhelmed, that the patient’s experience of care was exceptional – because of them.