By David Levin, CEO, Bivarus

A New Kind of Patient Means a New Approach

Above all else, a health care organization’s primary goal should always be to improve the quality of care provided, and patient experience plays a significant role in that process. If patients are happy, they’ll return. If they were not pleased with their encounter, they are likely to seek out an alternative next time. Therefore, we need to start thinking about our patients as “customers” in an open marketplace, able to choose where and from whom they receive health care services.  In this context, the brand experience starts long before and continues long after the “purchase.” Therefore, gauging patient experience should be an ongoing endeavor – continuous rather than an isolated snapshot in time.

Implementing one solution based on collected data is not sufficient. Health care facilities need to continually expand on the use of relevant data to refine their understanding of patient preferences, fears, and family concerns. Industries outside of health care have successfully implemented Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) initiatives to evolve their understanding of consumer experience for years— and these concepts are also appropriate in the health care industry.

What is CQI and Why is it Important?

CQI is a quality management process that monitors and improves performance on an ongoing basis. To create a CQI plan, first identify the desired clinical or administrative outcome and evaluate strategies to determine if that outcome is being achieved. Structured clinical and administrative data is required to effectively identify outcomes and strategies, and you need to have a good understanding of what does and does not work for your current patient experience journey. When strategizing, the organizational structure (technological, human, physical, and financial assets), processes (activities, workflows, or tasks to achieve the outcome or output) and outcomes must all be considered.

The cyclical process of data collection and monitoring outcomes is what sets CQI apart from other quality management processes. Rather than discretely implementing improvement initiatives, regularly ask, “How can we do better on a facility-wide and departmental level?” From here, you can address problems and also ensure that successful programs remain successful by implementing positive changes, even when current programs are beneficial to improving patient experience. Data collection is the most effective approach to ensure each stage of a patient’s journey is considered in your CQI plan.

Supportive Environment to Implement CQI

If we want to approach patients as customers, health care organizations need to follow in the footsteps of other successful industries to understand their market and place their customers at the center. Finding practical and innovative solutions to capture patient feedback for improvement may require significant adjustments to the organizational strategy, culture, and leadership committed to hearing individual patient voices.

For example, patient experience scores are higher for organizations where:

  • CEOs are supportive of measuring and improving patient experience;
  • Staff recognize the importance of the link between improvements in patient experience and better patient outcomes;
  • There are higher values for staff engagement measures (quality of staff, staff communication and responsiveness, and appointment ease).

These studies show health care provider engagement directly affect patient engagement and should be considered just as important as patient engagement for improvement initiatives.

As with patients, a one-size-fits-all approach to health care provider engagement is not effective; instead, facility leaders should focus on the specific context or issues with engagement. They must identify issues health care providers are experiencing and implement actionable strategies based on collected data specific to the organization. In addition, implementing mentorship programs can help staff learn from coworker successes and failures.

All in all, it is important to foster an environment in which health care providers feel empowered to proactively deliver patient care. If the provider takes prides in what they do and where they work, they are more likely to deliver an exceptional level of care, therefore increasing patient experience as well.

Where to Go From Here

There are a few key requirements to implementing CQI initiatives that improve care delivery. You need the tools to identify and monitor interventions that are intended to improve specific aspects of care. These tools should provide timely, actionable feedback on patient experiences and health outcomes. Information can include aspects of care such as compassion and respect that may improve the patient’s sense of dignity and well-being without having a direct effect on health outcomes. To be actionable, you must use collected data to illuminate individual factors causing dissatisfaction.

Bivarus analyses indicate generalizations are not useful for service and quality improvements. The complete picture of a specific patient’s experience and preferences is difficult to visualize when data and the tools to detect trends at the patient population level are not available.

Rather than just approaching patient feedback as what went well or what went wrong, insights can be used to anticipate the experiences of future patients, manage, and exceed expectations and actively reduce service failures. Patient responses should be viewed as more than a means to improve percentage points on a survey tool. The impact of the changes should be evaluated carefully as a means to balance easy cosmetic changes with long-term improvement in the quality of patient care. When you team with Bivarus, we lead you through the CQI planning process, illuminating key areas of improvement and strategy based on real data collected from your facility’s patients so that your facility can truly say it’s continuously improving.

Give us a call at (919) 336-9142 or request a demo of the Bivarus platform to learn how we can support your organization’s efforts to measure and improve your patient experience.

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