Walk into any hospital, and you’re likely see its mission statement somewhere, whether in marketing images in the lobby or posted to walls in patient rooms or staff lounges. While each hospital has its own objectives, most are guided by the desire to provide the best, most compassionate care to patients during their hospital stay. Despite their best intentions and efforts, many hospitals find themselves falling short of this goal more often than they would like as staffing shortages, inefficiencies and communication breakdowns get in the way.
Hospitals should strive for excellence, but they must also be able to keep the promises they make to patients, especially if they want to win their loyalty and repeat business. Though not every patient has same expectations about their hospital stay, most do expect to receive consistent care delivered in the most efficient, nurturing and timely way. If patients push the nurse call button for help getting up or going to the bathroom, they expect someone to stop by within a few minutes to assist them. If nurses drop by frequently during the day to check on them or bring them water or fresh bedding, they expect staff in the evenings to follow suit. If most care team members are friendly and empathetic, patients may be even more disappointed when they encounter a nurse who seems oblivious or indifferent to their needs.
Consistency is crucial not only for delivering the highest quality of care, but also for making sure patients feel safe, reassured and satisfied. How can hospitals improve the consistency of their care in today’s demanding and hectic healthcare environment? Here are five places to start.
- Listen and learn. Use patient complaints as opportunities to learn more about the gaps that may exist in the care you provide and areas that could be improved. Technology that gathers data in real time can give you the insight you need to identify issues that may be slipping through the cracks and develop the right action plan to solve them.
- Close the loop. Prioritize how you respond to each individual patient and follow through on every request—no matter how minor it may seem. Set a standard for routing patient needs to the most appropriate staff members and elevating these if they aren’t addressed within a certain time frame.
- Designate a “care-traffic controller.” Have someone on your clinical staff who is charged with monitoring the activities of patients on the floor and ensuring that care team members are where they need to be when. This point person can help coordinate the most urgent tasks among caregivers who are available and alert nurses to alarms and other messages that require their immediate response.
- Take time to connect. Make sure your staff isn’t just spending their day moving from task to task, but that they’re getting to know each patient beyond just the details of their charts. Invest in tools that improve communication between patients and caregivers and automate and document rounding to build more trust in how care is delivered and prevent adverse events and dissatisfaction.
- Expect accountability. Hold clinical teams responsible not only for responding to patient needs and requests, but also for ensuring that these get handled and resolved as quickly as possible. Technologies that gather real-time data can help here, too, by analyzing and tracking staff performance and producing reports that hospital leaders can use to improve their staffing mix or reward nurses who go above and beyond in caring for patients.