How to Change Your Culture to Improve the Patient Experience

What experience can patients and their families expect when they walk into your hospital? Chances are they probably already have some idea based on their past experiences or your reputatioin the improvepatientexp.jpgcommunity or on social media. With value-based care growing and consumers demanding more from their healthcare providers, many hospitals are working hard to improve these perceptions and enhance the experience patients have while staying at their facilities.

But improving the patient experience in meaningful ways takes more than just good intentions. It starts with changing your culture. For most hospitals, this is no easy feat, but it’s necessary if you hope to transform the experience patients receive at your hospital on a consistent basis.

“Clarity is the constant in organizations that are delivering on this promise every day; otherwise it might not get enough attention or it may be too uncomfortable for folks to implement,” said patient experience consultant Richard Corder during a recent webinar hosted by The Beryl Institute. Hospital leaders must get clear on their expectations for staff, the roles they will play, and the future state they would like to achieve before launching any patient experience initiative, said Corder, a partner with Wellesley Partners, an organization that helps hospitals and healthcare leaders manage change. Success begins with with articulating “clearly how you would like to improve the experience around care in your facility,” he said.

One of the first challenges hospital leaders must overcome is their own disconnect between what improving the care experience means to them and what it means to patients. When the Cleveland Clinic surveyed leaders about their top priorities for improving patient experience, their answers differed vastly from what patients said, noted Carol Santalucia, director of service excellence and culture for the hospital system. Leaders listed the need for new facilities, more quiet time, private rooms, food on demand, interactive bedside computers and fewer visiting hour restrictions. Patients, however, said they would like to be treated with more respect and empathy and feel heard when they expressed their needs, requests and concerns. They also said they wanted to see better communication between staff and happier, more engaged caregivers.

Surveys like this can be illuminating and should remind hospitals “not to forget to start with what’s most important for patients,” Santalucia told the webinar audience. Leaders must be willing to take a hard look at their culture—not just the behaviors within the organization, but also their perceptions about “the way we do things around here,” Santalucia said. Then they must get clear about what they can do to make their culture more purposeful, positive and productive. It helps if leaders acknowledge that changing the culture of any hospital is a marathon, not a sprint, Corder says. In fact, he encourages them to refrain from talking about “changing the culture” at all—which tends to put people on the defensive—and urges them to instead “focus on getting yourself and those around you involved and engaged about where you want to be, what obstacles are in the way and how you will overcome them.” Coming up with a clear plan that articulates this is important if leaders expect to hold themselves and their staff accountable for change, Corder adds.

Action Steps to Building a Better Culture

Ready to change the culture in your hospital, but not sure where to begin? Corder and Santalucia recommend starting with these steps.

Evaluate the current state. How do we do things now?

Clarify the context for change: What do we need to do differently and why?

Envision the future state. How do we want our operation to look in the future? What actions do we need to take to get there?

If your hospital has already launched an effort to improve the culture around patient care, how do you know if it’s working? You can’t measure progress by the number of people who attended training or the number of “values” posters on your walls or wallet cards distributed to staff. But you can track your success by these three benchmarks:

Knowledge: Does your staff know what your values and standards are, and what is expected of them?

Behavior: What can you observe from how people in your organization behave

Perception: What perceptions do patients, families, caregivers, physicians and vendors have about your organization?

Changing your culture to deliver kinder, more compassionate care for patients and better communication and collaboration between care teams may seem daunting, but it pays off in more than just improved HCAHPS scores, Santalucia says. Research shows that establishing this type of culture leads to faster recoveries, shorter hospital stays, and even reduced pain, anxiety and blood pressure in patients, she points out. Not only is this culture change good for patients, but it also benefits caregivers by helping them feel more engaged, less exhausted and less likely to quit or to burn out.

At Amplion, we’re focused on helping hospitals create a more patient-centered culture built on communication, collaboration and compassionate care through our next-generation nurse call system. Our data-driven Amplion Alert platform uses smart technology and workflow optimization to enhance nurse call, patient safety, care coordination and alarm management, giving hospital leaders the tools and visibility they need to boost morale and accountability. Schedule a free consultation with us to learn how we can help your hospital build happier, more engaged teams that deliver a first-class patient experience.

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