patient experience, patient satisfaction, qualityImproving the patient experience has been among healthcare executives’ top priorities for the last several years. In an effort to infuse further urgency, the government recently instituted Medicare’s Value Based Purchasing program to tie 1% of Medicare payments to patient satisfaction scores. For the first time in history, patient satisfaction is being directly linked to revenue on a national scale.

The benefits of improving the patient experience are manifold and can positively impact multiple areas within a healthcare system. Building a strong service culture that is based on improving the patient experience will assist healthcare systems in improving the following three areas:

Revenue

Customer retention is perhaps the most visible aspect of customer satisfaction. If the customer is not satisfied, he or she simply won’t return; more importantly, the money he or she spent earlier on a business that did not meet expectations will now go to a business that does. Therefore, it is in the interest of every member of the organization to keep the patient satisfied.

One aspect of customer satisfaction that is not easily tracked is the value of customer referrals. It is human nature to listen to others for advice and suggestions, especially from friends, family and colleagues. A patient satisfied with a healthcare organization will recommend it to others they know. This chain will continue to spread as long as patients remain satisfied. All this translates to increased revenue and profitability. Customers and medical personnel will wholeheartedly recommend a facility that they feel provides exemplary service to patients.

Risk Mitigation

According to the National Center for State Courts, the median damages awarded in malpractice lawsuits is $400,000, which is twenty times higher than the median awarded in personal injury lawsuits. While improving an organization’s overall quality assurance practices will inherently lower the probability of medical malpractice, patient experience also plays a considerable role. While malpractice costs are astonishing and will not be fully mitigated by increasing patient satisfaction, if the patient believes that the healthcare provider is genuinely interested in his welfare and all his needs have been taken care of, then even in the occasional case of health complications, the propensity to sue will be considerably lessened. Study after study elicits the clear correlation between time spent with patients and risk of lawsuits. The more time a provider spends with a patient, then the lower the chance of a patient filing a lawsuit.

Talent Retention

In a service industry such as healthcare, employees are an organization’s greatest asset. While a healthcare facility may have the most advanced medical equipment, without skilled and suitably trained staff, achieving service excellence would be difficult. Unfortunately, retaining talented employees is not an easy task even in less than stellar economic climates. Talented individuals thrive on working in an excellence-driven business environment. By nature, service-focused organizations provide an environment that rewards performance, thus appealing to skilled and talented providers and staff. Satisfied providers will naturally promote their organization and recruit additional qualified healthcare professionals, fostering an ecosystem that continuously improves the overall organization.

Improving the patient experience requires more than instituting robust training programs, updating facilities, and tweaking a few standard operating procedures. Improving the patient experience is, at its core, about creating a culture of excellence to promote an unparalleled commitment to providing quality care, measuring results, and continuously raising the bar higher.

If you like this post, please read other posts in the series on the Person-Centered HealthCare main page. And if you have a story to tell that may be a fit with our series, please comment below or email me at joan@socialmediatoday.com