Want to Increase Your Patient Satisfaction? Optimize Workflow

By Madison Pittman

Satisfied customers return to the same business again and again. Dissatisfied customers tell anyone who will listen about their terrible experience.

In the healthcare realm, patient satisfaction also increases the likelihood that patients will complete their recommended medical treatment – which means that satisfied patients are more likely to experience better outcomes. 

The good news for healthcare administrators and busy clinicians is that the attributes that contribute most directly to patient satisfaction are also the cornerstones of excellent clinical practice. You don’t need to do anything “extra” to satisfy your patients; instead, your healthcare organization needs to do what it does very, very well.

Optimizing clinical workflow can improve patient and provider satisfaction, while delivering outstanding outcomes. This in turn provides better clinical outcomes for the patients but also can improve profitability. 

The Link Between Clinical Workflow and Patient Satisfaction

A positive patient experience is “not about making healthcare into Disney World or the Ritz Carlton,” according to Ted James, MD, MHCM, medical director and professor of surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical in a blog post for Huron Learning Lab. Rather, he says, it’s about “providing care that is free from harm, minimizes redundancy and waste, allows timely access to needed services, follows best practices, and incorporates patients’ preferences and treatment priorities.”

Think about your personal healthcare experiences. What mattered more to your satisfaction, the décor, or whether you received competent, compassionate care in a timely manner?

According to a study published in The American Journal of Managed Care, longer wait times are linked to decreased patient satisfaction. Ambulatory clinic patients who experience a combined wait time (waiting room + time waiting in the exam room) of 10 minutes or less were most likely to rate their experience highly. Patients who experienced a 20-minute combined wait time were 69% less likely to recommend the clinical practice.

Hospital patients are similarly frustrated by wait times. Of course, clinicians do the best they can to meet patients’ needs, but unexpected and unforeseen issues – a slew of admissions, or one patient’s rapidly declining health – can create delays. Rapid identification of bottlenecks and unusual movement patterns can help administration redirect resources and staff as needed.

This seems simple in theory, but most organizations lack the actionable data that is necessary to both understand and also address the barriers and inefficiencies. 

Hourly Rounding Improves Workflow and Enhances the Patient Experience

Few variables matter as much to patient satisfaction as response time to call lights. A patient who receives pain medication 30 minutes after pressing the call light is not likely to rate his care or your healthcare facility favorably. Similarly, the family members of an elderly patient who soils himself because no one arrived in time to help him to the bathroom are far more likely to leave negative reviews.

Hourly rounding by nurses and nursing assistants allows staff to proactively meet patient needs, and hospitals that have implemented regular rounding have noted a decrease in patient complaints and an increase in patient satisfaction.

A 2016 article published by the Joanna Briggs Institute notes that “having a supportive infrastructure … was a key factor for success” of hourly rounding, and it takes staff time to adapt to the practice. Technology provides data staff can use to monitor their progress and success.

Committing to Sit

Optimizing workflow and implementing best practices such as hourly rounding allow your nurses to provide better care more efficiently. One hospital in Texas implemented a “Commit to Sit” strategy. Research has consistently shown a positive correlation between the time nurses spend with patients and patient outcomes and satisfaction – and because sitting, rather than standing when talking with patients is perceived as more time spent at the bedside, nurses on the Texas telemetry unit were expected to sit with each of their patients, every shift, for a few moments of “undivided and uninterrupted attention.”

At first, nurses and managers were surprised that patients didn’t seem to notice the increased attention, even though real-time data revealed that nurses were abiding by their commitment to sit. They modified their approach; nurses were advised to ask patients, “Do you mind if I sit and talk with you?” before doing so. Later research revealed that asking the question drew patients’ attention to the nurses’ intervention – and that patient ratings of nurse attentiveness and communication increased by nearly 8%.

While it is relatively simple to make policies, it is another to actually drive meaningful clinical practice change. Innovative technology, such as the Clean Hands—Safe Hands electronic hand hygiene system, can provide real-time data needed to optimize workflow and enhance the patient experience.

 Because Clean Hands—Safe Hands technology automatically logs each time a staff member enters or leaves a room, the system can help administrators detect and correct workflow problems and improve the patient experience.

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