According to a University of California study, there is significant risk sustained by patients due to “misunderstanding, forgetting, or ignoring healthcare advice.” In some disease conditions, that number could be as high as 40 percent of patients. Mitigating these risks involves several factors including better assessment of patient knowledge and clear communication between the patient and the provider.
How do you improve assessment and communication?
By creating an environment that fosters communication and listening as well as face-to face interaction, healthcare facilities and providers can better gauge reactions, posture and other non-verbal cues and communication to assess the patients’ understanding and acceptance of advice and instructions. Patients, as part of this now-two-way communication, feel more understood and enjoy more positive interactions with their provider and an overall better experience of care. As a result, patients are more likely to adhere to medical advice and treatment plans.
According to the study “Mutual collaboration fosters greater patient satisfaction, reduces the risks of nonadherence, and improves patients’ healthcare outcomes.” Focusing on the patient, instead of the computer screen, enables superior care delivery, improves the patient experience, and builds a long- lasting patient/provider relationship.
The Importance of Improved Patient Experience
Why the great emphasis on patient experience? There is increasing evidence that links the quality of the patient experience and greater patient involvement to both clinical and business outcomes. Additionally, many contracting groups, such as insurers and state agencies, are now tying compensation, certification and recognition programs to the survey results. As a result, more pressure is being placed upon healthcare systems to “find ways to become more patient-centered.”
The CAHPS® Ambulatory Care Improvement Guide is published by the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ), a division of the US Department of Health & Human Services and is made available to the public. The Guide is designed to help healthcare providers and their staff develop strategies to improve in areas of weakness as identified by the CAHPS surveys given to healthcare consumers. While the guide is focused on clinic and ambulatory centers that have a minimum of two providers, many of the areas of improvement discussed are relevant to facilities across the entire continuum of healthcare.
The majority of questions in the CAHPS Clinician & Group Survey assess patients’ experience based on their interaction with their provider and the provider’s office staff. Five of the survey questions are specific to the clinical communication between the provider and the patient.
The Business Case for Improving the Patient Experience
Improving the patient experience is not only important to deliver better care outcomes, but it is also crucial in the current changing healthcare environment where individuals are transforming from patients to educated healthcare consumers. As this transition continues, healthcare organizations, much like businesses in other industries, must strive for high levels of customer satisfaction to achieve growth and profitability. There are a number of ways where a poor patient experience can negatively impact the top and bottom lines of a healthcare organization.
Healthcare practices and providers whose patient-reported satisfaction scores are low have a greater risk of being hit with malpractice lawsuits. In fact, a 2009 study shows that a “minimum satisfaction score was significantly associated with malpractice activity.” Improving satisfaction, through better communication and patient-provider relationships can help reduce the risk of costly malpractice lawsuits that can drain resources and detract from care provided to patients.
As in any business, unhappy front-line staff in a healthcare organization can seriously affect the care provided to customers – in this case, patients. Turnover due to burnout, physical pain or discomfort, or overall dissatisfaction not only costs the healthcare industries billions of dollars each year and can cost individual facilities thousands of dollars annually, but can also affect the way patients are treated. Physicians are under pressure to see more patients, bill more hours, and complete more and more paperwork outside of appointment times while nurses are often asked to take on more healthcare tasks and their own data entry. Streamlining the paperwork as well as solving ergonomic issues associated with data entry in the EMR is one way to improve practitioner satisfaction, reduce turnover and provide better care.
Patients have choices and often, they choose to keep or change providers based on their experience in the exam room. In additional to a physician knowledge of the patient and medicine, communication and personal interaction is key to the perception of care a patient feels they are receiving. If a provider’s back is constantly turned to enter data into an EMR, the patient is likely to feel ignored while the providers may end up missing key physical communication cues. Unfortunately, ignoring the importance of these interactions can have negative effects on the bottom line. One study found patients reporting the poorest-quality relationships with their physicians were three times more likely to voluntarily leave the physician’s practice than patients with the highest-quality relationships. Creating the critical personal connection between healthcare providers and patients during an exam is essential to improving patient trust and satisfaction and improving patient loyalty.
Designing for better communication
There are numerous ways to improve patient and provider satisfaction. But one method appears to effectively and simply improve the relationship between patients and providers – design the exam room to enable face-to-face doctor/patient engagement.
StableRise’s “consultative furniture” is designed to facilitate positive interaction and enhanced communication between patients and providers. The Pull & Swivel feature of the StableRise workstation enables the healthcare provider to remain patient-facing during the patient encounter for better eye contact, nonverbal communication and interpersonal social cues.
The amount of time the provider spends focused on the patient instead of the computer screen enables superior care delivery, improved patient experience, and builds a long- lasting patient/provider relationship. StableRise provides superior ergonomics in both sitting and standing, mitigating the risk of developing back pain or other musculoskeletal disorder from awkward positions while charting in the EMR which can contribute to physician and nurse burnout and provider turnover.
Improving the patient experience is critical both to enable better care outcomes and to maintain financial viability for the organization. Proper design of the exam room using the StableRise workstation and other products that encourage effective communication is one way to ensure a better patient experience.