Moving From a Provider- to Patient-Centric Culture in 7 Steps

Patient experience is about more than customer service and a hotel-like atmosphere — it's about addressing all factors of patient suffering, including the physical, psychological and social challenges patients face. To improve patient experience, hospitals need to create a patient-centered culture founded in principles of compassion, service and high quality. Christy Dempsey, Chief Nursing Officer of Press Ganey, shares seven steps on the road to a patient-centered culture and enhanced patient experience.

Christy Dempsey21. Senior leadership, including the board, understands that providing a reliably positive patient experience is just as important as providing reliably high-quality clinical care. "Just like we want to have highly reliable clinical quality, we want to have a highly reliable patient experience; both are important," Ms. Dempsey says.

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2. Hospital leaders demonstrate their commitment to patient experience in the mission, vision and values of the organization. The hospital's strategic plan should include objectives and tactics around improving patient experience.

3. Managers understand why culture change is necessary. Senior leaders should explain to mid-level leaders, including directors and managers, why a culture change is necessary. Beyond the impact on patients' care and well-being, senior leaders can cite the Value-Based Purchasing program, regulatory reform and competition for patient volume as reasons to focus on patient experience.

4. Leaders have the tools to instigate change. Managers need leadership development tools to help them guide staff in changing their behavior. Strategies for sharing best practices, gaining buy-in and developing benchmarks can help managers ensure their staff is meeting patient-centered goals, according to Ms. Dempsey.

5. Front-line staff understand why they have to change practices. Just as senior leaders should provide a rationale to managers, managers need to explain to front-line staff why they need to change their processes and why patient experience is important. "Front-line staff have to understand the rationale so when you're asking them to do bedside shift reports and to round purposefully every hour, it's not just one more thing for them to do," Ms. Dempsey says.

6. Front-line staff have the tools needed to change practices. Front-line staff cannot be part of the change to a patient-centered culture if they do not have the resources to change their behavior. Hospital leaders should provide tools, such as scripts, defined competencies and other communication strategies, to create standardized best practices that "become part of the fabric of how they provide care every day," Ms. Dempsey says.

Importantly, staff need to receive formal, ongoing training for a patient-centered culture to sustain itself over time, according to Ms. Dempsey. Elevating patient-centered care to the importance of clinical care in a hospital means employees and leaders should participate in training and retraining exercises the same way they do for clinical skills. "Many hospitals have skill fairs where clinical practices are demonstrated so that good clinical quality is highly reliable. We should expect nothing less for patient experience," she says.

7. Leaders and staff listen to patients. One of the most important aspects of a patient-centric culture is listening and responding to patients. When patients feel their voice is heard and acted on, they feel more engaged in their care, more empowered and more satisfied. One way to ensure every patient's voice is heard is to use electronic census-based surveying in addition to the HCAHPS mandated phone or mail survey.

Culture change and sustainable success
Culture change in any organization depends on strong leadership from the top. By establishing a mission, a vision and values based on patient-centered care and communicating this strategy throughout the organization, hospital leaders can rally everyone around a common goal. Providing the tools to reach these goals empowers leaders and staff and moves the strategy from the planning stage to execution. "Only when we do these things will we truly change the culture to a patient-centered culture and achieve the sustainable success we're looking for," Ms. Dempsey says.

More Articles on Patient-Centered Care:

How to Avoid "Teaching to the Test" for HCAHPS Score Improvement
Survey: Health Coach Training May Improve Patient Engagement
How and Why Emotional Intelligence is Affecting Hospitals' Bottom Lines

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