Doctors' Challenge: Boost Patient Satisfaction, Maintain Clinical Excellence

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , August 30, 2012

In essence, the health system is exploring ways to "improving care delivery across the continuum," says Alan Kaplan, MD, MMM, FACPE, FACHE/ VP and chief medical officer, Iowa Health System and President of Iowa Health Physicians.  In discussions with patients, physicians and nurses "ask if they have the help they need at home, and whether patients receive information on symptoms (about their conditions) to look for after they leave the hospital," Kaplan says.

After those conversations, the hospital compiles data on whether that communication was successful or whether "targets are not achieved or we are trending in the wrong direction," Kaplan adds.

In this month's Health Leaders Media Intelligence report, 54% of health leaders say HCAHPS is not an effective measure of patient experience. Although some health leaders I've spoken to aren't thrilled about HCAHPS, they find that the surveys are effective in pushing hospital systems in the right direction.

HCAHPS are but one of many data points that health systems are measuring for clinical and patient outcomes. As health systems evaluate all of them, they must decipher what is the best fit. 

"We have CMS, and they have certain metrics important to them. When we talk about ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations), each commercial insurer has their own sets of metrics, and then state Medicaid programs may come with their own set of metrics," says Kaplan.

Achieving good outcomes "has been a major focus for us, with all of our internal meetings, the meetings of the executive board and the meetings with community stakeholders," he says. "Ultimately, we need to deliver the service that matches our science."

Fox of Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital says sometimes it's that "moment in time" that makes all the difference in how a patient feels about the hospital experience, including relationships with physicians and nurses.

"For the patient, on average, they spend 3.7 days at a time in a hospital and may interact with 70 people, possibly," he says. "If one employee isn't doing a good job, or a physician, then the patient is going to go away probably with a good experience, but probably not an overwhelmingly great experience."

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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