Make Hospital Staff Accountable for Patient Experience

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media , March 4, 2013

Re-Sensitize the Staff
Shifting a culture at an organization, or changing the pattern of any person's behavior, takes time. Here's how one hospital is tackling the problem.

Last week, Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, WV, launched an employee training session with the hospital's human resources department that focused on putting the 2,400 employees in the patient's shoes. The emphasis was on re-sensitizing the staff to the patient experience through simulation exercises. Cabell Huntington is a 303-bed academic medical center that serves a rural area of more than 29 counties, spanning West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

"We're in Appalachia, and we have a lot of folks who have less than a high school education, and there's significant poverty in our area. There's a lot of anxiety on the shoulders of our patients, and going into a healthcare environment really exacerbates that. So we really want our employees to think about the patient's clinical experience from their perspective," says Loree L. Holland, director of service excellence at Cabell Huntington.

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Holland joined Cabell Huntington four months ago to lead the movement toward patient-centered care. Her first focus was to shift the hospital's culture by setting up expectations in terms of behavior, and holding people accountable. The hospital culture is now finding a balance between clinical excellence and patient satisfaction

"Some folks will say she's a really good nurse, but she has poor communication skills. Well, it takes both to be here because most of our patients aren't clinically oriented. They don't have a way to measure whether something is of clinical excellence," says Holland.

"What they can relate to is whether someone is caring or compassionate, communicating with the patient and being proactive about their needs. If you have someone with great interpersonal skills, but they're having significant issues with quality, that is also an issue. You have to have the whole package to be successful and to provide an exceptional patient experience."

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