Focusing on and improving the right aspects of patient engagement: Part 3

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By Andy Roth

Part 3

In the past few years, patient engagement has come more and more into the spotlight as hospitals and other healthcare organizations look to improve their patient retention, their CAHPS scores, and their online reputations. It’s true that patient engagement is a vital piece of any organization’s growth strategy. Before throwing resources at ill-advised patient engagement initiatives, however, organizations should take some time to think through a scalable, sensible strategy for addressing patient concerns.

In this series, we’re taking a look at three areas hospitals can focus on to improve patient engagement — intake, nurses, and doctors — and finishing with an examination of how monitor and track patient engagement so it can be changed for the better.

Last time, we discussed the role nurses play in patient experience. Today, we continue with… doctors!

Doctors might not be responsible for a patient’s first impression of their care, and they might not be the provider patients see the most, but doctors make more of an impact on a patient’s experience than intake, nurses, or any other factor. The reasons for this are many — doctors are the drivers of a patient’s course of treatment, and they are given respect and authority by those around them, just to name a few. As a result, a doctor’s influence is enormous despite having less overall face time with the patient than nurses.

So doctors have a lot of power to move the patient experience needle. They can ensure they’re affecting it positively by self-reflecting and answering some questions honestly and objectively. Are they zooming through patient visits, or are they actually spending adequate time with patients? Note: “adequate” doesn’t mean spending a ton of time. It’s not about quantity of time spent, but quality of time spent.

  • Courtesy is paramount for your staff, and especially for doctors — they’re always the “expert in the room.” Patients don’t want to be talked down to, they want to feel like they’re in good, caring hands.
  • Sharing information and updates about a patient’s status is vital. Constant communication is important. This doesn’t just mean doctor-patient communication — doctors must update nurses and other doctors as well. Having a patient’s entire medical team be on the same page is a huge boost to that patient’s confidence; conversely, mixed messaging from the medical team can ruin that confidence.
  • Sharing information and updates about a patient’s status is vital. Constant communication is important. This doesn’t just mean doctor-patient communication — doctors must update nurses and other doctors as well. Having a patient’s entire medical team be on the same page is a huge boost to that patient’s confidence; conversely, mixed messaging from the medical team can ruin that confidence.
  • Non-verbal communication is more important than many doctors realize. Sit down when speaking to patients. It shows a commitment to taking whatever amount of time is necessary to address a patient’s issues (again, this doesn’t mean a long time, necessarily). A friendly smile and a comforting hand on a shoulder can also go a long way.
  • Many of the terms doctors need to use are technical, but jargon should be avoided where possible. It’s alienating to the patient, and the opposite of comforting.

How can management help doctors achieve these improvements? First and foremost, give the doctors context for the changes they’re being asked to make. Don’t just tell them to “be nicer,” explain why making these changes are important for them and for the organization as a whole.

And how does management set up these goals and truly help their doctors? In order to set goals and track progress, a constant flow of feedback is necessary. The only people who can tell you about your patient experience are… your patients! At Feedtrail, we’ve built a patient engagement tool that allows you to quickly and easily solicit patient feedback, analyze the data, and then use that patient data to effect positive and productive change in your organization. If you’d like to learn more about our solution, we’d be delighted to talk to you.

Part 4: Final examination, will be published next Thursday.