Here’s why Hospitals should take Patient Feedback seriously

By Dr Swapnil Kharnare

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“The time has come to take the patient feedback seriously and use the data gathered to meet their expectations and cater to excellent care,” says Dr Swapnil Kharnare, Sr Manager Administration, P D Hinduja Hospital & MRC

 
 
 

For nearly all of history, the medical profession has measured its effectiveness largely by one metric: clinical outcomes. But today, the focus can’t be that narrow. Thanks to a combination of competitive market and current trends, there’s now an emphasis on tracking and improving not just patient outcomes but the entire human experience of being a patient.

What is excellent healthcare? In medicine we’ve long believed that “doctor knows best and patient needs to follow him/her diligently.” For healthcare providers, excellent healthcare is having competently performed a surgery or having used their medical knowledge to make life-saving diagnostic and treatment decisions.

Dr Swapnil Kharnare,   Sr Manager Administration, P D Hinduja Hospital & MRC

Dr Swapnil Kharnare,

Sr Manager Administration, P D Hinduja Hospital & MRC

But when we ask the patients how they define ‘excellence’. They have a very different response. They tell you that they don’t like to be kept waiting. They want a clinician who is willing to listen patiently, and to communicate clearly. They want to have a say in decisions made about their own health. The burden of “best care” is no more any single clinician’s responsibility. It is the sum of every interaction a patient has with the healthcare system. 

The ‘patient experience’ is formed by everyone who comes into contact with the patient along that journey, from front-desk receptionists, ward attendents to the nurses and doctors who provide direct care. Even the physical and virtual environments in which patient-provider touch points occur leave an impression. Opinions are formed by every variable, from the efficiency with which appointments are scheduled and completed to the quality of the technology employed to diagnose and treat the patient to the comfort and décor of the facilities where care is delivered.

Patients now expect the same sort of personalized, seamless interactions with their healthcare providers that they get from other organizations like the hotels, malls, retail stores, online retailers etc. Facilities that deliver disappointing patient experiences are four times more likely to have poor reputations than are those delivering good experiences.

Collecting Effective Feedback

The way to maximize the value of information through feedback is to collect it more rapidly. Earlier the better. Real-time data provides greater benefits, since feedback is relayed back to the concerned department / person within 24-72 hours of the healthcare experience by the patient. This data allows organizations to act on feedback with greater responsiveness, increasing provider engagement in patient care and enabling the improvement of existing practices. Hospitals use different modes to capture their patient feedback:

  • Handout Questionnaires / printed feedback forms - Distributing questionnaires in the waiting room is ideal, because most patients appreciate the distraction. Just remember to offer a box for patients to drop their questionnaires into once they’re complete.

  • Online Feedback Forms on Website - the feedback you receive might skew negative. Unhappy patients have higher motivation to use online forms, then those who’ve had an excellent experience. 

  • Interact with Patients on Social Media - One of the most important ways one can get customer feedback is to interact and engage with patients. Eg: Facebook , Twitter.

  • Call and Ask - Keep it brief, emphasise that you’re trying to improve customer service, and don’t do it more than quarterly.

  • Email Surveys After Appointments / discharge - Keep it short and simple, and you’ll find that most patients are happy to be asked for their opinions after an appointment / discharge. 

Advantages of patient feedback

The advantages of collecting patient feedback can be described under two main buckets- namely advantages for the patient and advantages for the hospital.

For the patients:

  1. Feedback provides an opportunity for the patients to give words to their voice in terms of appreciation for particular doctors or staff

  2. It gives them opportunity for raising complaints which need further action to be taken by the hospital.

  3. Patients feel appreciated as their concerns are noted and resolved in a reasonably short time.

  4. Attending to patient negative feedback in time by the hospital creates trust in patients and build a positive reputation for the hospital.

  5. It gives patients a voice, allows them to know their experience matters, and elevates the performance of everyone who is devoted to serving their needs.

For the hospital:

  1. Voice of customer is the reflection of overall hospital operations. Regular monitoring of the same helps to improve processes, making them more patient-friendly.

  2. Appreciations given by the patients to a hospital staff member or a particular department provides motivation to the staff and increases employee satisfaction.

  3. Feedback analysis helps the hospital administrators in keeping track and analyzing the hospital performance at the most granular level.

  4. Feedback creates a culture of open communication and continuous improvement in the hospital.

  5. Patient feedback is great for understanding where you stand in comparison to other hospitals. One can also use feedback as a benchmark to assess improvements over time.

  6. When feedback from patients is used to improve the patient experience, you increase the chances of patients returning to you instead of switching to other providers.

  7. It is only a matter of time that like in the West, insurance payers, will increasingly use the patient experience as a metric to determine quality of care from a healthcare provider.

  8. Patients satisfied with their care are more likely to build a stronger relationship with their providers – and return. It helps to improve patient retention and reduce patient leakage.

  9. A positive online feedback can help hospital attract new patients. The opposite is also true: A negative one can deter prospective patients from entrusting your hospital with their health.

‘Patient Feedback’ thus has become critical for all hospitals as it helps the healthcare providers to understand what they are providing and how their patients perceive them. If you don’t know what your patients are thinking, feeling, wanting, or needing, virtually every business decision you make can be pure speculation. Addressing this gap, in turn, has become vital to improve the patient satisfaction and quality of care— and ultimately aid in acquisition of new patient and their retention. Once all of this is working in a virtuous cycle, healthcare practices will see increased revenue and growth.

‘Good Patient Experience’ and ‘Good Clinical Quality’ go hand-in-hand. Hence to stay relevant in today’s competitive world of healthcare all hospitals will have to take the patients and their feedback seriously to improve quality care and focus on getting feedback onboard an effective model to collect maximum of these.