Mystery Patients Lend Eye Opening Insight into Healthcare Operations

In the January 2, 2014 Hospital Impact blog, Jason A. Wolf, president of the Beryl Institute suggested that finding the greatest opportunities for excellence and improvement in the patient experience comes back to a willingness to constantly ask questions, try new things and avoid being lured in by promises of “best practices” or prepackaged solutions.

I found Jason’s comments interesting when thinking about why more healthcare organizations don’t try mystery shopping to take their service and patient satisfaction to the next level. Unlike other service industries that routinely use mystery shopping reports to increase customer satisfaction and retention, many healthcare leaders are reluctant to take advantage of this powerful decision-influencing tool. It’s sometimes perceived negatively as a “gotcha” program rather than a way to make factual observations or a way to assess performance against standards.

The mystery shopping report

Mystery shopping reports are produced by individuals who know how to think, speak, and behave like “real” patients. These individuals have fictitious but believable symptoms, complaints or needs. Sometimes a doctor or two is involved in the plan. As ER patients, outpatients and inpatients, or as callers scheduling appointments and making inquiries, the mystery shoppers inconspicuously take notes about their encounters and observations, and turn these notes into a clear and insightful first-hand account of their entire experience. Depending on what the organization wants to know about its operations, the compilation of these individual accounts plus associated questionnaire responses are then turned into detailed reports that:

The Mystery Shopping Report: An Invaluable Tool for Revealing the Patient’s Perspective

Today’s hospital leaders are devoting significant time and resources developing approaches to better understand the key drivers of the patient experience and create a culture of service excellence. They’ve encouraged and supported patient advisory councils, focus groups, patient experience committees and hourly rounds on patients. Their staff’s are instituting daily “huddles” to keep care teams informed and focused on patient service. They’re analyzing the costs versus the benefits of patient perks such as enhancing the physical environment and ambience, creating tasty meals, adding valet and concierge services, and extending visiting hours.

What many of these leaders are not doing, however, is taking advantage of a powerful tool that affords them an unmatched view of what patients liked and disliked during random investigations of the hospital. That tool is a mystery shopping reportdetailed compilations of individual experiences created by various incognito “patients” from the time of registration or admission all the way through to discharge.

Mystery shopping reports are produced by individuals who have received specialized training on how to think, speak, and behave like a patient. These individuals have fictitious but believable symptoms or complaints. Sometimes a doctor or two is involved in the plan.

Does your Nurse Recruitment Process Communicate the Right Messages to Qualified Applicants?

Long gone are the days when nursing applicants were the only ones that needed to create favorable first impressions during interviews.

With demand for qualified nurses exceeding supply, the tables have turned. Nowadays, qualified nursing applicants have many options when choosing where they want to spend their working hours. So, in order to attract “the best of the best,” your nurse recruitment team and processes must also impress potential applicants.

As always, nursing applicants want information about the job, the pay, and the benefits. But today’s applicants are looking beyond facts and figures to find the “right fit” when evaluating job options. Believe it or not, their initial impressions about a potential employer are often influenced by simple, subtle details such as how a staff member handles their calls, how long they’re made to wait for a response, and how communication is handled before, during and after an interview.

At all times, staff convey important messages about your organization’s culture, operations, and attitudes toward employees, physicians, patients or residents. Positive messages can influence potential applicants to choose your organization over a competitor’s.