A Midwestern Hospital: A Statistically Significant Increase in Patient Satisfaction Scores
The area’s significant economic distress, a too small and, at times, overwhelmed Emergency Department, plus the diversity of a Midwestern public hospital’s patient culture led to an erosion of the hospital’s customer service and resulted in behavioral, communications, and systems challenges. Hospital patient satisfaction scores were heading down rather than up. The hospital chose mystery shopping to help identify specific opportunities for improvement.
Committed to delivering quality service to every patient in spite of its environmental challenges, hospital management engaged Devon Hill Associates to undertake an objective mystery shopping evaluation of its Emergency Department and two inpatient units.
To begin the mystery shopping process, the hospital announced the mystery shopping project to its directors and managers. Next, Barbara Gerber, President of Devon Hill Associates, presented the program to the directors’ and managers’ group at one of their monthly meetings. The management group, in turn, was expected to communicate information about the program to their respective staffs.
Once the visits were completed, detailed reports of key findings for the Emergency Department and two inpatient units were submitted to the hospital. Based on these reports, which included descriptions of the experiences of each individual secret patient, the hospital developed training videos to create awareness of some of the most egregious findings from the mystery shopping experiences. According to the hospital’s coordinator for the project, during the video production, one of the exercises that was most helpful to hospital managers was to actually go through all of the report documentation and pick out the scenes that could be put into the video. She commented that “having to get into the details of each experience made everyone acutely aware of how much work needed to be done.”
Once the videos were completed, management mandated that all departments, including non-patient care areas, watch the videos and create their own department-appropriate action plans to address the major findings. All of these plans were then submitted to the departments’ respective vice presidents and on-going implementation and monitoring were required.
As a result of the mystery shopping and the subsequent actions that were taken, plus some unrelated activities, the hospital experienced a statistically significant increase in their patient satisfaction scores. According to the project coordinator: “The increase in satisfaction scores probably can’t be attributed only to the mystery shopping, but I’m confident that the additional focus we created has helped to keep everyone’s attention on patient satisfaction.”
Although not directly connected to the mystery shopping project, after the submission of the report, the board approved the hospital´s plan to expand their Emergency Department.
Devon Hill Associates is a mystery shopping, marketing and sales training company that focuses on the healthcare and long-term care industries. We specialize in mystery shopping for hospitals, HMOs, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living and retirement communities nationwide. Devon Hill Associates is located in La Jolla, California. For information on mystery shopping and other services, call 1-858-456-7800.
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