Saint Michael’s Hospital: Improving Patient Satisfaction

Saint Michael’s Hospital, located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin is a 181-bed hospital with more than 200 physicians on its medical staff. The hospital is a part of the Ministry Health Care network of hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, home care agencies, dialysis clinics and other programs and services that care for residents of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Patient satisfaction is a top priority at Saint Michael’s Hospital. Service is at the center of the Ministry’s mission, but recent patient satisfaction scores in a few areas were not acceptable to management. The hospital looked to mystery shopping to provide a “fresh pair of eye” and an objective, unbiased evaluation of service in the “problem” areas. Devon Hill Associates was engaged to provide feedback and an analysis of the experiences of incognito patients who visited the Emergency Department and several clinical outpatient departments.

To begin the mystery shopping process, Barbara Gerber, President of Devon Hill Associates, met with the executive team and then presented the program to the Directors’ group at one of their monthly meetings. The directors, in turn, communicated information about the program to their respective staffs. Although there were some directors, employees, and physicians who did not embrace the concept of mystery shopping, the Vice President of Patient Services and the Director of the Emergency Department welcomed it as a way to enhance the hospital’s patient care.

Once all of the calls and visits were completed and the comprehensive report of findings was submitted to management, key issues were identified. The Vice President of Patient Services and the Emergency Department Director took immediate action in response to the findings, focusing their energies on the Emergency Department.

The mystery shopping project was a catalyst for a number of significant satisfaction initiatives which led to positive changes in the Emergency Department, including:

  • Telephone call backs to patients by nurses and physicians.
  • Thank-you cards to patients, which included the names of the nurse, paramedic, and doctor who took care of them.
  • Scripting for what should be said at admission and discharge, as well as every time a staff member enters a patient’s cubicle.
  • Thirty-minute checks on every patient.
  • Changes in policy regarding who could accompany certain patients to Ultrasound.
  • Changes and additions to staff. (Personnel were added on selected shifts in order to ensure the desired emotional support to patients.)
  • Televisions added to patient cubicles.
  • More frequent rounding on patients by the ED Director in order to identify and correct incipient issues or problems with care.
  • Weekly reports to ED staff and other care providers regarding patient complaints and comments about their care, as well as recognition and thanks to the staff for good ideas and good care.

A mature volunteer was also engaged to make frequent rounds on patients and family members in order to provide the “little things” that make patients comfortable.

When asked what they would like to have done differently during the mystery shopping project, the ED Director and the VP of Patient Services indicated that they would have spent additional time communicating the positive goals of the mystery shopping program to all employees. They said they would have also integrated the mystery shopping results into hospital-wide strategies and decision-making about patient satisfaction.

As for the effectiveness of the mystery shopping assessment, the Vice President of Patient Services commented, “I wouldn’t think twice about doing it again,” while the ED Director said that she would “do it again in a heartbeat.”

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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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