Devon Hill Associates provides healthcare mystery shopping services

It’s great that hospital leaders, managers and staff are doing more rounding on patients. No doubt, rounding helps staff understand their patients better and helps patients understand what’s happening to them and why. But rounding doesn’t always identify what patients or their families are thinking and feeling about the staff, systems and procedures they encounter. Things that your staff might consider trivial may actually create distress and dissatisfaction among others.

Over the many years that we’ve been mystery shopping in hospital Emergency and Outpatient Departments, and on the floors as inpatients, we’ve been able to detect certain “little things” that tend to occur frequently and make patients and families feel disrespected, dissatisfied or unimportant. What follows are the most common:

  1. Lack of response at admitting and registration desks.
    This happens when patients arrive at the admitting or registration areas and stand in front of the clerk without acknowledgement. This makes patients feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. It also causes registration and admitting clerks to miss opportunities to set a positive tone for the entire patient experience.
  1. Behaving in ways that make patients feel more like numbers than humans.
    Asking for identification, a social security number or date of birth before asking why the patient is there or what is wrong is a major cause of patient dissatisfaction. Here is how one incognito patient described this experience: “The first question was not, ‘What is your problem?’ or ‘How can I help you?’ It was, ‘Do you have a photo ID?’ and then, ‘What are your symptoms?’” This type of scenario presents another missed opportunity for staff to start friendly, stay friendly and end friendly and create a more positive patient experience.
  1. Getting down to business without first engaging patients at a more personal level.
    When staff arrive in the room, they jump right in and start performing their functions without greeting the patient, introducing themselves or their roles, or explaining what they’re about to do or how they’re going to do it. This enhances a patient’s sense of uncertainty and keeps the patient wondering what’s going to happen next and when. It also causes staff to miss opportunities to alleviate stress and anxiety among patients and their families and create a more comfortable patient experience.
  1. When staff pay more attention to each other than to their patients.
    This can take on many forms such as staff chatting or laughing at the nurses’ station, or sidebar communications or joking with other staff members in the room while treating patients. This behavior often leaves patients or family members feeling irritated and sometimes, even angry. It also represents a missed opportunity for staff to engage patients and their families during treatment so they feel included and important.

We run into other types of “little things” that bother patients and make a huge difference in their perceptions of their experiences. For example, we’re always struck by the number of times that staff members leave ER treatment rooms without offering comfort items such as blankets or pillows or providing the patient with a call bell or a way to summon assistance. Other situations that appear to be “little things” occur when patients are left in treatment or waiting rooms with little to communication or feedback by staff, or arrive in their rooms on the floors and there is no one there to greet or welcome them.

Patient satisfaction requires more that good clinical care

Good clinical care is certainly important; however it doesn’t always win the hearts of patients or their families. Good clinical care rarely creates memorable experiences, either. Because patients and their families often cannot identify the specifics of quality clinical care, what makes a lasting impression on most is the way they are treated. Patients want to be treated with kindness, courtesy and caring and they understand when they are. When they don’t get this, patient satisfaction scores suffer.

If you’re interested in identifying situations in which your staff may not be meeting the emotional needs of patients or providing the quality patient care you and your patients expect, contact Devon Hill Associates today at 858-456-7800 or fill out the inquiry form on our website.