There are many things that go into making or breaking patient satisfaction improvements in the health care industry.  This is sort of a tricky area, especially when compared to many other industries and businesses that don’t work under the pressure of someone’s health and livelihood as part of their satisfaction criteria.  So what are some of the differences that separate the satisfaction levels between health care and other trades?

Patient satisfaction needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because there are no absolutes in health care or anywhere.  Anyone that would try to sell you something different is someone to be avoided.  But, you shouldn’t be overly critical because there isn’t a perfect 10 when you can’t satisfy everyone with everything at every moment.  Some foundational aspects to build upon aren’t always what and where you expect, but add just the right amount of patient support to make the difference in their experience.

A Smile Goes a Long Ways

A hospital or clinic can feel like a very sterile and serine at times, but this is more of a reason to make sure that all health care professionals take the time to recognize patients in the hallway, acknowledge family of patients, even making sure things like vending machines are well stocked and public restrooms are tidy.  This all may sound self-explanatory, but there are stories after stories of patients being bumped in the hallway because they were walking too slowly, or visiting families being subjected to loud conversations outside patient’s rooms.  Being aware of patients in all circumstances will pay off dividends in the patient’s experience.

Walk a Mile in a Patient’s Shoes

When you’ve worked a long time at a job, you know the in’s and out’s, the paint color of every wall, and the best time to take the elevator to the top floor.  However, most patients don’t spend that much time in health care facilities, unless necessary, thus they don’t know the best route to take to different departments.  To walk the paths throughout the hospital, especially paying attention to the signs, and do it through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know all the nuances and may also point out flaws or outdated information presented at the facility that causes confusion to patients.  Dedication to this ideal will go a long way to preventing problematic situations and thus helping patient satisfaction.

Pride of Ownership, Not Just a Cog in the Machine

Everyone has their own roles and responsibilities, and without everyone doing what they should, the system wouldn’t run smoothly.  Sometimes, though, it is difficult to be proud of where you are within that system, and the hierarchy tends to squash the pride of those that are doing their best but aren’t king of their hill.  Every role is essential, and should be looked upon as such.  A few organizations have gone as far as to do role changes so that employees and professionals are more aware of the other’s part in the system.  Obviously, there aren’t responsibilities that can be taken over, but sometimes seeing the pressures can help everyone understand how important every single person is.

Swallow Your Pride and Say, “Sorry”

Just like in marriage, admitting you were wrong and apologizing can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.  The same exists feelings can also exist in the healthcare industry, especially when professionals are doing all they can, but it may not be enough, or may not be what the patient needed.  One of the quickest ways to lose confidence from a patient is to speak down to them and be defensive in your speech.  A patient usually isn’t looking for someone to blame, but just someone to be compassionate.  The simple phrase, “I’m sorry” goes a long way to helping a patient to feel empathy. 

Complaint After Complaint After Complaint

In the service industry, there are always going to be complaints.  In the healthcare industry, you are dealing with so much on the line, and so many emotions from patients and family members, that it can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back when someone comes up to complain about one thing or another.  Patients and family may not know who the best person is to take their complaint to may be, so it is vital that when a concern is presented that every employee is able to either address the problem or find the person who can aid in that situation.  The most important factor is that the person presenting the complaint feels like action will happen, rather than being pushed off and nothing will be addressed.

No Blame-Games

Everyone makes mistakes, and an environment that can be fast-paced, stressful, competitive, and overwhelming, there has to be area for forgiveness, but also area to see if there is something wrong within the system.  A single mistake may be as simple as not following through, or any number of other aspects.  However, when there are repeated mistakes, this might be an indicator of something beyond that of the individuals performing their duties, and thus a serious look at the processes behind the action/mistake must be looked at.  As improvements to the system and those involved in it are made, the better the outcomes with patients will be, which will also be beneficial to patient satisfaction improvements.

Not One Factor But All of Them

When looking to improve, it is necessary to not focus on just one item, but to look at the foundations that make up patient satisfaction levels.  If the only thing that was needed to make a difference was to smile all the time, every hospital and facility could easily implement this and everyone would be happy.  But, every patient is different, the care needs are different, the health care staff has different personalities, and everything combines to require much more than a single-focused program.  Each organization is going to be unique with their patient satisfaction programs due to all these and many other factors.

Comparing the Competition

When comparing successes and satisfaction levels within the health care industry, you really are comparing yourself to another health care’s organization, whether that be in a neighboring city or across the country, and this can be absolutely frustrating, because no health care organization sees the exact same number of people with the exact same type of cases with the same complexities or comorbidity factors.  Obviously, some generalizations can be made, basic standards are the same, and expectations can be roughly the same.  There is a level of competition that is healthy, but striving for patient satisfaction improvement doesn’t mean you beat yourself up when you aren’t ranking as high as another health care organization, but find ways to make the improvements, like listed above, and work as an organization to be better.

This is a very simplistic list and doesn’t include meeting regulations that are set by the government and other stockholders, but it is a launching point for conversations, and a means for bettering in some quick and easy steps.  Patient satisfaction improvements are possible in any organization, and this expectation has now become standard for all health care facilities and professionals. 


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