News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel

News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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Even as Patient Satisfaction Surveys Grow in Importance, Hospitals, Physicians, and Clinical Laboratories Struggle to Use That Data to Improve the Patient Experience

Experts point to the challenges: not only is there a lack of consensus in how to best measure patient satisfaction, but there are also different opinions as to what are the right steps providers should take to improve the patient experience

In today’s healthcare industry, “Patient Satisfaction” is high on the list of phrases likely to be heard in any medical facility, including in pathology groups and clinical laboratories. With recent and ongoing changes to the way that providers are paid, patient satisfaction as a measure of quality will only gain in importance.

But if there is consensus that it is important to monitor patient satisfaction and use that data to guide efforts to improve how patients view their care, there is certainly no consensus on the most effective ways to measure patient satisfaction. Nor is there much consensus on how providers, including medical laboratories, should use patient satisfaction data to improve the patient experience.

This challenge is addressed by Deirdre Mylod, PhD, who pointed out in a PatientEngagementHIT article, “The exercise is not to make consumers happy. The exercise is to reduce patient suffering.” Mylod is Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation, a nonprofit research collaborative that publishes relevant and practical findings concerning patient satisfaction that help healthcare organizations deliver better care. (more…)

Hospital Laboratories Pursue Higher Patient Satisfaction Scores with Innovative Services

American Society of Clinical Pathology recognizes top-performing clinical pathology labs

When it comes to patient satisfaction rankings in hospitals, the clinical pathology laboratory is often ranked at the very bottom of the 10 clinical service categories measured by patient survey systems such as Press Ganey Associates. This bottom-tier ranking is undeserved, but happens for a logical reason.

For most patients, their only interaction with the hospital’s laboratory is when a phlebotomist sticks them with a needle to collect blood. Most patients find needle sticks to be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Further, a significant number of patients are afraid of needles.


WellPoint Uses Zagat Survey So Patients Can Rate Their Doctors

As out-of-pocket costs for health care rise, consumers are motivated to manage their own care and insurers are providing them tools to make the job easier. The latest innovation, which is available exclusively to WellPoint and North Carolina Blues plan members, is a consumer rating system from Zagat that helps people shop for doctors.

This interesting new development was recently the subject of a detailed intelligence briefing in April 6, 2009 issue of The Dark Report. The Zagat Health Survey is designed to be both doctor friendly and easy for patients to use. It does not address physician quality. Rather, it offers a snapshot of individual physicians-based on criteria that impact the consumer experience. Clinical laboratory managers and pathologists will eventually need to respond to this trend. That’s because, as it becomes more common for consumers to rate providers, health plans will begin asking their beneficiaries to rate the service they received from medical laboratory test providers.

Patients are asked to rate a physician on four criteria, using a scale of 0 to 3, with 3 being excellent. Zagat then averages consumer scores for a physician and multiplies by 10 to create the familiar Zagat 0-30 number ratings. Reviewers are also asked if they would recommend the doctor to other plan members.


Survey Shows Most Wired Hospitals Have Better Outcomes, Lower Mortality Rates

Hospitals that invest in health information technology (HIT) have better outcomes, better risk-adjusted mortality rates, and higher patient satisfaction scores than other hospitals that do not make such investments, according to a recent survey.

Interestingly, the researchers did not establish a direct causal relationship between technology and outcomes. Instead, investment in information technology accompanies other hospital efforts to improve processes and patient care, explained Lydon Neumann, senior executive at Accenture LLC , a consulting firm that assisted in the survey, the Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study.

“Most wired hospitals excel in many ways but a strong investment in and commitment to information technology are characteristic of leaders who are looking at all of the elements needed to be a high-performing organization,” Neumann explained.

Hospitals & Health Networks magazine , the journal of the American Hospital Association, in Chicago, has done the survey annually for 10 years. HHN uses the results to name the 100 most wired hospitals and health systems. This year, 556 hospitals and health systems completed the survey, representing 1,327 hospitals.

HHN conducted the survey in cooperation with Accenture, McKesson Corp., and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. For the survey, hospitals report on how they use information technology to address five key areas:

1. Safety and quality

2. Customer service

3. Business processes

4. Workforce, and

5. Public health and safety.

“Quality and satisfaction are often tied to key initiatives and goals that hospitals are striving toward through the use of technology and process improvement,” explained Merrie Wallace, R.N., vice president and solution line manager for McKesson Provider Technologies. “The most successful hospitals use technology as part of an overall strategy and achieve significant results. Those that just deploy technology for technology’s sake don’t see these types of results.”

Only six institutions have earned the designation “most wired” every year for the 10 years that the magazine has done the survey. They are:

1. Avera Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.

2. Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center

3. MeritCare Health System, Fargo, N.D.

4. Partners HealthCare, Boston

5. Sharp HealthCare, San Diego

6. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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How Some Hospitals Strive to Achieve the Acme of Customer Satisfaction

In recent years, we’ve written plenty about one major change in how hospitals and other healthcare organizations undergo accreditation. That is the requirement that: 1) hospitals measure patient satisfaction; 2) that hospitals develop a plan to improve patient satisfaction; and, 3) that by the next inspection, the hospital or healthcare organization demonstrate measurable improvement because of that plan.

This shift in what an accreditation inspection measures is consistent with the goals of employers and Medicare to improve the quality of care, boost patient safety, and, because of better outcomes, lower the cost of care. Hospital-based laboratories and pathology groups have watched their parent institutions take the baby steps needed to survey patient satisfaction and then actively work to improve service.

Now the outcomes from this effort are starting to attract attention. Just a few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal published an article detailing how hospitals nationwide are using patient satisfaction surveys to expose problems with they way they do business and get suggestions for how they can improve. A survey conducted by Michigan-based hospital chain Spectrum Health in 2004 revealed that staff members were given low marks for helpfulness and attitude towards visitors. It was also learned that patients and their families felt ill-informed about their in-hospital treatment and weren’t given good instructions about how to care for themselves once they went home.

Spectrum took its survey results to heart. It adopted a family-centered health care model, creating a patient and family advisory council to help shape hospital policy. Hospitals conducting patient surveys have found many ways to improve patient care, such as eliminating visiting hours, sending apologies such as flowers or candy to disgruntled patients, having DVD players in waiting rooms, and issuing $25 gas cards to compensate patients for long wait times that required them to return on another day for a test or procedure. Try Googling “Hospital Satisfaction Survey” to see how dozens of hospitals and health systems are conducting on-line patient satisfaction surveys.

Don’t forget that this is also the first year that hospitals will be required to participate in the federal government’s satisfaction survey program to receive full reimbursement from Medicare. The results of patient surveys will be posted on the government’s Hospital Compare Web site. First results are expected to appear on the Web site later this year. It will be the first time that Medicare patients can see how patients ranked their hospitals.

By the way, some of the nation’s most progressive laboratory organizations are already deeply-engaged in measuring patient satisfaction, then using that information to improve and refine their services. During the May 2006 Executive War College, careful listeners in the audience heard a number of case study speakers describe how their laboratories considered improving measured patient satisfaction to be a major strategic goal. Collectively, this is a trend that will raise the competitive bar in the marketplace. That means competitive advantage to laboratories using this tool.

Related Articles:

Patient Satisfaction Surveys Prompting Hospitals To Improve Patient Experiences

If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently
PS: Hospital measurement of patient satisfaction is about to impact another important laboratory service: phlebotomy. In an upcoming Dark Daily, we will share with you how and why hospital administrators are starting to pay attention to phlebotomy services, with an eye to improving them. It’s an unlikely turn of events for a service that been too often underappreciated!