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Hospitals are learning from the hotel and hospitality industry to improve patient experience

As the health care system continues its transformation, customer service and the patient experience are becoming increasingly important. Health systems are interested in improving patients’ perceptions of the care they receive, their interactions with hospital staff, and the hospital environment. Several startups have entered the market with products to help.

Docent Health, a Boston-based startup, is developing software and mobile applications to help health systems improve patient experience. While hospitals have long focused on the electronic health record, analytics, and ways to improve clinical care, Docent Health offers a technology platform to assist them in managing the nonclinical aspects of the patient experience. These include understanding the patient’s preferences, concerns, and goals to tailor the experience to the individual patient. One product the company offers is a “sentiment index” to capture patient satisfaction levels in real time, which may be more helpful than a survey done later.

Another company, Hospitality Quotient, offers services ranging from training hospital staff to feel more empathy for patients to a complete assessment of an organization’s culture with takeaways for building a stronger culture to improve patient experiences. Clockwise MD has an online tool for check-in and keeping patients informed of their expected wait time by text message. Finally, a company called Tagnos has a technology platform to handle hospital and health systems workflow and improved tracking of factors like room availability and supplies, to cut down on patient dissatisfaction when a room is not ready.

Analysis: Many factors are driving the trend toward investment in improving hospitality and patient experience: the need to stay competitive with other health systems, concern over nontraditional entrants into health care (such as retail clinics and telehealth firms), payment models that provide incentives for hospitals to improve patient experience, and the increasing influence of social media. In a recent Deloitte report, “The value of patient experience,” Deloitte researchers looked at several factors to determine how patient experience impacts health care organizations’ margins.

The researchers looked at scores from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), a publicly reported survey of patients’ perspectives of hospital care that looks at whether patients would recommend the facility to family and friends and nine different aspects of patient experience, including:

  • How well nurses and doctors communicate with patients
  • How responsive staff are
  • How well staff help patients manage pain
  • Whether key information is provided at discharge

After classifying hospitals as “excellent,” “moderate,” and “low” scorers with regard to patient experience, the researchers measured hospitals’ experience scores against their financial performance. The results showed a strong correlation between higher patient experience ratings and improved profitability. For example, between 2008 and 2014, hospitals with “excellent” overall patient experience ratings had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, compared with 1.8 percent for hospitals with “low” ratings. These findings also held true when the team ran a regression analysis to control for other factors that might contribute to hospitals’ profitability.

Given the market shift towards patient-centered care and renewed payer emphasis on patient experience as a core element of care quality, hospital and health system executives should consider investing in the tools and technologies necessary to better engage patients and enhance patient experience. Furthermore, although patient experience scores don’t always reflect clinical quality, these analyses suggest that the aspects of patient experience most closely associated with better care (such as communication with nurses) also have the strongest association with hospital and health system financial performance.

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Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.