How Great Patient Satisfaction Metrics Can Be Achieved in a Regional Medical Center
By guest contributor Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center
With the major shift to value-based care sweeping across the U.S. landscape, healthcare organizations are looking for ways to significantly improve their patient satisfaction metrics. We’ve been able to do just that at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center by creating a culture of patient-centered excellence. But our success didn’t happen overnight.
For us, the journey to improve patient satisfaction started way back in 2000. That’s when I joined Thibodaux Regional Medical Center as their CEO. I realized we needed to have a vision for our medical center that our people could relate to. But not just any vision. It needed to be something compelling enough that our people would get in line to help create because they believed in it. This led to many discussions with the executive team as we worked to figure out exactly why we were here and what our role in the community would be as we headed into the future.
Our answer: patient-centered excellence in all areas of care
Patient-centered excellence was our answer. But we knew it wasn’t just about offering patient-centered clinical excellence because if we only focused on the clinical aspect of care, we’d end up compartmentalizing our efforts. Instead, excellence needed to apply to all areas of our organization, from research to finance to human resources to every other department at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.
We came up the following three key promises to our patients that would become the heart and soul of our operations:
- We’d provide great clinical care.
- We’d provide great emotional care.
- We’d invest in great technology and processes.
But before we could move forward with this vision, everyone across the system also needed to buy into the same vision. We also knew we would be dealing with some opposition to our efforts, both internally and externally, because not everyone would believe that we could make such significant changes. We’re just a small community hospital after all.
Rather than focus on any external opposition, though, we chose to cut that conversation off and focus on what did have control over—ourselves.
Focusing on our circle of control
We already had good patient satisfaction metrics, and as a young CEO at that time, I was pleased when our metrics were a little north or south of the national average. In hindsight, that was a big mistake because once I started to dig into the data, I could see all the opportunities for improvements. The data was a real eye-opener!
After realizing how much we could improve, we then challenged ourselves to perform at the highest level—but not just in comparison to similar health systems. Instead, we compared ourselves to organizations with some of the top numbers for satisfaction metrics, for example, health systems like Cleveland Clinic and Scottsdale Healthcare. And then we started to figure out how to close the gap between them and us.
Closing the gap and going from good to great
Becoming a great hospital doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and commitment to transform an entire culture. For us, the following three components have played a critical role helping us to go from good to great. They also highlight what we’ve focused on to close the gap with other health systems that rank high for patient satisfaction.
- We connect our peoples’ values with our behavioral values.Our behavioral standards include respect, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. They are very important to us, so important, in fact, that we hold our employees accountable for living up to our behavioral standards during the workday. There have been a few people that weren’t on board with our standards, and we let them go.We’ve also had frank discussions with managers about how to treat employees because we don’t want to go astray from the values we believe are so important. For example, I recently had an eyeball-to-eyeball discussion with a new senior manager about how he had spoken to some of the staff. I don’t think he enjoyed the conversation, but I explained to him that his behavior wasn’t appropriate for our hospital. I also told him that he’d have to work somewhere else if he couldn’t change his behavior because that’s not the way we treat people here at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.
- We use data from employee satisfaction surveys to change behaviors.You can’t improve what you don’t measure, which is why Six Sigma’s process improvement methodology is important to us. We use this same data-driven philosophy to change our employees’ behaviors because it’s unlikely they’re going to change unless they become aware of the need to change. Usually this awareness almost always comes about after they’ve seen the data.Take, for example, one of our clinical department managers. Everyone from the organization thought he was a great leader. That was, however, until we surveyed his staff and analyzed the data. The employee satisfaction metrics ended up showing dissatisfied employees within his department. As a result of his newfound knowledge as to how his employees really felt about his leadership, he changed how he related to his staff and how he recognized (or didn’t recognize) them. His employees appreciated the changes, and he ended up tremendously improving his department’s satisfaction metrics—all because he was shown accurate data.
- We use patient satisfaction data as a measurement of our entire organization’s progress.Patient satisfaction metrics are a great way to measure an entire health system’s progress on its journey to become a great organization. But even if the metrics are good for one survey, we don’t want to just stop there and possibly fall off the map the next time there’s a survey. Instead, achieving patient satisfaction excellence should be at the core of everything we do. It should also become self-sustainable. That’s why we’ve put our patients at the focus of everything we do—to keep the momentum sustainable and to become a way of life for us. Now, in hindsight, after seeing how we’ve been able to improve our metrics, I wish we had measured patient satisfaction much earlier on.
We’ve survived and thrived in the midst of value-based care here at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center by focusing on patient satisfaction metrics.
Remaining competitive long into the future with patient satisfaction metrics
Times are tough for many health systems right now. With regulatory changes, declining reimbursement rates, operating losses, and labor shortages, many hospitals are struggling financially. Such changes and challenges mean that hospitals need to find ways to remain competitive.
For us, patient-centered excellence was the answer. When our patients come to us, we want them to feel safe and trust us. So we created a vision that centers around the patient. They are our focus and everything we do aligns with achieving our goals of patient-centered excellence. But discovering how to achieve our patient-centered excellence required—and still requires—analytics. Without analytics, we wouldn’t have been able to find all the areas that needed to be improved.
We’ve had great success to date by staying rigid with how we believe a great hospital focuses on the patient and keeping that vision alive for our staff. Even though we don’t know exactly what our market will look like 24 months from now, we do know this: if we can excel by providing great clinical care, great emotional care, and investing in great technology and processes, I feel like we will be able to adapt and thrive to whatever else comes our way.