In today's health care environment, improved patient experience is a buzz phrase. It can determine your patient flow and your reimbursement levels. And, it depends on much more than simply providing appropriate care.
According to Michael Janis, MBA, RT, director of outpatient and ancillary services at HSHS St. Anthony Memorial Hospital in Effingham, IL, how engaged your colleagues are in their jobs and in your organization's mission directly impacts the experience individual patients have. In fact, it can be crucial to your facility's performance.
Maximizing colleague engagement depends on how well you explain your organization's mission and values and how well employees understand your expectations for their performance. The clearer you are, the easier it is for them to fulfill your goals and augment the experiences your patients have, he said.
"Often, we get in the weeds with budgets and productivity, and we miss the need for engagement," Janis said. "Remember that your colleagues want to feel connected to the hospital and its mission."
But, with national data showing that only 30% of U.S. employees are actively engaged with their jobs, you will likely have to teach your employees how to be more invested in what they do. There are things you can do, though, that will ultimately lead to greater patient experiences.
Employee Engagement: Teach your employees that job satisfaction and happiness aren't the same thing, he said. Their daily mood is irrelevant to whether they are satisfied in the workplace.
"Someone's everyday day feeling isn't an indicator. Colleagues must feel connected with the mission and values of the organization," Janis said. "If they can't connect with the organization's values, then there are opportunities elsewhere."
If they feel they're operating within the mission and values, bad days are less likely to spill over into their performance with patients.
Patient Satisfaction: Overall, patients want to be satisfied with their experience and feel better. But, the language of health care can make it difficult for them to understand how to make changes and why they're important. In radiology, having technologists who take the time to explain studies, tell the patient they're washing their hands for safety, and discuss what will happen can greatly enhance how a patient walks away feeling about the encounter.
"It's really not negotiable," Janis said. "This is what we must do, and it must be done with a smile."
Empower Leadership: You can't always be present to ensure things go smoothly at your facility. Make sure your leadership can continue to support the organization's mission and colleague engagement expectations when you're not there.
Direct Conversations: Having a clearly defined organizational mission and values makes it easier to talk with colleagues who aren't meeting expectations. Together, identify ways he or she can improve performance. Not everyone will be able to comply, and they'll have to move on. But, by having the conversation, you could set them up for success elsewhere.
Create Patient Teachers: Don't shy away from patients who give you low scores. Instead, turn their bad experience into a teaching opportunity for your colleagues, Janis said. If the patient is amenable, ask him or her to come back for a face-to-face conversation with your staff to discuss what went wrong and what could have made it better. Emphasize this isn't a punishment, but rather an opportunity to improve for the future.
Improve Training: Colleagues who don't understand an organization's mission often struggle to be fully engaged at work. Robust training efforts can help them hit the mark on a consistent basis. For example, Janis's HSHS created an I Promise program where the CEO met with all 900 employees to discuss the facility's values. New hires also completed a two-day orientation that discussed the details and expectations of colleague engagement and how it can positively impact patient experiences. Today, 89.9% of employees report being fully engaged at work, he said.
Overall, Janis said, spending time with your colleagues to ensure they understand how they fit into the organization's mission and why they are important is paramount to ensuring the highest level of colleague engagement possible. And, it will help them understand how best to interact and connect with patients.
"Ultimately, discuss with your staff that they need to remember to try to see through the patient's eyes," he said. "Everyone's circumstances are different, and doing so can create more empathy and improve the patient's experience even more."