Why Intermountain's former CMO thinks there's an ROI in patient experience - MedCity News

What qualifies as a good patient experience in a hospital? Based on patient feedback, the answer comes down to one thing, according to Shannon Connor Phillips, who served as Intermountain HealthcareChief Ambulatory Care Physician until he went on leave a few weeks ago.

Once a provider comes to a patient’s bedside, the patient can immediately tell if they are mentally present, Phillips said. If their provider doesn’t seem fully there, patients usually have a negative experience that leaves them not only with a bad taste in their mouth, but also feeling undervalued. Phillips shared that knowledge Sunday during a panel at Get involved in HLTHpatient engagement summit organized by MedCity News in Las Vegas.

She described a model that was implemented for hospital care at Intermountain during her time with the health system. Under the model, the patient’s care team — including doctors, social workers and counselors — will come to their room at a set time to discuss treatment plans and progress. The care team always began these sessions by asking patients and their families what their questions and concerns were. The answers to these questions are written on a whiteboard in the patient’s room so that any other clinicians who may come in to care for the patient are aware of their priorities.

Hospitals need to adopt care models like this, according to Phillips. But fellow panelist Peter Durlach, Nuance Communicationschief strategy officer, pointed out an important consideration: It’s hard to invest in building these kinds of care models and patient experience initiatives when the hospital is funding they are so awful.

He drew attention to “a really fundamental” problem – the fact that thethe hospital care model is “engineered for performance”. When hospitals are focused on getting as many patients in and out of the hospital as possible so they can get paid and therefore keep their doors open, the patient experience often takes a backseat.

Phillips acknowledged that grim reality is true, but said investments in patient experience can still create great value for hospitals and health systems.

Aside from the obvious human element, it makes sense to her why hospitals would want to put money and energy into improving the patient experience. These investments can help hospitals build brand loyalty and market share because people love to talk about their experiences receiving health care, both good and bad. When word gets out that a hospital provides unhurried, compassionate care, more people will want to come there for treatment, Phillips said.

Panelist Erika Olenski Johansen, founder and CEO of The artists of August, agreed with Phillips’ remarks. Johansen’s organization is named after her son, who is almost four years old and was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was five months old. The organization provides access to art materials for pediatric patients and their families to make their time in the hospital more enjoyable.

As August’s primary caregiver, Johansen has a valuable perspective on what hospitals can do to make patients better.

For example, the condition of pediatric patients often requires them to stay in the hospital for days. The families of these patients need to be in the hospital, but they also need to continue working so they can pay their bills and maintain the insurance they need to care for their child. Something as simple as providing reliable hospital WiFi that parents can use in situations like these are considerations that hospitals should pay more attention to, Johansen said.

She also suggested that hospitals consider how they can create a more “psychologically safe environment” for families and patients, as the circumstances they go through are incredibly emotionally and mentally taxing.

Photo: HLTH

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