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Healthcare Experience Blog

Even Political Conservatives Agree Government has Role in Keeping People Healthy

In a new national survey of over 1,000 individuals, we learned that even those Americans who describe themselves as political conservatives agree with their liberal counterparts that both local and federal government have some kind of role to play in keeping people healthy.

We conducted this study in concert with ndp, a national ad agency based in Richmond, VA. We used a combination of online and telephone surveying modes to reach as broad an audience as possible.

The results showed that even among conservatives, 74% said that there is some role for the federal government in population health initiatives, and 77% felt that local government has a role.

When we drilled into the findings, it was clear that strong differences do exist, depending on whether a person sees themselves as politically conservative, liberal, or independent. In general, the more “liberal” the person, the more likely they are to support actions by government–such as providing free health screenings or adopting health-related taxation policies on tobacco use or sugary drinks.

One of the few areas of close agreement among both conservatives and liberals was the idea of providing funding for health education in public schools.

Intriguingly, we learned that many things already being funded or done by government today do not earn a very high level of endorsement, even among liberals. Perhaps it’s an indication of the widespread dissatisfaction with the large institutions in this country, including government.

Here are a few specifics taken from our study called “A Consumer Perspective on Population Health.”

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About This Study

This study was conducted in summer 2016. A total of 1,004 individuals ages 18 and over participated. Telephone surveying was conducted by Wilkins Research, and online sample was provided by Research Now. The margin of error for the full set of results is +/- 3.1%.

Just How Important is Nursing Staff Responsiveness, Really?

Anecdotally, we’ve all heard or even experienced what happens in a hospital when there is a breakdown in nursing staff responsiveness, communication, and coordination of care.

In a recent study for Amplion Clinical Communications, we documented the types of things that can and do happen when nursing team members fail to respond in a reasonable period of time to patient requests. These included:

• Messy and embarrassing accidents when patients can’t get to the restroom on their own

• Disastrous falls when immobile patients try to get up by themselves

• Dangerous blood sugar levels when diabetics do not receive food or drink in a timely manner

• Patients left in pain without any reassurance that help is coming

And we heard what kind of feelings these negative experiences evoke:

• Anxiety

• Frustration

• Fear

• Anger

• Disappointment

Is this happening all the time and in every hospital? Of course not. But based on our survey of 1,000 patients and loved ones, we can say that around 30% of individuals are NOT receiving the level of care and responsiveness that they expected when they entered the hospital. And we have documented the impact this all has on their willingness to recommend the hospital.

See for yourself. This infographic provides the highlights.

Your Hospital’s Toughest Customer May NOT be a Patient!

With all the attention given to the “patient experience” during the past five years, many hospital managers and staff have rightly turned their attention toward doing a better job of caring for the patient, in all senses of that word.

But a piece of research we recently conducted makes a pretty convincing case that the toughest consumer to satisfy may not be the patient, but the loved one who is there to assist and support the patient.  This loved one can be, and usually is, a close family member such as a spouse or adult child.  But it can also be a personal friend, especially if family members live far away.

Our research, conducted for Amplion Clinical Communications, was designed to determine how many patients and their loved ones have a positive vs. negative experience when it comes to nursing staff responsiveness and communication.

The results were startling to me.

Loved ones, overall, were much more critical of the nursing staff and their ability to respond to patient needs than were the patients themselves.  Loved ones were much more likely to express negative feelings about the patient stay, often using adjectives including “frustrated,” “anxious,” or “angry.”  And relative to patients, loved ones were less enthusiastic when it came to evaluating the overall experience and less likely to recommend the hospital.

Our study included just over 1,000 respondents, all reached via an online survey approach.  The sample was split 50/50 between patients and loved ones, so the results are statistically significant.

And do these results matter?  I’d answer with a resounding “yes” because loved ones are just as likely to tell others about the hospital as patients, perhaps even more likely to do so when the experience didn’t measure up to their expectations.  In effect, they’re raising the bar for “patient experience.”

To see a colorful infographic with highlights from this important study, click here.

What “Patient Experience” Actually Encompasses

If you ask a consumer about their experience with a doctor’s office, a hospital, or an outpatient surgery center, you’ll usually get an earful.

Of course, they may comment on the ease of parking, the length of their wait, and courtesy of the various staff members they encounter; which health providers often categorize as the service elements of an experience.  They may also talk about the level of caring or empathy they felt (“Ms. Roberts really seemed to understand what I was going through!”)  Together, these components have often been viewed as the essence of “patient experience.”

But I believe the consumer’s working definition of “patient experience” is and should be much broader.

Healthcare customers like you and me are also likely to comment in ways that reveal their feelings about the “quality” and “safety” associated with their visit, even if they don’t use those terms as such.  When they see nurses wash their hands before touching them, or when they see techs wearing gloves and removing an instrument from a sealed wrapper, consumers tend to take these as positive quality and safety cues.  When a room is dirty, a piece of equipment doesn’t work properly, or the doctor does not wash his hands, consumers often take note.  Consciously or subconsciously, they wonder about quality and safety.  No one wants to leave the doctor’s office, surgery suite, or diagnostic center less healthy than when they arrived; yet this does happen.

So, moving forward, when we talk about “patient” or “member” experience, I believe we need to think of “experience” as encompassing the related concepts of Quality, Safety, and Service/Caring.

Isn’t that what we do when we evaluate or talk about other types of services in our life, whether getting our car repaired, staying in a hotel, or taking an airline trip?

I’m waiting to see which health system will bring these roles into a more customer-centric alignment by appointing a c-level person to oversee all of three of these functions, which today are mostly divided into three separate silos, with a separate executive for each.

That will be a big step towards being better able to assess and deliver true VALUE, which is where healthcare delivery and financing is headed in the U.S.

Of course, to talk about value, we need to find out how consumers feel about their outcome (Did they get better? Was the procedure successful?).  Plus we need to learn their assessment of the cost, broadly defined to include the actual out-of-pocket cost plus the hassles associated with getting the service and getting it paid for.  Economists have traditionally defined “value” as the benefits delivered versus the costs associated with obtaining those benefits.  This applies in healthcare today.

It’s why buying a $26,000 Subaru Outback represents good value to one consumer, while buying a $75,000 BMW represents good value to another.  It’s also why we may be willing to pay more for our flu shot at the neighborhood urgent care center rather than dealing with the drive and hassles associated with going to our doctor’s office.

As consumers, we do a “value” calculation in our heads, as we anticipate and then make a purchase.  This month, will you buy your toilet paper at Costco, or just make it part of shopping at your neighborhood grocery or drug store?  What about your winter coat: at REI or Walmart?  What about your flu shot?  What about the treatment for a diagnosis of cancer?

In all other spheres of our life, this economic “reckoning” takes into account the expected outcome, experience, and cost…based on what have experienced before, what friends or others tell us, or what we’ve learned through ads or search.

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Every day we Americans gain more choices about where to go for healthcare services whether a simple blood test or open heart surgery, AND we bear more of the total cost for these.  So increasingly, and as our proprietary research over the past 10 years indicates, we are acting more like a “typical” consumer in making healthcare choices.

Our 2015 research study on Patient Experience for The Beryl Institute confirms that healthcare leaders believe that a better experience contributes to better outcomes.  And that perceptions about the experience are now a major component in making the decision on where to go for services.

So the next time you query a family member about their recent interaction with a health provider or service, pay close attention.  It’s likely they are already talking in terms of VALUE and EXPERIENCE, where they consider all of these elements—outcome, quality, safety, service/caring, and cost—as part of their total assessment.

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