3 experiences of hospital care and why we measure them
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Two nurses talk with a patient at MedStar Health.

We aim to enhance patient experiences at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC) through a trickle-down approach, from staff to patient. Our philosophy is quite simple in that having fully engaged staff leads to better care, which results in a memorable experience for our patients. We call this the MWHC Experience. To monitor our progress, however, we need patients’ feedback about their experiences.

Patient experience is one of the most important aspects of health care, because it represents the overall satisfaction a person has upon leaving the hospital. Patients generally have three types of experiences:

  1. Clinical experience: This is the care you receive from our doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers while you are with us, including surgical procedures, tests, medications, treatments, and more.
  2. Environmental experience: This includes how quiet your room is, the quality of our food, how clean and tidy patient rooms and waiting areas are, your wait time to see a doctor or learn results from a test and other conditions.
  3. Emotional experience: This includes how well we address your concerns, fears, and hopes during an encounter with us. Providers’ bedside manner plays a role in the emotional experience, as well as what we do to relieve stress and uncertainty for you and your loved ones during our time with you. More importantly, it is about how we connect with you as individual.

These experiences are not mutually exclusive. For example, having a comfortable room contributes to a positive environmental experience. However, a patient isn’t likely to have a good emotional experience if their wait times were too long or they felt scared which impacts their overall satisfaction.

Many healthcare organizations are seeking the best way to measure the patient experience and mirror it with patient safety. Some hospitals launch patient experience programs, but these can be flawed because the patient experience must be an integral part of the hospital’s entire mission, not a standalone program.

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How the staff/patient experience connects

We want to establish a reliable system in which we consistently care for patients and families through random acts of kindness. The first step to doing this is creating an environment where our associates and providers feel important, cared for, and are engaged, which helps motivate them to provide exceptional patient care through every interaction, every day

One way we empower our associates is through our CenterStar recognition program, which recognizes staff who go above and beyond the call of duty. Nomination forms for the CenterStar program are available throughout the hospital, so feel free to ask for one if you’d like to share positive feedback about a staff member.

We monitor our service to patients is through consistent communication to track their satisfaction. We depend on patients to tell us where we might need to improve and what we are doing well. The most direct way to provide feedback is to talk to a staff member, nurse or doctor. If one of our associates can’t help, you can call 202-877-4YOU (4968) to speak with a patient advocate.

Some patients receive the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey after they are discharged. This survey is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and can be answered by mail, telephone, mail with telephone follow-up, or active interactive voice recognition (an automated telephone system that interacts with callers and routes calls to the appropriate recipients, if necessary). The survey asks patients for opinions about:

  • Communication with doctors and nurses
  • Cleanliness and quietness of the hospital
  • Discharge information
  • Pain management
  • Staff members’ responsiveness to patients’ needs
  • Whether patients would recommend the hospital to others

The HCAHPS survey, which is handled by a third-party company, has raised the bar for the kind of experiences hospitals provide. In recent years, the survey has shifted to incorporate both clinical care and experience-based concerns and conversations, which is a huge step forward. We also welcome direct feedback from letters and conversations during rounding.

Using feedback to improve

Our goal of having both happy patients and staff requires feedback, so we can learn and grow from patients’ experiences. When we receive CenterStar recognition notes for our associates, we celebrate them as a team. Everyone in a recipient’s department takes a moment to reflect on how they helped a patient have a good experience. Meanwhile, it makes them feel appreciated and reminds them of how valuable their work is.

Additionally, we use the HCAHPS survey, patient rounding, and letters as tools to improve patients’ experiences. Again, most of the results are shared with department supervisors and we work together to review them and identify where we are excelling and ways we can improve.

We will continue looking to adopt evidence-based, best practices to make sure we lead the healthcare market when it comes to both staff and patient experience. At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we want our staff to feel engaged and fulfilled, eager to improve the health of every person we interact with. With your feedback, we plan to continue our progress as we aim to keep raising the bar for health care in our community.

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