Patients at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are the most important people in the hospital system - and without patients, most of the 10,000 UMMC employees wouldn't be working here.
Leaders in quality, safety and performance at the Medical Center want patients' voices heard, both during their hospital stay and when they go home. It's a federal requirement that hospitals seek out their input through a standardized patient satisfaction survey mailed after discharge.
But only 18 percent of UMMC hospital patients return the survey, much lower than the national average of 30 percent. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Henderson and his staff are taking measures to bring up that percentage, including changing the vendor used for surveys and educating front-line caregivers on encouraging patients to fill out the survey form after it's mailed to them.
“We want to hear from our patients and to listen to their compliments or concerns,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Each survey that's mailed back to us counts. It is important for us to know where patients think we can improve.”
All hospitals are required to use the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health-Care Providers and Systems survey through an approved vendor. The survey has 28 questions that focus on communication and interaction between providers and patients. “The feedback to us is invaluable for identifying opportunities to improve patient care,” Henderson said.
This year UMMC changed to a new vendor, Press Ganey, whose mission is to support health-care providers in understanding and improving the entire patient experience. Its model calls for front-line caregivers to listen to the voices of patients, learn from their feedback, and then lead improvement to deliver better patient satisfaction.
When they're discharged, patients should be told their feedback is important, and that they'll receive a mailed survey after their discharge. They need to be told that UMMC pledges to use their feedback to drive improvement, Henderson said.
“Patient satisfaction surveys are incredibly important to us for a number of reasons,” said Kevin Cook, chief executive officer of University Hospitals and Health System. “It's not just publicly reported data that will impact our reimbursement. Patients remember the emotional care they receive in the institution, and that's what they will talk about to their friends and families.
“Patients don't want just to be cared for. They want to be cared about,” Cook said. “It only takes one poor interaction in the experience for them to have a critical review. Patients need to feel like they're the only patient. While they can't always distinguish between good and great clinical care, absolutely they can tell the difference between good and great emotional care.”
Henderson's message to caregivers? “Please let families and patients know that feedback about their hospital visit is important to us,” he said. “Without hearing from them, it's hard to improve.
“We will all be a patient one day,” Henderson said. “How do you want to be treated? It's important that your voice be heard.”