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In an age where customer experience reigns supreme, the healthcare industry is beginning to view processes and outcomes through a similar lens. Hospitals and healthcare systems are businesses. Patients are customers. And customers must have a positive experience in order to continue using the services of a business. Patient experience is a term often applied broadly to initiatives such as reducing hospital stay length and readmission rates, cutting down incidences of patient safety events, and ensuring patients feel seen and heard.

In an effort to get a hold of this new way of thinking, hospitals are adding patient experience leaders to their staff and also considering the myriad sources that impact the patient experience. Risk managers and patient safety professionals have a unique opportunity to champion patient experience efforts for their organizations. Here are four areas of focus for improving the patient experience with the help of risk management best practices.

1. Get the whole organization involved and invested

With a far-reaching goal like improving patient experience, healthcare organizations will see greater success when they establish a targeted strategy and communicate that strategy clearly across all departments. In many cases, it may make sense to establish an enterprise risk management (ERM) program to make headway. As mentioned in GRC: Where to start? Productive healthcare ERM tools, “Healthcare ERM establishes a standardized framework for identifying risk across an organization, encourages cross-departmental collaboration, and shifts hospitals from a reactive clinical risk program to a proactive holistic risk management program.”

An ERM program that’s launched from the patient safety or risk management department will gain steam when tied to leadership’s most important goals, which increasingly include a patient experience component. After demonstrating ERM’s value, the right healthcare risk management technology comes into play. Tools like risk assessments, surveys, and patient safety event reporting (more on this below) can help break the broader strategy into manageable pieces that collectively produce powerful data.

After gathering this data, organizations can then use healthcare analytics to assess risks and develop controls. Analytics functionalities like root cause analysis allow organizations to see trends in patient satisfaction, as well as any outlying data that may require special attention. These trends are also useful in establishing organization-specific benchmarks to gauge patient experience improvements over time.

2. Actively listen to patient needs

Though it sounds obvious, listening to patients’ feedback is no small feat for healthcare organizations with a constant flow of patients and, as is often the case, too few (or overworked) clinicians. After administering care, many clinicians must quickly move on to the next patient. Very few have the time to sit down for a deep discussion on a patient’s personal experience of care.

Nonetheless, the article 6 components of a next-gen patient experience points out how the changing expectations of consumers is affecting the medical world. “As technology caters to an individual’s context, environment, social network, and the body’s inner workings through wearables and handheld devices, customer expectation increases,” the article states. “People have little tolerance for a world that does not cater to their wishes or doesn’t know who they are in a meaningful way.”

This is especially true in an environment where health and life are at stake. Patients expect their experiences to be personal every step of the way, and this starts with feeling heard.

Origami Risk’s healthcare risk management platform features a Patient Experience module to collect and examine feedback from patients in an organized and meaningful way. The Patient Experience module tracks complaints, grievances, requests, and compliments in a single consolidated repository. This flexible module allows for data entry from any location and any device, and integrated patient portals and survey tools allow patients to report issues and concerns (anonymously, if desired) directly through the platform. Combining these reporting options with automated notifications to staff members leads to higher levels of staff engagement in the overall patient experience, as well as speedier resolution in the case of urgent complaints.

The Patient Experience portal also integrates with ADT/HL7, which houses patient demographics. This allows risk managers and patient safety professionals to being finding meaning from the data collected. For example, if they see an influx of complaints from the elderly population, they can take a more targeted approach to resolution. Dashboards, reports, and analytics provide tailored reporting to leadership and other stakeholders, helping keep the organization on strategy.

3. Spare clinicians excessive administrative work

While surveys go a long way toward bettering the patient experience, equally important is making time to be physically present and available to listen to patients’ concerns. In a Q&A for Becker’s Hospital Review, Kristin Christophersen, DNP, RN, chief nursing officer at Fountain Valley (Calif.) Regional Hospital and Medical Center said, “Excellent patient experience is about not only providing excellent clinical care, but it is about connection. Connection to the patient, their loved ones and to something unique and special in their personal life. All of us long for a connection and a relationship that is meaningful.”

But again, finding the time to sit down with patients is easier said than done, especially when the administrative burden of clinicians has taken on epic proportions. According to an NEJM Catalyst survey, 54% of respondents said that “off-loading clerical tasks was a tool to reduce or guard against clinician burnout,” which ultimately hinders them as care professionals. This plight is recognized even at the highest levels. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has established new rules to combat the negative effects of clerical work on patient safety outcomes by giving physicians “more time to spend with their patients.”

Origami Risk healthcare risk management software can help in this endeavor, as well. Customizable forms and intuitive data entry is designed to make patient safety event reporting as simple and efficient as possible. For example, dynamic forms can be deployed that automatically self-adjust based on a user’s selections, narrowing the fields that must be completed to those that apply to a specific role or set of circumstances.

Improved incident reporting not only helps to reduce the administration burden faced by doctors and nurses, thus allowing them to spend more time working directly with patients, but also helps fulfill another important goal for the healthcare industry: reducing diagnostic error. The better the incident collection process, the cleaner the data and the more accurate the analysis that can be done. As hospitals begin to understand the reasons for diagnostic errors, those responsible for doing so are better able to address and prevent them.

4. Improve internal communication

Broken down processes and lack of communication inevitably lead to an increase in diagnostic errors and increased levels of frustration—on both the clinician and patient side. As stated in How does automated communication enhance safety? “Miscommunication causes all sorts of problems that often require extra time and effort to correct once they are discovered. In environments where time and resources are under pressure, inaccurate communication can lead to further hazardous errors.”

Beyond hazardous errors, this miscommunication may also cause stress and resentment among hospital staff and patients alike. Automated processes and streamlined communication produce smoother-running operations and, by extension, happier clinicians able to deliver better patient experiences. Origami Risk’s built-in automation functionality helps get all team members on the same page by assigning tasks and firing off notifications when action is needed—whether that’s a nurse reporting an adverse event or a patient safety manager following up with an upset patient.

With automation taking over the role of enforcer, teammates and supervisors are no longer responsible for hounding, reminding, or blaming. This leads to more unified and functional teams with members who have greater respect for one another. And according to a Nursing Standard article, civility in care settings has a direct impact on patient satisfaction. The article references studies showing that rudeness results in a more than 10% increase in diagnostic and procedural errors.

One healthcare goal, one integrated risk management system

Making the patient experience a success requires involvement from every level of an organization. By first making it a high-level strategic initiative and then breaking it down into smaller, tangible goals, hospitals can manage what may at first seem like an elusive mission. With everyone from clinicians to risk managers to patient safety managers on the same page, the right technology can seal the deal. Origami Risk’s survey tools, patient portal, automation functionality, streamlined communication, and healthcare analytics allow hospitals to meet patients where they expect to be met, thereby moving the needle on patient experience in significant ways.