Creating a Culture of First Impressions and a Continuum of Patient Care

First impressions are extremely important and rather difficult to predict. Malcolm Gladwell, journalist and author of "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," said of first impressions, "We don't know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don't always appreciate their fragility." This fragility is important to understand because it will not take much to sway a patient's opinion.

Along a patient's journey, she or he will encounter many different representatives of your hospital. From the hospital website, to a patient call center, to a valet attendant, to a hospital welcome desk, then on to registration, waiting rooms, nurses, physicians and more. There are many people and settings making first impressions that can have an affect on a patient's experience, and the sum of all parts creates the overall opinion of your hospital or health system.

Focusing on the patient experience at every level of your organization — not just at points of care — will increase patient satisfaction. Thanks to a report based upon a detailed survey of healthcare leaders conducted by the HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Unit, we can see the need to focus on the patient experience effort at every point of contact:

  • 72 percent of respondents  said the patient experience has become a bigger priority in the past year.
  • 70 percent use the HCAHPS survey to measure the successes and failures of patient experience initiatives.
  • 22 percent said a lack of cultural fit or employee buy-in is their organization's biggest patient experience stumbling block.
  • Only 6 percent said their organization's level of innovation with patient experience initiatives was "Most Innovative."
  • Only 33 percent said their organization's patient portal offered advanced features, such as providing lab results or discharge instructions (42 percent of respondents said their organizations have no patient portal at all).

The report also cited a 2007 study, which stated that 41 percent of patients would switch from one hospital to another if they were to receive a better patient experience.

With statistics that show the growing popularity in this industry focus, no one stage of your continuum of care can afford neglect at another stage. Your patient experience strategy needs to meet the needs of the patient — both the information they require and in the method they prefer — continuously and without interruption.

So what interactions outside the four walls of the hospital will make your quality care counterproductive?

Answer this question: What's the average number of rings a patient will hear before someone answers the phone? This metric of success doesn't make it into any healthcare providers' mission, yet it may be one of the most important first impressions you’re giving to a patient.

On the other end of the continuum of care is checking in with patients after their discharge, verifying that they are following physician instructions and have the opportunity to ask questions and scheduling follow-up exams, if necessary. These steps work to keep readmission rates down while keeping patients happy. In that way, this final step is the first impression in a new patient interaction.

At BerylHealth, we call this "Closing the Loop." When the continuum of patient care seamlessly integrates with your hospital's mission, values, staff, outside call center partners and referral networks, you have created a culture of first impressions that keeps patient experience positive.

Nicole Nicoloff is vice president of market strategy and innovation at BerylHealth, a technology-based patient experience company. Previously, she served as the network director of exceptional patient experience and family experience at Community Health Network. Bringing her knowledge and innovation to BerylHealth, Ms. Nicoloff provides her expertise of hospital operations so that BerylHealth's focus, direction and message aligns with the healthcare organizations it serves. To contact Ms. Nicoloff, please email  

More Articles Featuring BerylHealth:

Examining the Crossroads of Culture, Engagement and Patient Satisfaction
Putting Employees First: How to Improve Patient Experience, Profitability
Improving Hospital Patients' Experience is Just a Phone Call Away

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