Why Kaiser is focusing on 'real-time' patient feedback, not just survey statistics

If healthcare C-suite leaders review patient survey metrics and there are no clinicians around to hear the details, did it really happen? 

Of course, it happened — in a vacuum of a senior leadership discussion, at least. But do even the after-the-fact opinions of patients ever make it to the physicians and nurses providing bedside care in any measurable way? Moreover, even if the statistics are conveyed to clinicians, how do they make sense of the numbers and how can it possibly affect service recovery?

Jason Guardino, DO, chief experience officer for Oakland, Calif.-based The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California, is intent on shaking up the usual when it comes to making sure clinicians receive experience data in real time when experience and memories are top of mind for patients.

"Historically, surveys come back to an office where somebody looks at them but doesn't have the influence to encourage the doctors and nurses themselves to make individual changes," Dr. Guardino told Becker's. 

"This isn't about hearing only where we fell short or what we are doing wrong," Dr. Guardino continued. "Most of the time people are appreciative of the care they have received. But they don't have a way to share that gratitude and appreciation with their clinicians in real time. And our doctors and nurses need to hear it now. Coming out of the pandemic, our doctors and nurses' souls need to be fed." 

Hearing positive feedback from patients can help extinguish things like burnout and lower frustration levels because everyone feels a sense of gratification that comes with knowing you did well, he said.

Management versus measurement

Dr. Guardino, also a gastroenterologist at California-based Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center, said The Permanente Medical Group is replacing its legacy surveying tool with Qualtrics' XM Platform. The technology enables patients to provide feedback about their experience via a survey link sent by text or email. 

Plans for the rollout of this new platform at The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California are still under development.

"There's a difference between measuring and managing. Right now our measuring tools are nothing more than a thermometer that tells us if you have a fever. The tools don't tell us why you have a fever. It doesn't predict when the fever will go away based on cause," he said. "We're replacing our legacy system of measuring experiences and with a new one that focuses on managing experiences — just like we manage the high-quality care we deliver, or the finances of our operations."

Further, Dr. Guardino pointed out, current survey tools provide quantitative data. "So if our numbers go from say, 79 percent to 82 percent or down from 85 percent to 75 percent, what does that tell me? Not much."

The new survey platform is expected to provide qualitative data, he said. "I want to hear about a patient's experience in their own words. What was good about your experience? What can we do better? And all of this provides us with a better opportunity for service recovery in real time to effect lasting positive change."

Why does it matter?

There are myriad benefits for clinicians and patients — which all affect a healthcare system's bottom line. 

"When doctors and nurses are taught to specifically focus on creating great experiences, they become more meticulous about the quality of the care they provide. They have higher quality standards when they focus on creating a great experience for that patient," he said, noting clinicians are less likely to make a major medical error when they're focusing on creating a great experience for the patient. "I don't know of any clinician — doctor or nurse — who wants to make errors."  

It's no secret, Dr. Guardino said, "When you focus on creating and managing great experiences across a healthcare system, patients are more likely to be adherent to taking their medications when they leave. They are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. They're less likely to acquire a hospital-acquired infection. Simply, there are better clinical outcomes."

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