Patient caregivers more critical of hospital experience than patients themselves: 4 takeaways

The majority (60 percent) of patients have loved ones actively supporting them during a hospital stay, which could be bad news for hospitals' patient experience scores — according to an Amplion Clinical Communications study and whitepaper, patient family members and advocates are more critical when judging patient experience than the patients themselves.

Amplion polled 502 patients and 500 patients' loved ones who accompanied a patient during an overnight hospital stay in the last year. Across the board, the loved ones gave lower scores than patients did when it came to experience.

For instance, loved ones were harsher when it came time to recommend the hospital to others or not — 63 percent of patients were highly likely to recommend a hospital, while only 46 percent of advocates would do the same, the survey found.

Additionally, 54 percent of patients were highly satisfied with call button response time, but just 37 percent of loved ones checked the top box for response time.

"Loved ones were less likely to say that nurses did a good job of communicating and coordinating care, responding quickly to patient needs and regularly checking in on them," the report reads. "While patients were more likely to report feeling calm, content and secure, loved ones were more likely to feel anxious, afraid and frustrated during their stay."

Brenda Aubin, BSN, RN, clinical integration manager for Amplion Clinical Communications, said, "Nursing teams will need to focus on patient caregivers almost as much as the patients themselves in order for both patients and caregivers to recognize a high quality patient experience.  

Amplion provided the following recommendations for how to deal with the experience gap exhibited in the study.

1. Educate staff on the importance of patient caregivers. When staff view caregivers as an ally in care, patient care can be improved. "These individuals need to fully understand discharge plans and clinical orders," the report reads. "They need to be fully involved from the start of the process and continually brought up to speed."

2. Build an empathetic staff. "The bottom line is the healing process requires an experience that is positive," said Todd Spohn, director of healthcare at Talent Plus, in the report. "Your goal as a healthcare organization should be to ensure that empathy is pervasive in your culture, and that requires you to proactively recruit clinicians who have that skill set."

3. Create a culture of shared accountability. When a call button rings, it should be part of the organization's culture to answer it with haste. "If a nurse needs to be told to respond to a call button, even if it isn't his or her patient, that's a big red flag," Mr. Spohn said in the report.

4. Understand any negative interaction can influence overall patient experience scores. The report recommends hiring service-minded employees and training teams on the importance of every interaction. To that point, hospitals should attempt to hardwire consistency into patient care, according to the report.

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