Why Patient Experience Is the Answer to Healthcare’s Current Financial Crisis

The past few years have been challenging to health systems, providers, and, most critically, the patients who depend on our care delivery services.

Healthcare has become so complex, pricey, and fragmented that many people simply give up on accessing needed services. Among the challenges, scheduling a primary care visit now takes a jaw-dropping three weeks on average. Each year, 3.5 million patients go without care due to transportation issues. And one-fifth of older adults spend more than $2,000 out of pocket annually on their care.

The time for quick fixes and Band-Aids has long passed. Only a purposeful redesign of our outdated delivery models will relieve the burden on patients and rekindle their trust.

Satisfaction Has Its Benefits

Why is it critical now for health systems to invest in patient-centered innovation? My answer: because winning the trust and loyalty of patients is the cornerstone of successful healthcare. 

Thoughtfully cultivating patient satisfaction can benefit:

  • Health systems. Higher satisfaction scores not only mean more Medicare dollars, but more importantly, they’re the direct product of improvement to other quality measures. Factors like short wait times and smooth care transitions are critical to the patient’s experience while also translating into improved CMS performance. What’s more, patient satisfaction can boost employee loyalty, keeping hospitals afloat through workforce shortages.
  • We’ve all been patients ourselves and have felt the stress and helplessness of dealing with our fragmented system. And I think we can all agree that our patients deserve better. Patient-centered delivery models improve not only outcomes but also quality of life.
  • When we innovate with attention to equity and cultural competence, it can help to restore trust in the system. This helps remove barriers to care, which in turn improves public health. Improved public health circles back to benefiting the health system through decreased cost of care.

Innovating the Journey

To improve patient experience, we must create and leverage transformative care models that bridge the many settings of the patient journey. Technology is making it easier to connect care teams and extend services beyond hospitals and medical offices. But to be truly effective in our mission, we must also maintain human connection with the people and communities we serve.

Fortunately, new frameworks are available to guide patient-centered innovation. At Vituity, we’re led by Health In Place, the unifying concept that our healthcare system should meet patients where, when, and how they need us. The innovations that compose this approach leverage team-based care, technology, and process engineering to correct inequities and satisfy healthcare consumers’ changing needs and preferences.

Innovation Spotlight: Care Navigation

I’m continually impressed by the solutions identified and created by front-line teams. To address the needs of at-risk emergency department patients, a few of my Vituity colleagues at Ascension Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois, piloted the ED Revisit Reduction Program. The initiative pairs patients with care navigators, who guide them through the system and address barriers to care. While the program initially focused on high utilizers, it later expanded to all patients without primary care providers and those requiring rapid follow-up and specialist referrals.

Over a six-month period, care navigators:

  • Reduced ED visits by 42%.
  • Reduced revisits by 50%.
  • Generated a 960% return on investment by reducing unfunded care.

More importantly, the program garnered great patient and provider satisfaction. In the words of Regional Director, Adnan Hussain, MD: “The patients love it. They need access to care, and they’re getting it. They don’t need to make repeat visits to the ED, which is better for them and for the healthcare system as a whole.”

Keys to Cultivating Satisfaction

As healthcare leaders, how can we foster patient-centered innovation in our organizations? Here are three principles to guide this transformation:

Know your patients. What are their unmet needs and barriers to care? How and where do they prefer to receive care? Bonus tip: Hiring locally is one of the best ways to gain insight into the daily life of your community.

Don’t make patients go it alone. Just because we create something doesn’t mean patients will intuitively understand its benefits and know how to access it. Enlist navigators, primary care providers, social workers, and others to guide patients through your reimagined care journey.

Use technology mindfully. Automation and virtual solutions won’t save money if they alienate patients. It’s important to balance convenience and cost savings with ease of human interaction. To this end, technology should be a tool that elevates the patient care experience, as opposed to a care delivery model limited in its reach or effectiveness. To truly meet patients when and where they need our care, we must remove all obstacles to care access and be a partner to the patient along their care journey. And because what’s best for patients is ultimately what’s best for hospitals, this value returns to us in the forms of operational efficiency, provider and patient satisfaction, and improved clinical results.

About the Author

Theo Koury, MD, is President of Vituity. Before this appointment in 2017, he served as Vituity’s Chief Operations Officer. Since joining the Partnership in 1997, he has also held the roles of Vice President, Regional Director, and Medical Director, and has served on the Board of Directors.

In his role as President, Dr. Koury oversees the company’s financial and infrastructure strategies essential to fulfill the enterprise’s mission of empowering healthcare providers to deliver exceptional and innovative care across more than 500 service locations nationwide.

He is a practicing emergency physician having previously served as the Medical Director and chaired a multi-disciplinary hospital committee to improve transition of care throughout the in-patient experience.


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