Kent explains that many hospitals now have individuals in similar roles, but they are not physicians and are relegated to discussing the temperature of a patient's room or the quality of their food. The patient-satisfaction physician provides a "concierge" medicine service and asks "Is your healthcare the way it should be?" Kent says.
The role becomes increasingly important with patients receiving complex treatment who require more time and explanation. Kent adds that Nienaltowski also serves as the patient care “quarterback” and can discover common efficiencies that the individuals performing separate tasks overlook.
He also fills the role of "patient champion," Kent says, but doesn't usurp the role of the patient's doctor. "The patient-satisfaction physician writes no orders and has no authority of the chart itself."
Kent notes that an important role of the patient-satisfaction physician is to be the collector and disseminator of instant patient feedback—positive and negative.
Two duties that evolved from patient feedback include serving as the "welcome committee" to patients being admitted from the emergency room and explaining to patients and families the role and qualifications of specialists being called in for consults.
Patients admitted from the ER often come in feeling as though they are a burden, Kent says, adding that Nienaltowski "makes sure their needs are met upfront." Also, when specialists come in, families want to know who they are, so Kent says Nienaltowski keeps bios of specialists to share with them and explains what needs the specialist will be working on.
Kent says other organizations are now studying how they can hire someone to fill the same role. He maintains that having a patient-satisfaction physician has raised Summa's patient-satisfaction scores.
Curiously though, many of Summa Western Reserve's HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores—as posted on the HHS Hospital Compare website—are only at, or even just below, state and national averages. This goes for even such things "staff 'always' explained about medicines."
The Summa Western Reserve score is 57%, compared with Ohio and national averages of 60%
That said, the hospital scores above average on how many patients give it a nine or 10 on a 10-point scale. It scored 70% compared with 68% for Ohio and 67% nationally.
Also, when asked if they would "definitely recommend" the hospital, 75% of Summa Western Reserve patients said yes, compared with the state and national average of 69%.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.