The healthcare industry is facing a wide variety of challenges—and solutions aren’t always straightforward. Each month, Modern Healthcare asks leaders in the field to weigh in on their approaches to the sector’s thorny issues.
Camille Haycock, senior vice president of patient experience at CommonSpirit Health, and Patrick Ryan, chair and CEO at Press Ganey, discuss how healthcare organizations are working to center patient engagement amid growing competition.
Given the current competitive environment, especially for providers, what are some priorities regarding patient and customer satisfaction?
Haycock: Consumers want convenience and easy access. When they shop, make dinner reservations or pay bills, they want all of that to be frictionless. And they expect the same in healthcare. We’re focused on communication, consistency of practices and developing the personal connection. We’ve been doing a lot of work in our reception areas, given they’re often the first physical space patients visit.
Ryan: It’s all about creating a relationship of trust. Healthcare is much different from a general consumer experience because the stakes are so much higher and it’s an elongated interaction. You’re developing a relationship that’s likely to go on for some time. It’s not just one purchasing moment. What people want is access, information, communication and coordination of care across their journey.
How are ongoing staffing issues affecting patient satisfaction?
Haycock: I think all of healthcare is struggling with staffing, and it’s been an issue with appointment wait times. But we’re working to mitigate shortages and increase access, including through virtual nursing approaches and nurse residency programs. We’re developing a pipeline not only for nurses but other providers. We have a lot of physician workforce initiatives and academic partnerships to build that pipeline.
Ryan: Staffing and access are definitely improving. It’s not anywhere near where consumers would want it to be. What they want is same-day visits. And there are organizations that can get you a same-day visit and can get you through the system fairly quickly. There’s a lot of great work going on, but I think staffing is still a challenge for most organizations.
What are some investments making an impact on patient satisfaction?
Haycock: One area where we’ve had a real challenge is our emergency departments. I think most patients at any health system would agree the ER experience can be improved. The facilities are frequently overcrowded, resulting in long wait times. So we’re also focusing on these issues to provide patients the same improved experience that we offer in our medical practices and inpatient settings.
Ryan: Technology will play a critical role in the future. Healthcare is a team sport. When you see a physician or you go into a hospital, you see a multitude of people and providers. Technology can improve those interactions. Using my provider’s portal, I can get test data quickly. I don’t have to take phone calls. I can schedule appointments. That kind of access and convenience is important.