The phone rang last fall. It was the school nurse asking me if I would pick up my seven year-old son. When I inquired as to the reason she informed me he delivered an organ recital—a long-winded recitation of ones ailments—the classic symptoms of the crud; tummy-ache, non-responsive, crying. She’s the nurse, so without better information, who was I to question her diagnosis?
We got into the car and his tears started flowing. “Do you feel like you’re going to be sick?” I asked as I looked at the leather upholstery. He didn’t answer me other than to whimper. He didn’t seem sick at breakfast. I remembered that he was crying last night, but his tears had nothing to do with his stomach. While he was crying he was hugging his favorite dog, our five year-old Bichon.
We had just learned that the Bichon was very ill and will never be a six year-old Bichon. The person having the most difficulty with the news is my youngest. I asked him if that was why he was crying in class and he confirmed it was. Dads know everything, at least some times.
So, here’s the deal. The school nurse had done all the right things to diagnose my son’s problem, but she stopped short of determining what was wrong. Let’s try a more relevant situation from the perspective of patients and what they think of their interaction with the hospital.
A survey of 1,004 physicians and nurses in four countries found that 90.4% said improving satisfaction of patients during hospitalization was achievable. But only 9.2% said their department had a structured plan to boost patient satisfaction, March BMJ Quality and Safety.
What does the hospital know about what their patients think about them? Has anyone ever asked of a patient, “What do you expect from us throughout your experience?”
At minimum patients expect that when they call the hospital they will receive a correct answer to any question they ask one hundred percent of the time. At minimum patients expect that when they go to the hospital’s website they will find what they need or accomplish a given task one hundred percent of the time.
Does that happen?
Didn’t think so. Planning to meet expectations without knowing what they are is a lot like playing on the tail on the donkey; blindfolded, spun around, and set off to hit the target. Failing to plan for patient satisfaction is planning to fail at satisfying patients.
Hospitals are spending a lot of money and losing a lot of patients by trying to diagnose their patient satisfaction problems. The problem is they quit diagnosing the problem before they find the answer. To make matters worse, very few hospitals are even looking in the right place.