How to Improve Patient Satisfaction in Hospitals

min read
How to Improve Patient Satisfaction in Hospitals

The healthcare industry is a hyper-competitive service business. As such, it’s vital for healthcare organizations, from small hospitals to major healthcare systems, to keep consumers of their services — their patients — satisfied.

Administrators know the importance of patient satisfaction in hospitals. If patients don’t like the service they are receiving, they can and will go elsewhere. In the U.S., there is even a standardized survey of patient satisfaction called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). Hospitals can use this survey’s ratings to benchmark their performance based on patient satisfaction scores.

In this post, we’ll look at how to improve patient satisfaction in hospitals, including some of the innovative ways that modern healthcare systems are approaching this important issue. But first, we’ll discuss what patient satisfaction is and how it can impact a healthcare provider’s success.

What Is Patient Satisfaction?

Patient satisfaction is the measure of how satisfied a patient is with their healthcare experience. Generating a patient satisfaction score is an attempt for healthcare providers to answer two critical questions:

  • What did the patient expect from their healthcare experience?
  • Were those expectations met during their visit or stay?

It’s important to note that patient satisfaction is not just tied to the quality of medical care a patient receives. There are multiple points along the patient journey where people can feel satisfied or dissatisfied, from the hospital waiting room to the discharge process — and anywhere before or after those points.

The Impact of Patient Satisfaction on Hospital Success

It’s not possible to underestimate the importance of patient satisfaction in hospitals. The HCAHPS survey system mentioned earlier in this post is used to develop star ratings designed to guide consumers when selecting hospital systems. Think of it as the Michelin Guide for restaurants — only for healthcare providers.

HCAHPS develops ratings by surveying patients on 10 key experience measures:

  • Communication with doctor
  • Communication with nurses
  • Staff responsiveness 
  • Cleanliness 
  • Ambiance (noise levels and environment) 
  • Communication about medicines
  • Discharge process
  • Quality of care transition
  • Hospital rating 
  • Patient referrals

The star ratings associated with these experience measures are combined to determine an overall star rating for the hospital. Ratings run from one star to five stars. The HCAHPS survey has become integral to the way hospitals and medical facilities approach patient satisfaction.

Hospital administrators know — and healthcare marketing statistics support the fact — that consumers today have unparalleled access to vast troves of information via internet chatrooms, message boards, and reviews to inform them about doctors, hospitals, and treatments. Five percent of all Google searches are related to health. And just one bad review or comment can create serious headaches for healthcare providers.

Real-Life Examples and Case Studies

So, what are some of the ways to improve patient satisfaction in hospitals, according to what actual healthcare organizations do? The following two real-life examples shed light on best practices in the healthcare industry:

Banner Health: Meeting patients where they are

Banner Health operates 30 hospitals and specialized care facilities in six states. Banner melds technology and traditional human-to-human connection to provide patients with truly consumer-like, individualized experiences. Effectively, Banner Health is meeting patients with highly personalized interactions wherever they are, be it online or offline.

Offline feedback and sentiment have always been tricky to capture, especially at scale. This is critical for healthcare providers to understand because 67% of healthcare consumers will make a phone call at some point in their buying journey. Banner Health stays on top of patient feedback with Invoca’s AI conversation intelligence, which allows it to capture feedback at scale in its contact center. Every call is tracked, recorded, and transcribed. Patient calls are also analyzed at scale for patient satisfaction markers or potential flags. 

These insights from Invoca, combined with online data, create a complete picture of patient satisfaction — one that informs Banner Health’s patient outreach and drives the nonprofit healthcare system to ensure it is providing the most positive and empathetic experiences for its patients.

University Hospitals: Providing the best possible patient experience

Cleveland-based University Hospitals receives a lot of phone calls — more than 400,000 a month. And before it started using Invoca, it was a huge challenge for this leading healthcare system to ensure that every phone call was handled correctly and each patient left a call feeling satisfied (usually, that means getting an appointment scheduled with their preferred provider). What’s more, too many calls were being abandoned in the call center due to manual processes for handling call data. University Hospital was converting just 10% of patient calls into appointments. 

When the healthcare system deployed Invoca’s conversation intelligence AI software, things changed for the better. University Hospitals used Invoca’s Salesforce Marketing Cloud integration to link data from calls to data in the system’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. That allowed the healthcare system to create a more cohesive caller experience, linking calls to patients’ preferred providers or previous locations quickly and efficiently. 

The results of these changes include a 580% increase in appointments scheduled and a 300% conversion rate for University Hospitals’ marketing team, as well as a savings of 40 employee hours a week.  

What Can Affect Patient Satisfaction?

Many factors contribute to patient satisfaction in hospitals. And, as noted earlier, it doesn’t just come down to the quality of care a patient receives. There are many touch points along the patient journey. The tone is set the moment a patient walks into a facility. If the waiting room is clean and well-lit with comfortable seats and a relaxing ambiance, patients are more likely to be put at ease than in a cramped, unwelcoming environment. 

Similarly, how they are greeted and treated by administrative and nursing staff can determine if the patient has a satisfactory experience or not. Good communication is key. Then, there’s the doctor. Doctors in a patient-first healthcare organization are taught to have the right bedside manner, to not talk down to patients, and to make them feel comfortable in a diagnostic or treatment environment. 

How to Measure and Analyze Patient Satisfaction

If you want to measure patient satisfaction, you have an array of options. One of the most common methods is to conduct a patient satisfaction survey. Patient satisfaction surveys record a patient’s experience during their healthcare journey and provide patient satisfaction scores. These surveys have become more common in the healthcare industry, especially since the introduction of the HCAHPS, discussed earlier in this post. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services developed HCAHPS to incentivize hospitals to advance their quality of care. 

Analyzing the results of patient satisfaction surveys, feedback forms, and other patient satisfaction data, such as conversation intelligence insights from phone calls, can be enlightening and transformative for healthcare providers. Consider the story of one hospital that learned from a patient satisfaction survey that patients were stressed out by noise and activity levels at the facility. In response, the hospital developed “quiet kits” for patients, like ones provided on airlines, with earplugs, sleep masks, lip balm, puzzle books, and “Quiet, Please” cards.

Innovative Approaches to Enhance the Patient Experience

Together with common-sense approaches to ensuring patient satisfaction, forward-thinking healthcare organizations increasingly look to technology and other resources to develop ways to improve patient satisfaction in hospitals.

These innovative approaches include installing formal patient feedback systems via surveys and questionnaires that capture patient mood and expectations along the patient journey. A new patient, for example, may receive a short questionnaire asking for their impression of the waiting room, the appointment process, and how they were greeted. 

Another innovation is the personalized health plan or PHP. These plans begin with a self-assessment by the patient. The doctor or clinician then works with the patient to develop a plan to be implemented by the patient’s healthcare team. This collaborative approach has immediate buy-in from the patient and is designed to lead to a more inclusive healthcare experience. 

Integrating Technology in Patient Care

In many ways, technology is at the forefront of new ideas to improve patient satisfaction in hospitals. One of the most significant and recent technological developments has been telehealth. The use of telehealth, essentially video consultations with doctors and nurses, was relatively widespread before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the limitations brought on by lockdowns led to an explosion in the dependence on telehealth that has continued, albeit at a lower rate, beyond the pandemic.  

Healthcare providers are also ramping up online capabilities to enhance the patient experience. Patient portals — secure websites that offer patients 24-hour access to test results, office visits, and other records — give patients more control of their healthcare program. 

New ideas to improve patient satisfaction in hospitals are also being made possible by AI. AI can be trained to take on simple, repetitive tasks and perform them quickly, accurately, and at scale. This has implications for diagnoses, healthcare research, and even treatments. 

Conversation intelligence AI can also help providers to enhance the patient experience and quality of care. It uses machine learning to analyze every word in patient calls to unearth insights that can’t be easily uncovered through manual analyses. For example, by using AI to quickly scan thousands of phone conversations into a call center, a healthcare provider might discover that many patients have been complaining about long wait times for check-ins at a particular location. Based on that pattern of feedback, the provider could take swift action to address the issue by reviewing current processes and potentially adding more staff at certain hours.

AI is developing rapidly. And while AI is already delivering real value in terms of helping providers to enhance the patient experience, expect to see rapid, transformative growth in the healthcare industry’s use of the technology over the next several years.  

Best Practices for Improving Patient Satisfaction in Hospitals

There are three best practices health systems can, and should, adopt to boost patient satisfaction in hospitals. They are: 

1. Enhance Patient-Provider Communication

Healthcare is a complex and often confusing discipline, rarely understood by people outside the profession. And, despite the democratization of health information online, “Dr. Google” can sometimes be misleading. Clear and compassionate communication must occur between doctors and patients. That means healthcare staff must engage in active listening, ensuring patients understand their diagnoses and treatment plans, and providing opportunities for patients to ask questions and share their concerns.

You can gauge how well your staff is communicating by monitoring their interactions. This is even possible at scale using AI conversation intelligence from Invoca to analyze quality assurance (QA) in phone calls. When your hospital automates QA with Invoca, you can automatically detect if your staff members are sticking to the right talk tracks and expressing empathy in their conversations with patients.

Managers can also quickly identify coaching opportunities in actual conversations to improve staff performance on calls and provide patients with a more fulfilling experience. Invoca’s AI conversation intelligence solution can also check scripts for healthcare compliance issues, flagging them for managers who can then address those issues and use actual examples to coach their staff. 

2. Implement Patient-Centered Care Models

The future of healthcare is patient-centered, also known as patient-first. To succeed in this future, healthcare providers must shift to a patient-centered care approach that focuses on individual patient needs, preferences, and values. This involves personalizing treatment plans, respecting patients’ cultural and personal backgrounds, directly involving patients in decision-making processes using PHPs, and more. 

3. Use Technology to Enhance the Patient Experience

Lastly, don’t overlook the transformative power of using modern technology. It can help your hospital streamline processes and achieve cost savings and efficiencies while helping you to improve patient experiences and increase patient satisfaction. You can use technology to gather and analyze patient feedback at scale, which is essential for identifying areas where you may need to amplify resources and drive improvement in your operations.

In this post, we’ve looked at some ways that leading healthcare systems are using technology to increase patient satisfaction. But it’s important to remember that technology can assist virtually anywhere in the healthcare industry.

Here’s one simple scenario: A patient conducts online research for a routine dermatological procedure and decides to call ABC Dermo Center. Instead of calling a general switchboard or call center number, Invoca’s intelligent call routing uses a unique number on the webpage they visited, connecting the patient directly to the center’s dermatological appointment team. One call, one conversation. Easy.

Using Invoca Can Improve Patient Satisfaction in Hospitals

Most healthcare providers recognize the importance of focusing on patient satisfaction in hospitals, especially in a patient-first or patient-centric care environment. The more tried-and-true practices and proven technology tools that healthcare providers employ to enhance the patient experience and drive patient satisfaction, the better off they will be in terms of increasing patient satisfaction scores, patient retention, and health ratings. 

See how Invoca can help you improve patient satisfaction in the short video below:

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve satisfaction at your hospital? Check out these resources:

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve patient satisfaction in your hospital, health system, or medical practice by using Invoca’s AI conversation intelligence, reach out to us today to schedule a customized demo.

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