Have you ever been to a restaurant and received sub-par service that left you dissatisfied or upset? Chances are you have experienced this at least once. The reality of any service industry is knowing how to manage a customer base and handle complaints. Hospitals are no exception, but they are handling matters that are life and death for their patients. Patients have always had a voice, but now they have the opportunity to give their feedback and have it included in a nationally recognized website which many patients use to research hospital reviews.
Since the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and System went live in 2008, hospitals have had to look closer at their practices to ensure they’re meeting the quality outcomes and patient satisfaction, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid now tie a portion of reimbursements to the HCAHPS score. Not only can profitability be affected, but patients may also raise concerns in their survey about particular employees or contractors who work for the facility. Human Resources professionals need to be ready to handle these types of complaints as swiftly as possible. Some complaints will not be serious in nature and can be handled by making the proper adjustments without the inclusion of the Human Resources department.
If by chance a patient does bring up a complaint that does involve an employee or contractor, resolving the issue within a specified threshold will be necessary to maintain the integrity of any information, as details can be forgotten over time. Any Human Resources professional who has ever handled an investigation knows the importance of speaking to all parties and obtaining all of the evidence before making a final judgment. The level of egregiousness will obviously help determine what will result for the employee. Less severe complaints such as a patient feeling he was not addressed in a polite manner may be handled with simple coaching of the employee(s). Should the complaint be more serious, the Human Resources department may have to deal with the accused employee by separating employment or contacting the licensing boards.
What should the hospital do to prevent low survey scores?
Hospitals have the ability to impact the patients they serve by training their employees in a proactive manner by determining the items on which they have low ratings. If the survey results are reflecting poor attitudes, inappropriate language, or any other behavioral trait, the hospital Human Resources department will need to work on a plan to educate and train the hospital employees on appropriate behavior and code of conduct. Obviously, many companies have these types of policies that employees must sign off on when they start employment, so each of them knows ahead of time of what is expected of him or her. The Human Resources department can assure information is delivered by implementing daily group huddles across the facility to communicate messages to all departments and employees. A quick five to ten minutes of education each day can build habits that will essentially lead to higher patient satisfaction.
What about Recruitment?
Many companies may not realize it, but recruitment is a crucial step in determining an applicant’s behavior and attitude. Recruiting properly distinguishes your qualified and unqualified candidates and ultimately results in the best-fit candidate being placed in employment. If patient satisfaction scores are pointing at possible behavioral issues, the recruitment strategy should be updated to ask more situational and behavioral questions that can detect unfavorable answers. Questions like, “How would you respond if a patient told you they did not like you? What would you do if a patient told you she thought you did not know what you were doing?” The point is to ask something which will determine if the person will let his guard down and answer with his true emotional reaction to the question. Those who give a less than exceptional answer would not continue through the recruitment process after the interview is completed.
Who has their eyes and ears around these situations?
The obvious questions arise of how the facility can place its attention on something that is not easily identifiable. Some managers and supervisors may be oblivious to certain behaviors of their employees, but the truth is they should be trained to recognize these and know how to abate the issue quickly. Emotional intelligence training is one tactic that may help those supervisor level employees acknowledge the tendencies of individuals and remove them from the environment before they react unfavorably. Employees also have more exposure to their coworkers and may be able to identify these behaviors as well. Employees should be trained to speak up and let their supervisor know if they see or hear something which raises concern.
While a hospital cannot control its patient’s emotional satisfaction, it can most certainly work towards improving the staff through training and recruiting the best fit candidates for the role.