Surviving as a Safety Net (Part 3 of 3): University of Kansas Hospital

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KU-thumb2Wrapping up our look at safety-net hospitals surviving under federal quality metrics that aren’t always applicable to their patient populations, we take a look at one final organization, the 751-bed University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City.

With one in five of its patients self-pay or Medicaid, University of Kansas Hospital is another safety-net hospital that once struggled with its patient satisfaction scores, Cheryl Clark at HealthLeaders Media reports. In fact, University of Kansas Hospital used to be in the bottom five percent nationally.

Now, “patient experience scores are higher than the state and the national levels for six questions, including ‘Would you recommend …’” Clark writes.

How did the hospital implement such a drastic turnaround?

It began with a great deal of self-examination over more than a decade. The organization’s vice president for performance improvement, Terry Rusconi, told Clark, “The key to success…was in developing special customer-service training classes that begin with new-employee orientation and a focus on hiring people with customer-service attitudes.”

One of the most effective approaches the hospital discovered was allowing its providers time to simply sit and talk with patients. Rusconi said the nursing staff now takes five minutes to sit at the bedside getting to know each person better and grasping an understanding of “what makes the patient tick from a personal perspective.”

In other words, she added, “they make a personal connection” before jumping into checking vitals and prescribing medications                             .

This studious attention to such particulars started with the executive suite, Tammy Peterman, COO and CNO, explained, especially in matters pertaining to HCAHPS scores.

“We believe every unit in the hospital has some best practices to share,” she said. “One of our approaches has been to pair a unit having consistently favorable patient satisfaction with a unit whose performance has been less consistent. In the process, we have seen both units improve. The unit with less consistent patient satisfaction has learned new approaches to earn higher satisfaction ratings. And the unit with consistent patient satisfaction performance has picked up ideas on improving safety, such as reducing falls. All teach and all learn. In the end, patient care and service are better.”

The hospital also began offering incentives for units that improved its patient satisfaction scores, and the executive staff began holding “interdisciplinary huddles–daily meetings with the pharmacist, social worker, physician, nurse, or anyone else involved” in providing care to safety-net patients.

Finally, Peterman said, the University of Kansas Hospital hired a financial services group to help “identify patients very early in their stay who might not be able to afford to pay ‘and figures out resources we or they might tap into to help and support their healing.’”

Clark concludes, “The bottom line, these leaders say, is that patient experience improvement for the sickest and the poorest patients is possible. It just takes a hospitalwide effort.”

What have been your thoughts about these last three posts and the organizations highlighted therein? Did you glean any tips or approaches that might benefit your organization? How are you improving your patient satisfaction scores?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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