Like many people, I’ve been looking at the job market since COVID-19 struck. I look at the types of jobs being posted, I talk to people interviewing for patient experience roles, and I’ve seen in my own community the kinds of positions being filled. In a pandemic, who is an essential worker?
Being in healthcare, I’ve taken a great interest in which hospital positions are prioritized and which are put on the back-burner until we get our arms around COVID. Sadly, it came as no surprise to me that patient experience postings were put on hold or completely eliminated. I fear we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to demonstrating our value.
But what really struck me was how the tourist and hospitality industries are hiring like mad for servers, front desk staff, housekeepers, and even concierge roles. I’m not knocking the concierge, but in the age of the internet, I’m very capable of making my own dinner reservation. Is a concierge more essential than a patient experience director?
I currently live in a tourist town and the local luxury hotel has been on a hiring spree ever since they re-opened in mid-May, after closing for six weeks due to COVID. We had no idea at the time how much longer we’d be sheltering in place, and people were starting to think maybe it was okay to start going out again, have dinner at a restaurant, maybe even take a quick vacation. From what I understand from the staff, ever since June, every day has been like the 4th of July. That resort has been at full capacity every night. They can’t hire enough people fast enough to keep up with the incredible demand.
At the same time, I was talking with my healthcare colleagues about their staffing and learning that many, many positions were facing reduction in hours, furlough, and even becoming completely eliminated. A few friends who were interviewing for patient experience leadership roles were learning those positions were being placed on hold indefinitely.
So in order for a luxury hotel to operate effectively, they need to hire a team of concierges, but a large healthcare system feels it can do alright without anyone leading the patient experience effort? Am I an essential worker?
Certainly, I understand the difference between the two. One is a luxury, paid for directly by the consumer. The other is a complex myriad of third-party payers with a lot of charitable care in the mix, not to mention a reduction in more profitable elective surgeries. I get it. But what I’m left with is the feeling that we in the patient experience sector still haven’t yet convinced the establishment how valuable we are.
In addition to just being the right thing to do, when done right, patient experience improves the bottom line in a number of ways.
- Higher H-CAHPS scores mean better reimbursement. Like it or not, better scores mean more medicare dollars. There’s 20% of 2% being withheld from CMS that hospitals can earn back through their patient experience results. 20% of 2% doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me, it is.
- Better patient experience starts with better employee engagement. Hospitals with engaged employees experience less turnover. Recruiting, hiring, training, and on-boarding is expensive.
- Better patient experience means fewer patient safety incidents. Engaged, caring staff make fewer medication errors, and have more proactive measures in place to prevent events like pressure ulcers and unattended falls.
- Better patient experience means fewer lawsuits. Patients are far less likely to sue if they like their care team, feel they’ve been treated respectfully, and were communicated with in a compassionate, transparent manner.
- Great patient experience means higher Yelp and other social media reviews, which creates an increase in new patients. An increase in market share not only increases revenue but helps a hospital’s purchasing power, as well.
- Great patient experience creates loyalty and repeat business. Patients are far less likely to change providers or hospitals when they’ve had a good experience previously.
I’m sure there are plenty more I’ve forgotten- more evidence that we have work to do when it comes to stating our case. This isn’t window dressing. We are no longer a nice-to-have, we are a have-to-have. We are essential employees. At least as essential as the concierge.