When you work in patient experience, you hear a lot of excuses for why scores are low:
- We were under construction and the noise was bad
- We had a lot of turnover and new staff wasn’t properly trained
- We just merged with another big health system and there’s a lot of uncertainty
- We’re here to save our patients’ asses, not kiss them
- Our hospital isn’t as fancy as the one down the street, we need a makeover, we need private rooms, we need valet parking, we need…
- We were focused on getting ready for The Joint Commission visit
- Change takes time, we’re getting there
As much as I’ve heard these used as valid reasons, they are things that we have some control over and can work to mitigate. Much of it has to do with communication, whether it’s internal to the employees to set behavioral standards or external to the patients to help them understand what’s happening and why.
So what really gets me is when we blame the patients, themselves, for our inability to provide an acceptable experience for them:
- We have a really bad payor mix; they’re all uninsured and homeless
- Our patients are all drug-seekers; they’re mad we don’t give them what they want
So it’s their fault?
Hey, I know there are people out there who can be pretty unreasonable and difficult to please, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I’ve seen far too many staff members immediately take an aggressive stance as soon as they realize their patient is uninsured, experiencing homelessness, or trying to manage chronic pain. They make assumptions and treat these patients a certain way and then wonder why they return an unfavorable survey. That’s just not acceptable.
And, incidentally, wealthier patients don’t always make for happier ones. Years ago, I worked in a very fancy hospital in a very affluent area and found that those patients had much higher standards. They seemed far less tolerant when things didn’t go as planned and much harder to please. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t try.
The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic class of patient we’re seeing. We should be doing our absolute best every time when it comes to serving our patients. And instead of blaming them for not having a good experience, we should be looking at ways we can better reach them. If we find our scores are low in a given demographic, it’s on us to figure out how to improve.
Oh, there was one excuse in the top section that’s actually true. Change takes time. You’ll get there.