Sophisticated and Powerful Consumers: How Transparency Will Change Hospitals

Becker's Hospital Review—June 6, 2011

While patients have always been hospitals' consumers, provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act paired with increased availability of provider data, ratings and reviews has left the patient more informed and engaged than ever before. Hospitals that adjust their transparency and delivery models to meet sophisticated consumers will fare better as healthcare reform unfolds.

Some feel that it takes more than comments on a website to influence the healthcare decisions of savvy consumers, however. "We now have an environment where patients and consumers are very sophisticated," says Stephanie Goldberg, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. "There is a lot of information out there and increased transparency. Consumers can go to a website and look at infection rates, HCAHPS data, nursing accreditations and more. In an age of transparency for consumers, it's important for organizations to keep their qualitative data at the highest level," says Ms. Goldberg.

Leadership rounding is also a common practice at HSS. "We pay attention to every single letter and comment," says Ms. Goldberg. "I would say every minute of the day is spent on patient satisfaction and patient excellence. Our staff lives and breathes patient satisfaction data and we have different structures and committees in place to respond to that data," says Ms. Goldberg.

The hospital measures patient satisfaction through Press Ganey tools. Every patient is mailed a measurement tool, and HSS sees a very high response rate, according to Ms. Goldberg. Meetings and committee structures allow staff to craft short-term and long-term action plans, such as hourly rounding shifts or adjustments in the delivery of care model, in response to patient satisfaction data. "We respond to that data quickly," says Ms. Goldberg.

Awards and accreditations
The American Nurses Credentialing Center has named HSS a Magnet institution, recognizing its excellence in nursing. Approximately 6.6 percent of registered hospitals have achieved this title. "In general, if a hospital is Magnet-accredited, the consumer recognizes the organization for excellent nursing care and quality outcomes," says Ms. Goldberg. Magnet accreditation also serves as a draw for patients, who may choose a Magnet institution over a hospital that is not Magnet-accredited, according to Ms. Goldberg.

Along with its appeal to consumers, the attributes of a Magnet-accredited hospital, such as staff participation in clinical decision-making, are attractive to nurses and distinguish HSS from other work environments. "Staff certainly seeks Magnet hospitals, so this designation is also effective as a recruitment strategy," says Ms. Goldberg. "The practice environment also supports nurses to remain at HSS, which only benefits the patient."

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