Real-time patient experience data guides innovation in the Cedars-Sinai ED
The emergency department isn’t usually the first-choice destination for patients. Visitors to the ED are typically anxious, upset, or uncomfortable, and can get even more so if they feel their needs are not being met in a timely, compassionate manner.
In order to effectively manage this stressful, high-intensity environment, executive leaders need to understand and address the patient pain points that are under their control. While health systems participate in various quarterly or yearly patient experience surveys and audits, gaining real-time insight into consumer sentiments can help inform immediate actions when something is not quite right. To address areas of improvement, Cedars-Sinai implemented Feedtrail surveys to focus on a single issue at a time to identify specific improvements.
At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, collecting real-time patient sentiment is helping staff stay one step ahead of potential issues while offering deep and meaningful insight into both the positives and negatives of the patient experience.
“It’s hugely helpful to have insight into what our patients and families are feeling, thinking, and seeing when they’re receiving care,” said Claude Stang, Executive Director of Emergency Services. “We like to think that we always know what patients want, and that’s a big mistake. We can’t just rely on instinct. We need data to really learn about what’s happening and why.”
“If you can see the trends moving from hour to hour, it becomes really actionable for making improvements and delivering the type of experience we want to provide.”
Collecting feedback on what makes a positive patient experience
Cedars-Sinai started using the strategy just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Stang explained, to collect data on a variety of issues that have a direct impact on how patients perceive their time in the ED.
“The first questions we asked were around safety and security as a patient,” he said. “We wanted to know how safe people felt in the waiting room and what features helped them feel that way. We shared the data with the security team and our safety task force so they could course correct when needed, and it really demonstrated how concretely our patients can drive changes.”
“We also ask questions about the environment of care, or the sights, sounds, and smells that people experience. When we had big surges during the pandemic, we would ask about how safe they feel in terms of social distancing and masking. The immediate feedback was very important for adjusting our protocols, because just like every hospital in the country, we were sort of building the plane while flying it.”
Leveraging patient input to raise spirits and quality scores
When analyzing patient experience information, it’s easy to focus solely on the lowest scores and most vivid complaints. But Stang and his team make a concerted effort to look at the top end of the scale, as well.
“Compliments are so beneficial for filling everyone’s cup, so to speak, especially when our staff members are so stressed out due to the pandemic,” he said. “When you can immediately share that one of Nurse Suzie’s patients had something really nice to say about her, Nurse Suzie is going to have a really great rest of her shift. That’s going to lift up her whole team and their interactions with their patients, too.”
Energized staff and a patient-friendly environment can translate to real results on important measures of quality and satisfaction, such as the HCAHPS survey and other patient experience metrics.
“Over the past few years, we have gone up a few percentage points on our HCAHPS, which is quite significant for an ED,” Stang said.
“Everyone has been struggling during the pandemic, and many hospitals have been seeing dips in their performance on these scoring systems. At Cedars-Sinai, we believe that keeping an open mind around innovation and doing our best to address patient feedback has helped us serve our patients better and maintain a stellar reputation in our community.”
Creating a culture of positive experiences for staff and visitors
The ability to access patient insights and respond to issues quickly and comprehensively helps to further a culture of continuous improvement in the Cedars-Sinai ED, said Stang. Key to the organization’s success is ensuring that staff are adequately familiarized with new tools and are committed to making the best possible of the data.
“Staff buy-in and workflow planning are incredibly important, especially when you’re asking someone in the ED to add something to their to-do list,” he asserted. “We can’t just throw another thing at a charge nurse and expect them to do it – we have to think carefully about how to support this change with training and customization so that it becomes a useful tool instead of another burden.”
“We need to remember that our staff members aren’t robots, and we shouldn’t treat them as such,” he continued. “We have to support them in the same way we support our patients. We always want to listen to what our patients are telling us we need to improve, but it’s equally critical to highlight the good things and share our patients’ gratitude for why we’re here. That balance is what helps us succeed in our mission and create good experiences for both our staff and our patients.”
Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry. Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system.