Teaching Hospitals to be Hospitable

Crain’s Health Pulse
September 30, 2013
Teaching Hospitals to be Hospitable

Hospitals care about patient satisfaction scores because they have a direct impact on Medicare revenue. But how can local hospitals compete against single-bedded facilities elsewhere in the country that resemble hotels more than hospitals?

Enter Hospitality Quotient, the consulting arm of Danny Meyer's restaurant group Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern. The group has nearly three decades' worth of experience in hospitality and service. The HQ unit works with companies, including health care facilities, to incorporate hospitality into their business models. North Shore-LIJ, Beth Israel, Maimonides and Westmed have been clients.

Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores pegged Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the 11th percentile for "likelihood to recommend" in 2010, and only the 6th percentile in 2011. HQ was invited by Chantal Weinhold, LIJ's executive director, to help overhaul the hospital's hospitality. When HQ was through, the hospital's score skyrocketed to the 51st percentile for 2012. (More information on the program for LIJ is online here.)

"It has had remarkable results," said managing director Susan Reilly Salgado, who founded HQ in 2010 to help companies create an "all-encompassing experience" that people would recommend to friends.

Health care is a challenging industry right now because staffers are putting much effort into adapting to the ACA and wrestling with electronic medical records and quality initiatives—not to mention layoffs and possible hospital closures. Smiling at patients through all that is tough.

"When people are strained in their jobs, their hospitality slips," said Ms. Salgado. Hospitality "has to be on all the time," she added, and is a shared mission among all staffers. A hospital must clarify that the behavior is expected, and employees are trained in what that means.

Good communication and giving patients a feeling of being cared for are low-hanging fruit. Ms. Salgado tells the story of two hospital executives who both used the same food vendor—but one hospital had far higher satisfaction scores for its food. The difference? The higher-rated facility had trained its staff to improve the patient's experience of receiving the food. It is as simple as asking, "Is there anything I can do before I step out of the room?"

Some employees are prohibited from touching a patient's personal property when asked to reach for something. But a team effort can improve patient satisfaction scores. "It's the difference between saying no and walking out the door, or saying you will find someone who can help," said Ms. Salgado.



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