Promoting Physician Empathy to Generate Better Health Outcomes and Improve Patient Engagement

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Promoting Physician Empathy to Generate Better Health Outcomes and Improve Patient Engagement

Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When your doctors learn to consistently practice physician empathy, your physicians, patients, and facility will benefit from its far-reaching effects.  These include its power to reduce physician burnout, improve patient engagement, and produce better health outcomes.

 

Physician empathy benefits both doctors and patients.

Physician empathy benefits both doctors and patients.

 

The Benefits of Physician Empathy for Physicians: Reduce Physician Burnout

When physicians learn to practice empathy for patients, it not only benefits their patients but also the physicians themselves.  A physician’s profession can be demanding and stressful, but physicians who are more compassionate toward their patients are more compassionate toward themselves as well, helping them to practice more self-care and successfully navigate through the challenging times they may face during their careers.

Unfortunately, over half of U.S. physicians report experiencing at least one symptom of professional burnout, according to a study published by the Mayo Clinic.  They may feel drained emotionally, grow cynical toward their patients, and view their work as meaningless.

In order to prevent and reduce physician burnout, more medical schools are offering courses and training in empathy and compassion.  These programs are designed to nurture medical students’ passion for helping others, a big motivator for becoming a doctor in the first place, and may counteract the reduction in empathy that begins in school or during residency due to the pressures and demands of schooling and the expectation for exercising objectivity in treating patients.

 

The Benefits of Physician Empathy for Patients: Better Health Outcomes

While a certain degree of objectivity is important in healthcare, when physicians are too detached the physician-patient relationship suffers.  Physician empathy, on the other hand, builds trust.

Many studies demonstrate that physician empathy leads to better health outcomes for patients, according to both patients’ perceptions and measured test results of their health conditions.  Physician empathy inspires better communication and trust and increases patient compliance.  Empathic physicians improve patient engagement.  Plus, physicians who do not suffer from burnout commit fewer medical errors than their burned out peers, improving patient safety.

All of these benefits of physician empathy also increase patient satisfaction.

 

What Can You Do?

Fortunately, empathy is a learned skill.  In order to prevent and reduce physician burnout, improve patient engagement, and generate better health outcomes for your patients, encourage or incentivize your physicians to complete periodic empathy training or make your own programs available to them.

When physicians learn to practice empathy toward both their patients and themselves, they protect themselves from becoming emotionally depleted and therefore have more to give to their patients.  Likewise, when patients feel understood and cared for on a human level, they let their physicians know, thanking them and expressing their satisfaction, and providing physicians with the rewarding moments that make their work worthwhile.

Promoting physician empathy is truly a mutually beneficial way to create better health outcomes and improve patient engagement, while also reducing physician burnout.


By Stephanie Salmich

A Patient’s Last Impression: Improving the Discharge Process

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HealthWare Systems Blog

A Patient’s Last Impression: Improving the Discharge Process

Posted on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Improving the discharge process is vital to making a strong last impression on your patients, their family members, and caregivers.  This final aspect of their visit greatly informs their opinion of their entire patient experience.

Consider improving the discharge process in the following areas, in order to increase patient satisfaction and improve the patient experience.

 

The Discharge Meeting

Don’t negate the positive first impressions you’ve made by overlooking an equally critical part of the patient experience: the discharge meeting.  Patients may have received quality care and attention throughout the rest of their stay, but if they feel rushed and made to be less of a priority during their discharge, that’s what they’ll remember about their visit.  Train clinicians to be cognizant of the emotions their patients may be feeling as they prepare to leave the security of the hospital (e.g. nervousness, fear, anxiety, confusion, exhaustion).  It’s imperative that clinicians devote enough time to thoroughly explaining instructions and addressing patients’ and caregivers’ concerns during this final meeting, so that patients don’t feel lost or abandoned by the hospital when they leave.

 

Hospital Valet Service

As their hospital stay comes to an end, patients may be anxious to get back home.  Help them to get there sooner by providing a hospital valet service.  But be careful; a substandard hospital valet service that keeps patients waiting is likely to be counterproductive and will leave patients thinking they’d have been better off finding their own car.

A hospital valet service will assist you in improving the discharge process.

A solution that enhances the hospital valet service will assist you in improving the discharge process.

So, choose a solution with a hospital valet service component that ensures patients’ cars are waiting for them as soon as they are ready to leave.  Patients will be impressed and reminded of the great care and attention they received throughout their patient experience.

 

Post-Discharge Follow-Up Phone Calls

It is extremely important to make follow-up phone calls to patients and/or their family members and caregivers within a few days after they’ve been discharged.  When patients are discharged, they and their caregivers may be overwhelmed by the information and instructions the doctor provides.  A follow-up call gives them the chance to ask the questions they forgot to ask or that didn’t come to mind at the time.  Plus, these phone calls give your staff the opportunity to confirm that patients understand their instructions and lower the chances of readmission.

 

Improving the discharge process can go a long way in helping you to increase patient satisfaction scores.  When they receive their patient satisfaction surveys, make certain that patients’ most recent memories of their patient experience, their final moments in the hospital and latest contact with your facility, are positive ones.  These extra steps you can take toward improving the discharge process are sure to leave a lasting impression on patients and their family members.


By Stephanie Salmich

First Impressions in Healthcare: 3 Critical Moments to Consider

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HealthWare Systems Blog

First Impressions in Healthcare: 3 Critical Moments to Consider

Posted on Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Forming positive first impressions in healthcare starts before your patient’s appointment even begins.

Here are three critical moments to consider:

 

Choosing the Facility – Online Presence

Before a patient decides to utilize your services, he/she may seek information about your organization online.  Patients visit your website, check out your Facebook page or other social media accounts, and read online reviews about your facility and clinicians.  Is your website easy to use and up to date?  How does it compare to your competition’s?  Are you leveraging the power of social media in healthcare and monitoring online reviews related to your facility?

Creating positive first impressions in healthcare begins with managing your online reputation.

 

Setting the Appointment – Over the Phone or Online

How complicated is it for a patient to set an appointment with your facility?  When patients call, how long is it before they talk to a real, live human being (and is that person pleasant to speak with)?  Negative first impressions in healthcare can easily form when patients become frustrated by rudeness, long holds, and uncertainty about how long they’ll be waiting on hold or for a call to be returned.  Train your staff to practice strategic telephone etiquette that will boost efficiency and increase patient satisfaction.

You can further improve the patient experience by providing the option to set appointments online, through a patient portal or mobile app, for example.  These resources (which are available 24/7, outside of normal calling hours) can make setting an appointment more convenient for some patients, plus they won’t have to worry about being placed on hold during busy calling times.

 

Arriving at the Facility – Be a Hospitable Hospital

When patients arrive at your facility for the first time, they should feel welcome.  Create an inviting atmosphere that begins with the lobby, waiting room, and greeting.

The lobby and waiting area must look neat and professional.  Guests feel welcomed when they can see that their hosts have taken great care to prepare for their visit by cleaning, organizing, and providing provisions just for them.  Consider offering refreshments, like coffee and water, and stocking the waiting area with items to occupy your guests’ time (e.g. CURRENT issues of magazines, games, puzzles, free Wi-Fi).  Make their wait as comfortable as possible, which will greatly improve the patient experience.

Just as important to creating positive first impressions in healthcare is the greeting your guests receive as they enter your facility.  Staff should exhibit a friendly, positive, calm attitude that sets the tone for the rest of the patient experience.  A rude or visibly agitated greeter can completely negate your other efforts to create positive first impressions in healthcare.

A woman and her daughter forming their first impressions in healthcare at the reception desk.

First impressions in healthcare start before the patient’s appointment even begins.


First impressions in healthcare affect patients’ perceptions of the rest of their experience with your facility.  When you improve the patient experience throughout these three critical moments that shape first impressions in healthcare, you will greatly increase patient satisfaction overall.


By Stephanie Salmich

#IHeartHIT : Celebrating Health IT and #NHITweek

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HealthWare Systems Blog

#IHeartHIT : Celebrating Health IT and #NHITweek

Posted on Wed, Oct 04, 2017

It’s National Health IT Week! This week is dedicated to raising awareness about the value of health IT for U.S. healthcare and the patient experience.

Here are the week’s Points of Engagement, the specific benefits of health IT that will be highlighted throughout National Health IT Week:

  • Supporting Healthcare Transformation – changing healthcare for the better
  • Expanding Access to High Quality Healthcare – improving access and quality with innovative technologies
  • Increasing Economic Opportunity – providing job opportunities and contributing to economic growth
  • Making Communities Healthier – supporting population and public health

You can find a Calendar of Events for National Health IT Week here.

In addition, one simple way you can join in celebrating National Health IT Week is by reading these true stories of the difference that health IT has made in real lives.  You can also share the stories (or submit your own) using the hashtag #IHeartHIT .

Common themes throughout these real-life experiences of health IT include:

  • Its effect on patient safety
  • Its ability to improve patient engagement
  • The many ways it continues to improve the patient experience

Enjoy #NHITweek !


By Stephanie Salmich