TROY – In a health care environment that has become increasingly conscious of quality, providers of health care have become increasingly aware of how patients feel about the care they receive. This is especially true of small hospitals like FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital where patients and hospital caregivers are often relatives and friends.
Consistently high patient satisfaction scores for the past three years at Montgomery Memorial indicate that patients are very pleased with the care they receive at their local hospital. Mean (average) score trends for fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010 have remained in the mid- to high 90s for the hospital’s inpatient, swing bed and outpatient (ambulatory surgery) units with scores for the Emergency Department only slightly lower.
For the 2010 fiscal year that ended in September, mean scores for inpatient (96.36), swing bed (99) and outpatient (99.7) exceeded the hospital’s 2010 goal of 95. The Emergency Department achieved a mean score of 92.3 for the fiscal year.
MMH President Kerry Hensley attributes the consistently high scores to quality of care. “I believe that we can attribute these scores to the quality of the staff we have,” she says. “Members of our staff stay up to date with their clinical knowledge and skills while giving compassionate care to our patients who are often their friends and neighbors.”
While larger hospitals usually contract with national firms to conduct patient satisfaction surveys, smaller hospitals usually do their own. At Montgomery Memorial, medical, surgical and swing bed surveys are conducted by telephone and every patient who is discharged from those units gets a follow-up call from a nurse within 48 hours of leaving the hospital.
The personal touch is designed not only to increase the likelihood of patient response but also to assure patients that their opinion is important and will be used to ensure continued quality care, according to Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer Beth Walker.
“We follow up, because we want to get that feedback,” Walker says. “If things aren’t working, we want to know.”
While specific survey questions are changed annually, each survey will always include a question about the care that is delivered by staff (hospitalist) physicians. Other questions may cover staff concerns related to safety, pain control or overall care.
“Core questions are really key,” says Walker. “We get good feedback about the Hospitalist program.”
According to Walker, patients seem to appreciate the calls, which are scripted in an effort to make them non-biased. Information is summarized by month, by quarter and then by year.
The survey collection method is different for the hospital’s outpatient and emergency departments. Those patients are given cards (blue for outpatient and green for emergency department) to be completed and dropped in a response box.
Both surveys focus on a single question concerning how likely the patient would be to recommend the department to family and friends. Accompanying boxes allow the patient to check either of five options: very poor, poor, fair, good, very good.
There is also an area for comments.
On the outpatient survey cards, patients are asked to indicate the specific department in which they received care: Outpatient Registration, Laboratory, Imaging, Cardiopulmonary or Sleep Lab. With the emergency department surveys, similar response cards are distributed at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial in Rockingham since the same specialized physician practice (Sandhills Emergency Physicians) provides coverage for both FirstHealth hospitals.
The response rate for the MMH surveys averages about 11 percent, a very respectable return, according to Walker. “We have tried really hard to get a good response rate,” she says. “The more responses we get, the more accurate our results are and, historically, the higher the score.”
Hospital employees are rewarded for their contributions to positive surveys. Any employee getting a personal positive comment on a survey receives a recognition note from Cindy McNeill-McDonald, FirstHealth’s vice president of Quality, and he/she becomes eligible for a gift card drawing.