According to a survey conducted by HealthLeaders Media, patient satisfaction, also known as patient experience, is one of the top concerns for hospitals throughout the U.S. High-yield factors that offer the best chance to improve the patient experience take into consideration the quality of patient care, a focus on leading medical techniques, and the efficiency with which hospital processes are carried out. By focusing on patient safety, evidence-based medicine, and process improvement in healthcare, you can improve the patient experience.

1. Change your culture to promote patient safety

Patients are satisfied when they feel their health and safety are your number one concern. Yet patient safety has always been difficult to achieve, with a lack of understanding of germ theory and disease being primary contributors in the past. According to Patient Safety: The Past, the Present, and the Future, the first act of patient safety in modern medicine was in 1847, when a clinician named Ignaz Semmelweis suggested that physicians in obstetric clinics should clean their hands with chlorinated limes to remove cadaverous particles. After that, mortality rates in the clinics dropped from 18 percent to 1 percent.

Today, reasons for subpar patient safety include a lack of medical resources for facilities in low-income areas; poor staffing that leads to employee burnout and frustration; and employee disengagement. And despite modern medicine, facilities are struggling with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) such as ventilator-associated pneumonia; surgical-site infection; catheter-associated urinary tract infection; and central-line associated bloodstream infection.

HAIs are only some of the medical errors that can affect patient safety, and many medical errors stem from lack of training. But to improve patient safety, the first step is changing the mindsets in the workplace. This means instead of playing into a culture of blame, people must address and share mistakes and realize that errors are caused by a series of actions such as workplace conditions, individual situational factors, and organizational and management decisions. (For more information, download Patient Safety: The Past, the Present, and the Future.)

2. Involve patients in the decision-making process.

Patient experience (a term that is increasingly replacing the more narrow term patient satisfaction) is a core component of delivering value-based care. At the end of the day, care that improves some health outcomes while ignoring a patient’s treatment goals or putting him or her through a miserable experience may not be worth it. And yet, meaningfully involving patients in decisions is a goal that continues to frequently evade the healthcare profession. For specific tactics on involving patients in the decision-making process, check out Understanding Value-Based Healthcare.

3. Reduce errors with process improvement methodologies

In the end, patient satisfaction depends on the quality and value of the healthcare they receive. Hospitals and healthcare may seem far removed from factories and the automobile industry, but the business methodologies created by manufacturers such as Continuous Quality Improvement, Lean Production, and Six Sigma can help the former. At their heart, CQI, Lean Production, and Six Sigma are focused on reducing errors and waste in a system. And healthcare is sadly rife with both, which can and do affect patient satisfaction.

As explained in Process Improvement in Healthcare, (download the eBook for details on the mechanics of process improvement), CQI, Lean Production, and Six Sigma can provide healthcare organizations ways of managing processes to better meet the needs of patients. Good performance for healthcare organizations means meeting the needs of the patient, and improving the performance means improving these processes by collecting and analyzing data; engaging those directly involved in the process; gaining the commitment of the senior leaders of the organization; and realizing that the pursuit of improvement is never-ending and relentless.

Bonus tip: Ask the right questions for precise, evidence-based medicine

Every patient is an individual with individual needs. The more personalized the approach, the more the patient feels they are being listened to and treated correctly.

To achieve these goals, physicians have to ask focused questions; find the evidence behind that question; appraise the evidence; apply the evidence; and evaluate the performance. If done correctly, evidence-based medicine vastly improves patient satisfaction, the effectiveness and quality of care, and even the cost of care.

It demands that the effectiveness of clinical interventions, the accuracy and precision of diagnostic tests, and the power of prognostic markers be scrutinized and their usefulness proven,” and “It requires clinicians to be open minded and look for and try new methods that are scientifically proven to be effective and to discard methods shown to be ineffective or harmful.”

For a more detailed breakdown of the steps of evidence-based medicine, download Why Evidence-Based Medicine?.

Interested in more topics that can lead to better patient outcomes and improved patient satisfaction? View this video, The Argument for Innovation, by Dr. Thomas J. Graham where he speaks about the importance of innovation in healthcare settings and how it can impact the patient experience.