For too long, hospitals and healthcare systems have functioned according to internal priorities rather than the needs of patients. Yet we know that when care is truly patient centered, clinical outcomes and satisfaction improve. Hospital managers can now adopt alternative approaches that put patients firmly at center while still enabling efficient operations.
Patient centered care goes beyond just being polite and addressing complaints. It means involving patients and families directly in care processes, decisions, and redesign efforts. It requires viewing hospital operations through the eyes of patients rather than just the convenience of staff. And crucially, it means bringing patient voices to the management table.
Engaging Patients in Care Design
A foundational patient centered strategy is engaging patients directly in care design. Rather than managers and clinicians deciding what changes to make, they should solicit regular input from patients and families.
Hospitals can create patient and family advisory councils that meet regularly to provide feedback. Members of this council can offer insights on ideas for innovative programs or facilities. They could also review patient education materials to suggest clearer language.
Lots of hospitals worry about legal issues when it comes to engaging patients in this way. With proper policies to protect privacy and prevent conflicts of interest though, the benefits by far outweigh the risks. Care designed around patient needs rather than institutional assumptions is the ultimate reward.
Empowering Shared Decision Making
At the individual care level, hospital managers need to promote shared decision making among clinical teams and patients. So while clinicians hold the medical expertise, patients bring invaluable perspectives regarding their goals, values, and circumstances. Their wishes really should help guide their care path.
Hospital managers can invest in patient decision aids like informational handouts, videos, and online platforms to let this happen. These tools walk patients through care options and show them the risks and benefits and help identify preferences.
Capturing the Patient Experience
Understanding patient experiences is really important for identifying opportunities to improve care delivery and hospital operations. So rather than sporadic surveys, hospitals should try to implement systems to capture patient feedback at multiple junctures.
Comment cards at discharge, for example, offer insights into overall impressions of a hospital stay while targeted touch point surveys – such as after an imaging procedure or emergency department visit – pinpoint specific service issues. Hospitals can also monitor ratings on public platforms (social media. Forums, etc.) to see their reputation from patient eyes.
Aligning Operations with Patient Needs
Many hospital operational processes were designed mainly around administrative efficiency or staff preferences. Managers seeking a patient centered philosophy must examine every process with fresh eyes.
Small touches like way-finding signs, coffee shops, and soothing music can make a difference in how patients experience a hospital stay. Visitation policies should account for how isolation affects patient emotional health rather than just arguing for rest and privacy.
Mental Health Management
For hospital managers overseeing behavioral health units, adopting patient centered approaches is especially impactful. Mental health patients are often excluded from the care design process, leading to services that worsen feelings of isolation and powerlessness.
Managers of psychiatric units should establish mental health consumer councils to inform program development and facility design. Patients with lived mental health experiences must be welcomed as advisors for improvement initiatives.
According to those at Horizon Health, clinicians working in mental health departments should be coached on principles like trauma-informed care that honor patient emotions and histories. Shared decision making is also crucial for mental health management of patients who often feel coerced into unwanted treatment plans.
Shifting entrenched policies, processes, and attitudes in healthcare does not occur quickly. However, hospital managers who embrace patient centered philosophies can drive profound changes that ultimately deliver greater patient satisfaction, better quality, and improved population health.