Healthcare News: Email Free Friday?

I hear from clients and friends alike about the sheer amount of email they receive on a daily basis at work.  Some colleagues and friends have work email boxes with THOUSANDS of unread emails just piling up.  Now imagine a day where the inner-office “junk mail” just stopped.  Instead of an annoying exchange, employees at this small hospital in the Boston area, get up and go talk to that person.  Human interaction?  In this day?  Yes, remember just because something can be done via the internet doesn’t make it better.  Sometimes an in person interaction is a welcomed, needed and more satisfying way to work.  An excerpt of the article reported by CBS Boston can be found below. This full article can be found here.

Reported by Chris McKinnon

BOSTON (CBS) – When it comes to work, email is both a blessing and a curse. Often, it feels like managing that constant flow of electronic messages is a job unto itself.

An overflowing inbox is a constant frustration for Carol Burns, chief clinical dietician at Beth Israel Deaconess in Plymouth. “It’s just when you set aside time to work on a project or do something, and instead, you are reading 37 emails about things that aren’t that essential.”
By one estimate, as much as 28% of a worker’s time on the job can now be consumed by email.
The hospital did a survey and found workers felt overwhelmed by unnecessary email. Those findings led to the creation of “Email Free Fridays”. External emails are allowed, but workers are discouraged from sending anything internally.

Medicare Updates: Doctors See Benefits and Risks in Medicare Changes via NYT

Academy of Family Physicians, made little effort to contain his glee Wednesday over the news that Congress had voted to end a reviled payment system for doctors, simultaneously averting a 21 percent physician pay cut and overhauling the way Medicare will pay doctors in the future.

“I just can’t be more positive about it,” said Dr. Wergin, who is a family doctor in rural southeast Nebraska. “The one word is yahoo.”

Then he added: “Now, what next?”

President Obama has signaled that he will sign the bill, resolving an issue that frustrated lawmakers in both parties for more than a decade because it repeatedly required Congress to step in to avert cuts to doctor fees. Doctors and health policy experts have begun to take stock of the practical implications of the legislation, which seeks to move away from paying doctors solely on the volume of their services and toward reimbursing them based on the quality and value of the care they provide. Many said the legislation was short on details about how such quality will be measured, and others expressed apprehension about whether the system will be fair.

“It’s very important legislation in that it aims to support better care and lower costs, but there are a whole lot of details that still need to be filled in,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Medicare administrator in the George W. Bush administration.

Under the new legislation, Medicare will increase the amount it reimburses doctors by 0.5 percent for the next five years. Doctors will earn a 5 percent bonus if they participate in newer payment models that seek to better coordinate care. One example is the so-called medical home, in which a medical team coordinates a patient’s care. They could also work in groups, called accountable care organizations, that receive a set fee to take care of a patient while still meeting quality standards.

“It’s a very big boost to these models,” said Paul B. Ginsburg, a health economist at the University of Southern California, although he and others noted that how these payment models will be defined is still not clear.

Excerpt from NYT, written by Katie Thomas and Reed Abelson, April 15, 2015

Read the whole article here.

Patient Satisfaction – Hospital Gown Redux to Increase Patient Satisfaction

While critics deride the HCAHPS survey for one reason or another, organizations committed to increasing patient satisfaction are finding patient satisfaction can be increased with a simple redesigning of the traditional hospital gown.  As a former standardized patient who literally worked in a hospital gown all day for student testing, I can heartily endorse a change in the traditional hospital gown.  Additionally, anyone who has had the pleasure of wearing a hospital gown knows how little the gowns actually cover and how “breezy” the gown can become.  A redesign seemed inevitable.

U.S News and World Report tells how healthcare organizations are making great strides in redesigning the traditional hospital gowns because, “People felt much more comfortable in the new design, not just physically but emotionally.”   The need to increase patient satisfaction is the other driving force in this innovation.  Without the implementation of the HCAHPS survey, we probably wouldn’t be seeing this type of innovation.

What is interesting is that large gains in patient satisfaction can come from unexpected places that don’t take resources and time from staff.

A better fitting gown increases patient satisfaction.  A solution so simple, it seems odd that it hadn’t been done before.

There is a short excerpt of the article below, click here to read the entire article.

In Pursuit of Patient Satisfaction, Hospitals Update the Hated Hospital Gown – By Shefali Luthra

Whether a patient is in the hospital for an organ transplant, an appendectomy or to have a baby, one complaint is common: the gown.

You know the one. It might as well have been stitched together with paper towels and duct tape, and it usually leaves the wearer’s behind hanging out.

“You’re at the hospital because something’s wrong with you – you’re vulnerable – then you get to wear the most vulnerable garment ever invented to make the whole experience that much worse,” said Ted Streuli, who lives in Edmond, Okla., and has had to wear hospital gowns on multiple occasions.

Put another way: “They are horrible. They are demeaning. They are belittling. They are disempowering,” said Camilla McRory of Olney, Md.
Hospital gowns have gotten a face-lift after some help from fashion designers like these from Patient Style and the Henry Ford Innovation Institute.


Patient Satisfaction – Great article about empathy training for physicians

This article proves that patient satisfaction is derived from more than just a correct diagnosis.  Great Read!

New courses on empathy train physicians to heal by listening and caring

By Kaiser Health News , Herald-Tribune / Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The patient was dying and she knew it. In her mid-50s, she had been battling breast cancer for years, but it had spread to her bones, causing unrelenting pain that required hospitalization.

Jeremy Force, a first-year oncology fellow at Duke University Medical Center who had never met the woman, was assigned to stop by her room last November to discuss her decision to enter hospice.

Employing the skills he had just learned in a day-long course, Force sat at the end of her bed and listened intently. The woman wept, telling him she was exhausted and worried about the impact her death would have on her two daughters.

“I acknowledged how hard what she was going through was,” Force said of their 15-minute conversation, “and told her I had two children, too” and that hospice was designed to provide her additional support.

A few days later, he ran into the woman in the hall.

“You’re the best physician I’ve ever worked with,” Force remembers her telling him.

“I was blown away,” he says. “It was such an honor.”

Read the rest of the article here

Patient Satisfaction – With Medicare Pay On The Line, Hospitals Push Harder To Please Patients – NPR

One thing we can all agree on is that patient satisfaction is at a premium in today’s medical landscape.  NPR and author Jordan Rau have published a great article highlighting this and just how valuable knowing your patients’ experience is to keeping your HCAHPS scores high.  They also highlight using standardized patients to teach doctors better interpersonal skills. Did I mention I have over ten years experience in the simulation training and incorporate this style of training for our secret shopping team?  Click here to read more about my background.

Below is just the first few paragraphs, click the link below to read the entire article.

Lillie Robinson came to Rowan Medical Center for surgery on her left foot. She expected to be in and out in a day, returning weeks later to the Salisbury, N.C., hospital for her surgeon to operate on the other foot.

But that’s not how things turned out. “When I got here I found out he was doing both,” she said. “We didn’t realize that until they started medicating me for the procedure.” Robinson signed a consent form and the operation went fine, but she was in the hospital far longer than she’d expected to be.

“I wasn’t prepared for that,” she said.

Disappointed patients such as Robinson are a persistent problem for Rowan, a hospital with some of the lowest levels of patient satisfaction in the country. In surveys sent to patients after they leave, Rowan’s patients are less likely than those at most hospitals to say that they always received help promptly and that their pain was controlled well. Rowan’s patients say they would recommend the hospital far less often than patients elsewhere.

Feedback from patients like Robinson matters to Rowan and to hospitals across the country. Since Medicare began requiring hospitals to collect information about patient satisfaction and report it to the government in 2007, these patient surveys have grown in influence. For the past three years, the federal government has considered survey results when setting pay levels for hospitals. Some private insurers do as well.

With Medicare Pay On The Line, Hospitals Push Harder To Please Patients – Click here to read the article.

Medical Mystery Shopping – Ohio C-Suite and Top Executives use Medical Mystery Shopping to understand Customer POV

This article written by Carrie Grose of the Columbus Buisness Journal highlights the need for medical mystery shopping as well as acknowledging by practice that mystery shopping provides data that surveys alone cannot replicate.  Below is a short bit from the article, click the link following that to read the entire article.

A “secret shopper” exercise by hospital CEOs and CFOs in part inspired upcoming efforts by the Ohio Hospital Association to explain pricing and help patients compare facilities on cost and quality.
The 18 trustees, top executives at hospitals ranging from small rural facilities to the Cleveland Clinic, posed as uninsured patients calling their own institutions and asked a scripted set of questions about what it would cost to get a procedure.

“There were a lot of people surprised at how difficult it was to get pricing information,” said Mike Abrams, CEO of the trade group for 219 hospitals and 13 systems.
“Some got very good information,” he said. “A lot of them learned from a customer service standpoint they needed to do some training. It’s a difficult question for a hospital.”

Carrie Grose – Columbus Business Journal – 2/5/15


Read the rest of the article here.

We’ve Been Neglecting You and Interpersonal Skills and Higher HCAHPS Scores

Over the past few months we’ve been posting on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages and not here, and we are sorry.   We didn’t mean to neglect you.

To get everyone caught up we’ll be posting some links and articles that never made it to our blog.  Some of the articles we’ll be posting have to do with how interpersonal skills affect patient satisfaction.   More and more evidence is correlating patient satisfaction with a healthcare workers interpersonal skills.  An article recently published on  addresses this subject with nursing care called Compassionate Nursing Care Linked to Higher HCAHPS Scores .  Click the link here to read the article.

We at Verify HealthCare are followers of this ideology and know that a correct diagnosis is no longer enough in the HCAHPS era.  Having a mystery shopping/quality assurance program is necessary to better understand your patient experience and have sufficient data to correct short comings.  Having this data will let your organization be proactive in its changes rather than being reactive to HCAHPS scores.

Be ahead of the curve and your competition with an auditing program from Verify HealthCare.

Medical Mystery Shopping – Hospital Food Service Case Study

Medical Mystery Shopping – Hospital Food Service Case Study

A Success Story in Hospital Food Service

Verify HealthCare conducted a comprehensive hospital-wide food service audit to determine vendor compliance to performance standards and contractual obligations.

The client: a prominent metropolitan hospital in the Southwest in the process of major expansion.

The Engagement:

The hospital had already attained a national reputation for excellence in pediatric care but wanted to improve support services performance and quality, particularly in food service.

Hospital administration was disappointed with its contracted food service vendor and, over a period of time, discovered that food quality, service, and sanitation were falling short of desired expectations. The vendor’s three-year contract, worth approximately $3.75 million annually, was up for renewal in 6 months. Administration felt that a comprehensive performance review could help determine if the contract should be renewed, but leadership lacked sufficient time and experience to conduct such an assessment.

Hospital administration retained Verify HealthCare to:

  1. Review hospital’s and vendor’s established food service standards;
  2. Develop and implement processes to evaluate performance;
  3. Observe food service operations for 90 days and present findings;
  4. Offer recommendations for improvement.


Working with hospital administration and the vendor’s management team, Verify HealthCare identified five (5) obstacles to success:

  1. Poor sanitation levels and working environment
  2. Inadequate / faulty equipment
  3. Extravagant use of temporary employees
  4. Under-staffing / shortage of FTE’s
  5. Lack of effective training

Verify HealthCare used the following methodologies to pinpoint performance issues:

  1. Specific vendor and hospital standards for food service were identified and revised to serve as performance benchmarks to measure quality of products and services.
  2. On-site inspections were conducted during each working shift to assess department adherence to established standards, including customer service, product quality, sanitation, food safety, and work environment.
  3. Confidential questionnaires were administered to food service employees, hospital staff, visitors, and patients to rate satisfaction levels and help identify areas for improvement.
  4. “Mystery shopper” audits were conducted in all food service outlets to determine compliance to established policies and performance standards.
  5. Mystery shopper visits were conducted at competitor food service outlets for comparative analysis.
  6. Performance “Scorecards” were published and shared with leadership, based upon audit findings and feedback from interviews with food service vendor management, supervisors, and HR representatives.
  7. Recommendations for improvement were categorized by priority level and presented to hospital administration and vendor representatives.

Key Results:

After the initial benchmarking study, which produced an overall performance score for food service, improvement initiatives were considered. Hospital administration in turn placed the vendor on probation, pending a follow up audit 6 months later.

Verify HealthCare presented a detailed action plan, which was implemented by the vendor in response to the audit. Key staff changes were made, and performance improved dramatically.

  1. During the past 4 years, follow up assessments have been conducted on a bi-annual basis. Key results that have emerged from the evaluations include the following:
  2. The department’s overall quality score increased from a low score of 54% to a high score of 94%, a 74% improvement.
  3. Sanitation levels improved 60%.
  4. Product quality improved 32%.
  5. Customer service ratings improved 40% and are at their highest level ever.
  6. The department earned Press Ganey’s highest satisfaction scores for outstanding performance within 3 years of Verify’s initial audit.
  7. The department earned the highest award for the NSF food safety audit in the region.
  8. Use of temporary employees on the payroll has been eliminated, saving the department over $200K per year in payroll expenses.
  9. The room service team won the CHCA award for customer service initiatives.
  10. Employee turnover decreased nearly 40%, saving thousands of dollars in payroll costs.
  11. Quality standards are updated and reviewed twice per year to ensure a consistent focus on food service excellence, helping to strengthen the hospital’s brand of excellence.
  12. Standards for the newly established room service program have been implemented.
  13. The main cafeteria servery and dining areas underwent a major renovation, and kitchen equipment was significantly upgraded. The cafeteria won a national design award.

Web Based Dashboard and Scorecard– Benefits of Medical Mystery Shopping Series

We began our series discussing the benefits of medical mystery shopping with legitimacy and benchmarking. If you haven’t gotten the chance to read it, click here.

This week’s discussion focuses on Verify HealthCare’s web-based Dashboard and Scorecard.

After each phone call or on-site shopper audit, a designated form is filled out and posted to the client Dashboard, which is designed specifically to reflect each client’s standards of performance.  This allows users to follow their progress month-to-month and drill down to individual “Scorecards” to view performance results or listen to any interaction.

One issue that clients complain about in utilizing standard surveying techniques is the lack of “freshness” of data gathered. With mandated surveys via HCAHPS, organizations are often forced to draw conclusions from data that is 3 to 4 months old. It’s difficult to react quickly, and efficiently, to challenges at hand when data is only furnished quarterly. Verify HealthCare’s secure, web-based Dashboard gives clients the opportunity to organize data and accurately monitor performance in near real-time.  Audit results are published within 24 to 48 hours of the shopping engagement, which allows leadership teams to respond quickly to errors and to correct poor performance or deviance from recognized standards.

Near real-time reporting is a critical ingredient in an environment as fluid as the medical and healthcare arena. Medical mystery shopping is key to gathering this type of customer-focused data in real time, something a survey can never match. Please view our 3 minute Measurement Tools video (located at the bottom of the page) for more information about our Dashboard and other healthcare auditing methods. And, be sure to follow us on Linked-In to receive all of our blog posts.

Russell Brand is the senior consultant and co-founder at Verify HealthCare, a mystery shopping and consulting firm dedicated to improving the health care industry. Feel free to contact Russell at moc.e1508475684racht1508475684laehy1508475684firev1508475684@lles1508475684suR1508475684.

Benefits of Health Care Mystery Shopping Series – Legitimacy and Benchmarking

For the next few blog posts I’ll go over the benefits of health care mystery shopping.

To start the series, we’ll begin with two benefits that every client enjoys when using our services, Benchmarking and Legitimacy.

Benchmarking – In order to measure performance over time Verify HealthCare establishes a benchmark in our clients’ processes and systems.  The benefit of this aspect of our mystery shopping services is it forces our clients to either re-visit their established process and systems or (as we often find) realize that they don’t have any substantive procedures in place.  If we find there are no processes or systems in place we begin to help our client form these systems so we are able to have an effective health care mystery shop.

The next benefit to discuss in this post is Legitimacy.

Legitimacy –Our team audits your agency with no bias. We are not part of the organization and provide a true picture of what is happening.   Inter office politics, culture and assumptions are not involved in our reporting.  3rd party audits are also integral to establish credibility with organizational stakeholders and outside regulatory agencies.  Some of our healthcare mystery shopping engagements are mandated by regulatory agencies which makes the honesty, integrity and specificity of our findings integral to the inner workings and viability of our clients product offerings and services.

When regulatory agencies or internal/external stakeholders want an honest and independent view of their agency, health care mystery shopping is your answer.

Benchmarking and legitimacy are just two of the benefits of our services at Verify HealthCare.   Knowing where your organization is by benchmarking it’s processes and services is integral to measuring future performance.   We solidify and provide legitimacy by being an unbiased,data driven 3rd party audit.

Thanks for taking the time to read our post.  Keep checking back for the next installment in our “Benefits of Health Care Mystery Shopping” series.