Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why "Always" always matters

You're planning a dinner for a special occasion. Will you select the restaurant that usually gets your order right, and sometimes has its signature dessert available?

Your car’s making a disturbing noise. Will you take it to the mechanic who sometimes finds out what's wrong the first time and usually gives you an accurate estimate?

You're juggling your schedule at work and home to make a long-standing appointment with — take your pick: a doctor, a hairdresser, a contractor, your child's teacher. Will you recommend that person to others if he or she sometimes sees you within a reasonable time?

Of course not. When you're the consumer, you have pretty high standards. And you expect them to be met — always.

That's important to keep in mind when thinking about the new inpatient experience survey called HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems). The survey’s second word is “consumer,� and that's exactly how our patients expect to be treated.

Of the 22 patient experience questions (out of 27 in the survey), 14 ask patients to report how frequently certain things occurred during their hospital stay. These items are events that patients have said make a big difference in determining their overall experience.

Here are two typical questions:

  • During this hospital stay, how often did nurses treat you with courtesy and respect?
    Never -- Sometimes -- Usually -- Always

  • During this hospital stay, how often were your room and bathroom kep clean?
    Never -- Sometimes -- Usually -- Always

When the HCAHPS results are publicly reported, only one answer will be used to compare hospitals. You can guess which one: ALWAYS.

Backus — like all good hospitals — has systems and standards in place so that certain things always should happen. Checking patient identifiers is not optional; it's an “always� standard for patient safety. Making sure patients (or their families) understand their medications and discharge instructions is not optional; it’s always important.

Our patients' expectations — to be treated with courtesy and respect, to be informed so they can understand what's happening, to have a restful and safe environment — are hardly unreasonable. When you, or a loved one, is the patient, it's what you always want, too. With the HCAHPS survey, we get a chance to see how we meet those expectations, and how well we live up to our own vision of providing patient-centered care.


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