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Patient satisfaction suffers under poor hospital admission & discharge

Patient satisfaction scores were lower when patients did not receive good post-discharge notes and communication.

Healthcare organizations working on improving the hospital patient experience need to focus on the admission and discharge process, with new J.D. Power survey data showing that patients are frustrated by a lack of information and long wait times.

The data, based on surveying of just under 3,000 adult patients experiencing an overnight hospital stay in the past six months, also underscore serious staffing problems in the hospital setting. In addition to long wait times and poor discharge patient engagement, respondents reported that it can sometimes be hard to get ahold of a physician when they feel it is necessary to speak to one.

These findings come as healthcare continues to grapple with staffing problems. In an October 2023 healthcare leader survey, respondents said that staffing shortages were a worse issue than finances.

This J.D. Power survey shows that staffing woes are starting to affect the overall patient experience because there are not enough staff to deliver on the items that influence a good patient satisfaction score.

For around a third of patients (34 percent), the admission and discharge processes can make or break a patient satisfaction score. And right now, hospitals may be under-delivering.

For example, 49 percent of respondents said it took more than two hours to get to their room. Delays in care indicate some process challenges, including not having enough staff and resources to meet patient demand.

In terms of the discharge process, patients are pushing for more information and clearer communication. Specifically, patients want written descriptions of their symptoms and certain health problems they should be aware of after leaving the hospital. Hospitals can accomplish this by providing accessible post-discharge notes—meaning notes available in different languages and free of medical jargon—to patients, J.D. Power advised.

Indeed, patient access to clinical notes and post-discharge information swayed patient satisfaction scores, the report author said. When patients were able to access post-charge notes, they were more likely to give high patient satisfaction scores.

But it’s not just during the admission and discharge process that hospitals are feeling the pinch of low staffing levels. Physician staffing levels are also unable to keep up with patient needs.

Only about a third (36 percent) of patient respondents said they were always able to speak with a physician when needed. That’s down from 43 percent in 2011, which is when J.D. Power last conducted this study.

When patients do meet with doctors, they report high satisfaction, and they are also satisfied with the clinicians who they do see.

For example, 83 percent of patients said their nurses always described their care plan for the day, and 80 percent said they heard from a nurse manager/leader to report how their hospital experience was going. Another 87 percent of patients said their nurses notified them in advance to expect certain tests or procedures, and 85 percent said scheduled tests were performed on time.

In addition to staffing and communication issues, J.D. Power reported that certain comforts and amenities are detracting from the overall patient experience. Patients are indeed giving poor scores to factors like food and beverage, but there are other notable comforts that are missing, too.

For example, only 45 percent of patients said the area around their rooms was always quiet at night. Ambient noise and light can cause patient discomfort and get in the way of patients getting rest while in the hospital.

Of course, it is impossible to avoid ambient noise and light entirely because hospital care is 24/7. J.D. Power advised hospital staff to work to keep conversations out of the hallways and to turn off any unnecessary lights.

Importantly, 68 percent of patients said their room and bathroom were always kept clean.

“Making patients feel like a partner in their care, by engaging them with easy-to-understand care notes or coordinating scheduled admission times in a way that reduces long waits, can help,” the report author said in the report. “Improving the ancillary services, like food and beverage, would also make a difference. Facilities that can do this, plus manage staff and ensure patients feel they have access to their caregivers, will see a meaningful boost in their overall patient satisfaction.”

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