Getty Images

Employee Engagement Tied to Higher Patient Satisfaction Levels

A one-point increase in employee engagement scores resulted in half-point improvements in patient satisfaction scores.

Improving employee engagement can boost patient satisfaction and other elements of the patient experience, according to research from the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group.

The analysis, which looked at patient experience data from over 150 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers between 2016 and 2018, found that improving the employee experience results in increases in patient satisfaction, improvements in call center efficiency, and reductions in nurse turnover.

Improvements in these three areas tie together for an overall better patient experience, the researchers said.

The researchers used the Best Places to Work employee engagement scale to analyze employee engagement at various VA medical centers. That scale accounts for variables such as an employee’s likelihood to recommend the facility as a good place to work, job satisfaction levels, and satisfaction with the employer or organization.

Through an extensive review, the researchers concluded that facilities with better employee engagement delivered better patient services, although the data could not conclude whether employee engagement drove positive clinical outcomes.

A one-point increase in the employee engagement scale correlated with a half-point increase in patient satisfaction scores for the overall medical center. Better employee engagement scores resulted in a quarter-point increase in satisfaction with specialty or primary care providers.

For call centers, the researchers observed a reduction in the amount of time it takes to answer a call as well as the number of calls that go unanswered.

The average VA call center took 69 seconds to respond to inquiries during the study period, the researchers reported. A 10-point increase in the employee engagement scale resulted in a 15 percent reduction in call center wait times.

Finally, the researchers found that nurse turnover rates were lower when employee satisfaction was higher. It will be essential for facilities to maintain this trend as the healthcare industry – and VA facilities especially – stare down a clinician shortage problem.

VA medical centers are currently short between 40,000 and 335,000 clinical positions, a number that is likely to grow should the healthcare industry continue on its current path, the researchers reported.

VA facilities with high employee satisfaction achieved that through simple and cost-effective efforts, the researchers reported. Specifically reviewing two facilities in St. Louis, Missouri, and Altoona, Pennsylvania, the researchers noted that facility leaders can drive employee engagement through better communication and by creating more leadership opportunities.

For example, at the Altoona facility, reports about management bullying or disrespecting other employees were rampant. Efforts to address those incidents and build staff camaraderie were important. Leadership seminars also help address the root cause of the issue and helped management develop strong relationships with other employees from the get-go.

Leaders at the St. Louis facility also revamped their leadership training sessions, expanding those opportunities to leaders in small departments. Previously, the organization only offered leadership training to senior managers.

Allowing other leaders to attend these seminars strengthened their leadership skills and their relationship with staff and other team leaders. It also highlighted the respect that the facility had for them.

Both organizations also instituted new programs to facilitate staff bonding. All-staff barbecues and recognition for good work instilled good will among employees.

Efforts to solicit and then consider staff feedback allowed organization leaders to continually improve. Programs that reviewed and emphasized the organization’s mission to the patient and the community prompted more clinicians to commit to and deliver on those promises.

Healthcare organizations may benefit from adopting similar strategies for creating employee engagement and satisfaction. It is the right thing to do for hospitals to make their employees happier and create good will. However, it will also have positive implications for the patient experience, helping organizations to deliver on patient-centered and value-based care goals.

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Patient satisfaction and experience

xtelligent Health IT and EHR