Simple “low tech” practices, such as ongoing rounds by nurses and senior managers, can improve ratings for patient experience in hospitals, according to US researchers.
An overarching culture that engages all levels of staff who are providing care is also key to higher levels of patient satisfaction, the study found.
The researchers, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said they had identified a handful of practices most likely to result in patients having a positive experience and feeling they came first.
“All that is required is commitment and a set of principles that any hospital can apply”
Their findings are based on responses to surveys and letters sent to chief executives and clinical personnel at more than 50 US hospitals.
The survey, the researchers said, was designed to uncover how high-performing hospitals promoted the idea of “patient-centred care” – a concept also popular with healthcare policy makers in the UK.
They identified US hospitals with a “top ranking” or a “most improved” designation based on their 2012 scores in a national assessment of patient experiences and satisfaction – a similar measure to the annual NHS patient survey programme.
According to the study authors, clinicians and leaders at hospitals that were considered the best by patients shared a “devotion to consistency, personal and focused interactions”.
At an operational level, responsiveness was a key element at the best rated hospitals, said the study authors in the journal Medical Care.
Lead author Dr Hanan Aboumatar said: “Importantly, we found that similar practices were occurring across the spectrum of the hospitals in our study. It did not matter how many beds they had or whether they were an academic hospital.
He added: “Also, these didn’t need any high-tech resources. All that is required is commitment and a set of principles that any hospital can apply.”
A particularly common approach was proactive nurse rounding, where nursing staff visited patients individually at periodic intervals and asked a set of specific questions related to care.
“Importantly, we found that similar practices were occurring across the spectrum of the hospitals in our study”
Similarly, leader rounds – during which senior members of the hospital’s management visited patients and staff members to check on concerns or issues – were also common in the top hospitals.
Hospitals that were rated highly by their patients also promoted specific activities or behaviours, such as always making eye contact with patients or sitting at patients’ bedsides, rather than standing or hovering over them, said the study authors.
The study also found a link between good ratings for patient experience and hospitals that had cultures that “demanded involvement of all levels of caregivers”.
Dr Aboumatar said: “It’s not just about getting the physicians or nurses involved. Everyone involved at the hospital, all the way up to top leadership, has to place a high priority on the needs of patients and their families.
“It may seem a simple thing,” she said. “But if leaders and staff members don’t prioritise this commitment and link it to the greater mission, it becomes easier to lose sight of it in the hectic pace of hospital care.”