Caring hospitals make for cheerful, upbeat patients

February 10th, 2009 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) The hospital seems like a dour establishment with equally abrasive doctors, nurses and attendants, especially to patients who need immediate attention.

But can you imagine one where the morale is high, employee turnover is low and patients rarely go unanswered - and if they do, you can summon its CEO.

That’s exactly the type of culture and service that “delights” patients and makes for the most successful community hospitals in the country, as rated by caregivers and patients, said John Griffith, professor at University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Griffith’s findings suggest that the single-biggest factor in patient satisfaction is hospital employee morale, which starts with outside-the-box thinking at the very top management levels.

These community hospitals had the happiest patients and caregivers, but only because these hospitals departed radically from traditional hospital management, Griffith says.

For instance, at a Florida hospital where patients receive a welcome letter with the CEO’s signature and home phone number, they’re also paid a visit by their unit’s nurse manager, who also leaves cell and office phone numbers.

This personal service doesn’t come cheaply, yet the hospitals kept costs low enough to thrive financially on standard Medicare and insurance payments, despite paying employees “extremely well,” Griffith said.

Griffith examined the attributes of 34 community hospitals in nine states that have earned the Health Care Sector Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a nationally recognised quality benchmark for various industries.

Bronson Methodist Hospital of Kalamazoo is the Michigan recipient. Oakwood Healthcare System and Henry Ford Health System received the Michigan Governor’s Award for Excellence in 2008, a state-level competition based on similar criteria, said a Michigan release.

“The key issue for the patient is the answer to two questions, ‘Will you return and will you refer?’” he said. “A loyal patient will do both. These places got that in 90 percent of patients. The usual answer is a little better than half.”

The study appeared in the Journal of Healthcare Management.

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