Research indicates that when health care providers do a better job listening to, empathizing with and explaining to patients, the patients are more likely to trust the providers and follow their advice.
That trusting relationship leads to better health outcomes, whether it’s managing a chronic condition or taking preventive measures like exercising and eating right. In late 2017, the Washington Health Alliance sent surveys to 240,000 patients of 114 primary care medical groups and 351 clinics across the state.
The surveys asked the patients how well their health providers communicated with them, coordinated their care, showed respect and courtesy, and performed overall. Only four organizations in the state scored better than average in every category and we recognize them here.
10 clinics, 5,000 employees (systemwide)
“My title may be CEO but my daily work is chief culture officer,” says EvergreenHealth CEO Robert Malte. Creating a great patient experience is about nurturing the values of excellence, compassion, respect, collaboration and accountability. “Culture creates fertile soil for the structures and processes that we put in place,” says Malte. “Having good intentions is important but you have to have an approach and system to make it real.” Goals are set and metrics taken. Physicians with poor reviews are coached to do better. There’s always room for improvement. Next up: Hospital gowns designed for patient comfort as well as doctor convenience.
Astria Health Center
This clinic is deeply rooted in the rural Yakima Valley community it serves. Three-fourths of its patients are Hispanic, many agricultural workers, so most of the staff members speak Spanish. “It’s about being culturally sensitive,” says Brian Gibbons, president of Astria Sunnyside Hospital, which operates the Grandview clinic and several dozen others in the valley 40 miles west of the Tri-Cities. “We’re small, but our goal is to meet the broad needs of our community,” says Gibbons. That means offering not just primary care but also specialty care in areas like sleep apnea and psychiatry. “Patients can be treated right here in the valley,” Gibbons says. +
FamilyCare of Kent
With four nurse practitioners and five medical assistants, this primary care facility offers everything from asthma care to travel medicine. No M.D.? “Our nurse practitioners have fantastic relationships with their patients,” says Crystal Arbogast, who serves as both billing manager and medical assistant. “They build a bond. With an M.D., you are often just seeing an assistant.” Realistic scheduling also helps. An internally developed template provides guidance on how long an appointment should last. A checkup for an asthma patient might be 15 minutes, while a case of stomach pain might require twice that.
Sequim Medical Associates
Dr. Charles Sullivan founded Sequim Medical Associates in 1981. By 2002, low Medicare reimbursements meant the average office call nationally was 11 minutes. The medical system Sullivan was affiliated with insisted the clinic’s four doctors talk to each patient about one problem per visit. But an aging clientele required more time to discuss multiple problems, so Sullivan began a concierge practice charging a monthly fee — $65 to $80, depending on age — for services not billable to an insurance company. (Ten percent of patients pay nothing.) More time with patients, Sullivan says, allows doctors to deal with more problems and refer less often to specialists.
The full report of the new Patient Experience Survey (PDF) is live online here, and the Washington Health Alliance has done a “Highlight” of the report with interactive data visualizations, which you can see here.