If you're wondering how to improve patient experience in an emergency department, it's all about the human touch. While automation and technology play a critical role in our ability to care for patients, humans crave personal connection - even in healthcare. The impact of this lack of warmth and connection reverberates throughout the patient experience, including in the support services sector.
Recently Crothall Healthcare launched a pilot program at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest to improve the patient experience in the hospital's emergency department (ED). The program was a resounding success and reinforced the need for human engagement and compassion in the healthcare process.
How to Improve Patient Experience in the Emergency Department
Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, a 981-bed comprehensive care center, is the largest hospital in Allentown, Pa. The facility's ED includes a Level 1 Trauma Center that sees an average of 90,000 patients per year. They serve nearly half a million residents who live in Allentown and the surrounding region.
Making sure those patients and their guests have a great experience is paramount to the hospital's success. Before the pilot program, research from Press Ganey data did not paint a pretty picture for the emergency department. Patients admitted through the emergency department were less satisfied across most dimensions, especially among these two aspects:
- Rate the Hospital: Emergency department patients' average rating was 5.0 points lower than non-ED patients
- Recommend the Hospital: Emergency department patients' average rating was 7.4 points lower than non-ED patients
To directly address these concerns and improve patient satisfaction scores in the emergency department, we added a patient concierge to the hospital's staff. A Patient Concierge's role is primarily focused on ensuring patients and their families or caregivers have everything they need. Patient Concierges are focused on customer service and improving patient satisfaction; they address patient and family questions, requests, and concerns while freeing up clinical staff. At Cedar Crest's emergency department, the concierge was able to assist with:
- Ensuring ED cleanliness by wiping down seats, removing trash, and maintaining the waiting room's general upkeep.
- Providing activities for patients and their families during their wait in the ED, such as reading materials and coloring books.
- Serving as a wayfinding resource to help patients and families navigate the facility and learn about available hospital amenities.
- Offering information about the hospital's food and beverage offerings and delivering food to waiting patients and families.
“Updates on wait time, some time with a phone charger, even a clean chair ends up mattering,” said Melissa Williams, Compass One Healthcare Regional Director of Patient Experience at Lehigh Valley Hospital. “Our concierge is the perfect personality to keep people feeling positive beyond fulfilling that important need.”
Results in Patient Satisfaction
In addition to improving patient experience, the concierge helped the nursing team better manage their time and operate to the top of their license responsibilities. The ED nurse on staff no longer has to spend time helping families navigate the facility or managing other non-clinical tasks. In turn, this improved the patient experience and sped up the ED throughout.
“The nurses especially get big benefits, just from the stress of the waiting room being removed,” said Williams. “Within a month of Crothall bringing in the concierge program, nurses were saying they had no idea how they had functioned without it.”
There is no substitute for service and human interaction. By emphasizing serving the needs of patients through environmental or food service, we can significantly impact patient care for the better, resulting in a profound effect on outcomes and patient satisfaction scores.
The pilot program was a success, and Lehigh Valley Hospital is looking to expand its ED capacity by at least 100 patients. Expanded concierge staff will likely play a role in the success of the facility's growth. Other Compass One clients are piloting the program, as well.
Read more in the full case study and see how a Patient Concierge Program can improve the patient experience in your health system's emergency departments.