Monthly Archives: August 2016

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Are You a One, Two, Three, Four or Five-Star Hospital?

By Jean Hitchcock No Comments

The ratings are a composite metric of one to five stars (five is the best).

  • The CMS uses 64 measures — including patient communication, emergency room wait times and hospital-acquired infection rates — to grade nearly 4,000 hospitals on their overall quality.
  • The goal of the ratings process is to enable patients to compare and choose across various types of health facilities.

According to the CMS, 102 facilities out of 4,599 hospitals, or 2.2 percent, earned five stars. Of the rest, 20.3 percent received four stars, 38.5 percent earned three, 15.7 percent attained two stars and 2.9 percent received a single star. About 20.4 percent of hospitals didn’t receive ratings because they lacked data or didn’t provide data to measure results.

Not everyone, however, agrees with the process and resulting star ratings. Hospitals and other industry groups have been critical of the CMS for using a system that may oversimplify a complex matter. Critics warned the CMS that the star system would provide inaccurate information to consumers and could damage hospitals’ reputations. In fact, some critics think the star system unfairly penalizes teaching hospitals and those serving higher numbers of the poor.

Like every issue, there can be multiple sides to the story. While the CMS survey is not without flaws, it does provide some ability for consumers to contrast and compare to ensure they are receiving the best possible care at a reasonable cost. And the results are easily accessible online. However, the critics raise good points about teaching hospitals and those serving higher numbers of the poor.

Sometimes, of course, the ratings may not matter if patients don’t have the ability to travel to a facility with a higher star rating. And patient needs may vary. For instance, perhaps access to a particular doctor or medical team through an appointment or referral is more important to a patient than emergency room wait times, one of the measures in the study.

While the variables and preferences are many when it comes to healthcare, an element that hospitals and related facilities have in common is the ability to influence satisfaction around patient communication. I would argue that it’s the most important element when it comes to patient experience.

If your facility is interested in higher star ratings, your medical professionals should be encouraging patients to tell their stories. They should be taking the patient’s problem seriously, explaining information clearly and providing options to the patient. Research has shown strong positive relationships between a healthcare team member’s communication skills and a patient’s ability to follow through with medical recommendations. This type of patient communication is what leads to good health outcomes, as well as patient satisfaction with the experience.

How do you compare? Most importantly, how do you plan to communicate to your patients and the community you serve about your rankings? If you need help in managing patient expectations, give us a call.


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Avoiding Burnout — How are you helping employees cope with stress?

By Jean Hitchcock No Comments

Burnout. It’s a word that people might use to describe how they’re feeling about their jobs. It doesn’t matter the industry, these days, people are working longer hours for not as much compensation as in the past. The expectations of them to be engaged and connected also are on the rise. Some of this expectation stems from smartphones and the constant ability to always be connected. This leaves employees feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out.

This is especially true in healthcare. With mergers and consolidations; constant updates in healthcare policies; the impact and expectations tied to ACA, ACOs, HCAHPS and a wide range of other alphabet soup type requirements; rapidly changing technology that offers both opportunities and challenges; battling insurance companies; and new treatments to keep on top of (just to name a few!), it’s no wonder that health professionals at all levels are experiencing burnout.

As health leaders, it’s our job to figure out how to prevent this stress and burnout in our teams. After all, if our physicians, nurses, specialists, and professional staff are burning out, how can we possibly deliver quality care to our patients?

Tamara Rosin discusses how health leaders can take better care of their employees in her Becker’s Hospital Review article “5 ways leaders can help their teams manage stress and burnout.

  1. “Demonstrate and promote well-being practices.” The age-old saying “lead by example,” is very true when trying to promote wellness. If your team can see you taking steps to manage your stress and health, then they will likely look to you as an example to manage their own. Encourage employees to go to a gym or go for a walk on their lunch breaks to help relieve tension. Holding a yoga session in the morning and at night (for different shifts!) can help with relaxation. The possibilities are endless — find a way to motivate your employees to destress!
  2. “Encourage workers to disconnect outside of work.” In the age of smartphones and 24-hour access to work emails, it’s important to reinforce the idea of work-life balance. Especially if your team members are working long shifts, urge them to disconnect and rest when they get home from work. Allowing them to spend uninterrupted time with their families, or a hobby, will allow them to destress and come back to work the next day feeling recharged.
  3. “Train the brain to manage chaos.” Rosin writes that being mindful of our actions is important in managing stress. If a situation arises that is stressful or overwhelming, encourage employees to take a moment to understand why the moment is frustrating. By knowing the emotion behind it, this allows employees to control their stress, instead of letting it control them.
  4. “Debunk the myth of multitasking.” Yes, multitasking as a productivity-booster is a myth. Not only does multitasking contribute to stress and feeling overwhelmed, but it also means the two (or more!) tasks you’re attempting to do at the same time aren’t likely being done correctly. Encourage your staff to take on one task at a time, then have them pause and take a deep breath before moving on to the next task—or patient.
  5. “Show empathy and compassion.” Last, but not least, employees need to feel comfortable when confiding in their supervisors if they’re struggling with stress. Don’t tell them to “suck it up,” and don’t tell them to “get over it.” Be there to listen to them, and work with your employees to come up with solutions to combat their stress. You’re all part of the same team, working to a common goal of exceptional patient care — let them know you’re there to help!

Using some (or all) of these tips is crucial for avoiding burnout and having happy, mentally healthy employees. What are you doing to make sure your employees stay healthy and stress-free? Leave your ideas in the comments.