Linking Patient Satisfaction to Readmissions: Focus on Provider Communication

This is part one in a series of articles highlighting new research demonstrating the relationship between patient satisfaction and avoidable readmissions, and how technology can play a role in improving outcomes across the continuum of care. See part two here.

For healthcare systems in the midst of setting 2018 organizational goals, enhancing the patient experience remains a top strategic and financial priority. New research supports this organizational focus on improving the patient experience by showcasing the relationship between patient satisfaction and likelihood of readmission within 30 days post-discharge.

According to the recent study published in the British Medical Journal of Quality and Safety, patients who reported high satisfaction with their overall care experience were 39% less likely to be readmitted within 30 days than patients who were not as satisfied. Researchers conducted the study on two medical units at Massachusetts General Hospital by interviewing patients about their level of satisfaction during index hospital admissions and subsequent readmissions over a four-year period.

The patients’ perception of their experience – including any and all staff interactions throughout their care encounter – is directly correlated with their satisfaction and post-discharge outcomes as measured by HCAHPS scores and readmission rates. An often overlooked component of patient experience strategy is the patients’ perception of providers listening carefully to them. The study found that patients who indicated that their physicians always listened to them carefully were 32% less likely to be readmitted than those who indicated that their physicians did not always listen to them carefully. Dr. Jocelyn Carter, the research study’s lead author and internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General, notes that enhanced provider-patient communication empowers patients to develop a better understanding of how to care for themselves. Patients respond favorably if they understand the rationale behind their care plans, so healthcare providers need to take the time to partner together with patients and caregivers to ensure optimal health outcomes. These results highlight the importance of effective communication in reducing the likelihood of readmission. In light of these research findings, healthcare systems can adopt the following interventions to improve the experience of care for all patients.

Provide Holistic Care
Connecting with patients beyond their diagnoses reinforces to patients that their experiences are valuable. To strengthen the relationship between patients and the providers that care for them, the Gold Foundation developed the “Tell Me More” campaign. These conversation starters foster a culture of compassion, grounded on the shared humanity of patients and their healthcare providers. Developing a patient-provider relationship built upon a foundation of trust enhances the quality of the care experience, as patients feel more satisfied when their experiences are seen as meaningful.

Address Communication Gaps
In the healthcare industry, there is frequently a knowledge imbalance between patients and their providers. As such, healthcare providers have the opportunity to increase patient satisfaction by ensuring that their patients fully understand complex health concepts and their plan of care. To assess patient comprehension, providers can leverage the “teach-back” method. With this evidence-based intervention, providers check understanding by asking patients to explain the concept or the plan of care using their own words. To experience the effectiveness of the “teach-back” method, check out this health literacy video created by the American Medical Association.

This research study highlights undiscovered opportunities to change the trajectory of patient care in real time. These findings underscore the importance of partnering with patients throughout the patient journey to proactively anticipate and resolve concerns – and tailoring discharge planning accordingly – in order to reduce the likelihood of avoidable readmissions.

CipherHealth is leading the charge to transform the patient experience across the continuum of care with best-in-class patient engagement and care coordination solutions. To learn more about how CipherHealth empowers healthcare systems to drive improvements in patient satisfaction by proactively resolving patient issues before, during, and after the patient encounter, see our integrated solutions in action.

Barb Davis

Barbara Davis has been involved in quality in healthcare for over 30 years, and currently serves as CipherHealth's SVP of client success. She has worked in complex health care environments, including a university health system, an HMO health plan, and multi-hospital system. Her areas of expertise include quality improvement and Lean, service excellence focusing on organizational culture and the patient experience, patient safety and reliability, regulatory issues and organizational strategic goal setting. Currently she sits on the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver.