Discharge Phone Calls Nearly Double Patient Satisfaction
By Nina Setia and Christina Román
While HUMC underestimated the time it would take to hardwire implementation of some Studer Group Must Haves®, one tool that delivered dramatic results quickly and consistently to patients was discharge phone calls.
HUMC's Satisfaction Advisory Council developed and rolled out discharge phone calls using a customized protocol with different criteria for inpatient, outpatient, emergency/ trauma department and other settings. Since research shows that most adverse events take place within 48 hours post-discharge, HUMC calls patients within eight, 24, or 48 hours depending on the setting.
Because HUMC has high occupancy and volume, it was important that patients felt ready for discharge, and not rushed out of the hospital. Discharge phone calls also address key research findings. In fact, not understanding discharge instructions is one of the top eight 'dissatisfiers' to patients. Research also indicates that how the patient manages their recovery post-discharge is vital to maximizing clinical outcomes.
In April 2006, HUMC decided to test the impact of the calls on patient perception of care by adding a question to its emergency/ trauma department patient satisfaction survey, administered by Press Ganey: "Did you receive a follow-up phone call the day after your visit?" Initial results in second quarter 2006: a difference of more than seven mean points in how well patients understood discharge instructions, which represents the difference between a ranking in the bottom quartile or a ranking in the top decile of the Press Ganey ED national database.
Results Get More Results
When these results were shared with staff, they became more committed to making the calls. Calls were up 15 percent in one quarter, thus reaching more patients. In July 2006, HUMC added the discharge phone call question to inpatient and other surveys. By drilling down and analyzing the data on the question by unit, HUMC was also able to identify individual coaching opportunities. A key learning: the quality of the calls was more important than the quantity. Because the purpose of the calls is clinical with a service component, it's critical that nurses or doctors make them, rather than patient advocates or other non-clinical personnel.
In April 2007, HUMC added another innovation for even more momentum. They implemented Studer Group's Discharge Call ManagerSM software as a way to further accelerate outcomes and hardwire tracking and accountability.
In the end, the data tells the story. Patients who feel comfortable about how to manage their care when they leave the hospital are more likely to perceive their care as better. This is the difference between being an average player in the healthcare marketplace and the best in the nation from the patient's perspective.
How can you not do discharge phone calls when you see results like these? Discharge phone calls are clearly a best practice in serving patients, ensuring clinical quality, and building a reputation as an industry leader.