Nurse Cinderella? Drawing the Line between Patient Experience and Service Recovery

Stressed nurse sitting at her desk with laptop and coffee as multiple doctors approach her

“Cinderelly, Cinderelly, night and day it’s Cinderelly. Make the fire, fix the breakfast, wash the dishes, do the mopping, and the sweeping and the dusting—they always keep her hopping. She goes around in circles till she’s very, very dizzy, still they holler, ‘Keep a-busy Cinderelly!’”

If this sounds familiar in more than just the context of singing mice and a Disney Princess, your patient experience planning may be misguided. With real time patient feedback expanding across the healthcare marketplace, it’s easy to fall into the trap of confusing service recovery with the whole patient experience—a mistake costing many hospitals in time, money, and retention. One of the leading components of healthcare burnout stems from caregivers seeing themselves as complaint-fixers who are pulled in too many directions to properly do their jobs, but it’s clear that the patient voice is only growing. How can hospitals acknowledge these complaints while still continuing the quest for excellence? The answer, it seems, stems from understanding the fundamental difference between service recovery and patient experience as a whole.

The Firefighters

As a caregiver, your job is to heal and promote wellness, not fight fires, so why is it that you seem to be hopping all over the place to accommodate what feels like patient whims? Oftentimes, this happens when hospitals focus their efforts on fixing the things patients rate as being fair or poor, rather than cultivating that which gets rated as being very good or excellent. On the surface, this tactic may make sense, but in reality, data shows that it’s much more effective for organizations to try and obtain more 4s and 5s than it is to stretch thin to try and accommodate the 1s and 2s. That’s because the more time spent on the fair and poor, the less time can be spent on the very good and excellent—often sending the formerly highly rated elements backwards.

It’s easy for service recovery to become the centerpiece of patient experience efforts. Unfortunately, this tactic is difficult to manage and is certainly not sustainable for long-term growth. Consider that service recovery relies on the day to day responsiveness of every team member doing their part, a feat which can only be met through a culture focused on the entire patient experience. Experience design, the oft forgotten element of patient experience, is what enables successful organizations to have strong service recovery plans. With those tools in place, every staff member is ready to build the patient experience from all perspectives—from hourly rounding to comfortable use of medical technology. Using a variety of measurements, an effective organization strategically implements patient feedback across the care spectrum.

The Measurements

Real time feedback is undeniably critical to the efficiency of a modern healthcare system. However, it’s important to remember the difference between a real time complaint card and a CAHPS survey. Point of care surveys and the like do an excellent job at capturing the issues patients have in the moment and helping hospital leaders to identify instances of service recovery. Measurement surveys such as HCAHPS, however, are designed for long-term and large-scale data collection. These surveys provide the contextualized information necessary for planning patient experience efforts and understanding trends across shifts and departments. Effective patient experience models rely on thinking ahead and formulating long-term plans and can only be built on a stable foundation of quality measurement data, rather than moment in time feedback.

And You

Of course, understanding service recovery empowers each employee to instantly improve the individual patient experience. At its core, service recovery is a set of tools and techniques that can be used to make things right after something has gone wrong in the healthcare experience. Unlike the systematic change made from patient experience data, service recovery should activate the moment we identify we have not met the patient or their loved one’s expectations. Recovery should be matched to mild, moderate, and severe situations appropriately (and always guided by your risk management, legal and compliance guidelines). This comes into play when combatting instances such as not following up on a request, inappropriate or rude behavior from staff, or misplaced patient belongings.

To further highlight service recovery as a critical component of the overall patient experience, Katie Owens, Senior Vice President, PRC Excellence Accelerator®, shared her thoughts in a July webinar, now available for streaming. For more information about how PRC helps you sort the service recovery from the proactive patient experience efforts, email us at info@prccustomresearch.com.