Creating an Extraordinary Patient Experience in Internal Medicine

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Patient ratings are a reliable method for measuring the patient experience, so when those ratings drop, clinicians pay attention. But what can a clinic do to improve those ratings? Dr. Shannon Phillips, Intermountain’s Chief Patient Experience Officer, and Anne Pendo, MD, Internist at Avenues Specialty Clinic, sat down to discuss their collaboration to improve the patient experience at Dr. Pendo’s clinic.

Listen Now! 

You can listen to Dr. Phillips and Dr. Pendo talk about the patient experience at Intermountain Podcasts.

“The clinicians I work with are outstanding—and caring—but our scores weren’t really reflecting that,” says Dr. Pendo. “There was this disconnect between what I’d observed and what the metrics showed. It didn’t match, so in trying to figure out how to move things forward, I thought to call you, Dr. Phillips.” “And what quickly became apparent,” said Dr. Phillips, “is that people were very focused on their rating score, which almost paralyzed them to determine what was behind it.”

So Dr. Phillips played the role of a patient, walking through the clinic experience from start to finish. She waited to be registered, sat in the waiting room to be called back, went to an exam room with a medical assistant, saw the physician, and then returned to the front desk to schedule the next appointment. “This exercise helped us shift our focus from the ratings to what our patients are experiencing when they come into the office,” says Dr. Pendo. “We talked at our Friday morning huddles about how we can better care for our patients. That led to two simple, but elegant, ideas to improve the patient experience: filling all prescriptions each and every day, and scheduling follow-up visits in patient rooms.”

The result of these two simple initiatives led to an increase in the provider rating scores. “I don’t know if the improvement was a result of that, or more a shift in the culture of our practice.” Another simple change the clinic initiative was to speak of the care team in terms of “we,” which helped everyone feel a sense of ownership and accountability for the patient experience. It also helped caregivers feel like they were in a safe environment in which they could share suggestions and ideas. “As of October, our patient satisfaction scores were up to 91%,” says Dr. Pendo. “Our huddle discussions are no longer about the number, but the things behind the number.”

“I think I’ve heard you talk about a couple of things today that improved both provider ratings and the patient experience: we all own it, no matter how little the task,” says Dr. Phillips. “The cumulative of small things is pretty awesome. There is no little idea, and everyone’s participation makes things better.” “Right,” says, Dr. Pendo. “If we all focus on and excel at our roles, our patients will know we care about them, which helps them have an extraordinary experience.”