Monday, August 24, 2015

The Patient Experience

Why is it important to provide patients with the best experience we can?

The most obvious and noblest of reasons is because it is the right thing to do. We should be treating our patients, caring for them in a manner that we would want for ourselves, our families and our friends. As Michael Dowling, President and CEO of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System often reminds staff, many of our patients are us, our relatives and friends. We should be treating all patients as such (Author’s attendance at Mr. Dowling’s presentations.).

A second reason focuses on the theme of choice as related to how our patients view the quality of care we provide. Deming tells us that quality is meeting or exceeding our customer’s needs and expectations. Deming also tells us that loyalty is achieved when we exceed those expectations (Aguyao, 1990; Deming, 1982). Changing how health providers view their patients as customers continues to have its detractors, but few would argue, that increasingly patients have choices, and all in health care now have multiple competitors. If our organizations are to become and continue to be facilities of choice, there is a need to be distinguished from our competitors.

            Pyzdek (2001) in his description of the Kano Model of Customer Expectations explained that meeting basic levels of quality is something that is taken for granted. Meeting them does not result in satisfaction, but not meeting them is a source of dissatisfaction. There are expectations that customers believe are important and the more they are met the more satisfied the customer. The provision of providing exciting quality occurs when the customer receives more than what was expected and this level of quality becomes increasingly important as competitive pressures for nurses present internal customer problems with dissatisfaction with peers or supervisors. Similarly, Bertel (2003) referred to events and practices that dissatisfy customers as the must-haves, which if unfilled would serve as sources of dissatisfaction. Bertel used the term delighters which would not cause dissatisfaction if not present, but when they are present serve to truly satisfy or delight the customer.

A third reason and most recent interest in the patient experience came from HCAHPS, a CMS-developed patient satisfaction questionnaire. In October 2012, HCAHPS’ (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) patient satisfaction scores were utilized by CMS in the calculation of reimbursement for patient stays HCAHPS is not only an instrument that affects reimbursement, its results are publicly reported, permitting comparisons by the public (CMS, 2015).

Creating and Managing Expectations

            Creating expectations initially derives from the informed consent process. This process should have included communication regarding diagnosis, agreed upon course of treatment following an explanation of alternatives, with risks and benefit (Bord, 2014). Patients must have an opportunity to pose questions and to have those questions answered in a manner they can understand. The process must also include an awareness that the patient understands what has been conveyed and an agreement by the patient for a course of care. The process occurs between the physician and the patient.

Once hospitalized, patients are obviously “managed” much more by other hospital staff who have a responsibility to make patients aware of what to expect during their stay. With their experience, other hospital staff have greater expertise regarding what is likely to happen to and for patients, and in what sequence, than patients could possibly have. Initial expectations also derive from past experiences with the facility, discussions with others, experiences with other facilities, and information derived from the media, “report cards,” various web sources etc.

Likewise, mindful that effective communication must be a two-way process, staff have a responsibility to seek out questions and comments from patients regarding their needs and expectations (similar to a consent process), and to appropriately respond to these, both in terms of words and actions to best meet those needs and expectations. The voice of the patient-customer regarding their expression of needs and expectations is often critical to how quality is perceived by the patient (Stroud, n.d.). Bertel, (2003) described the centrality of meeting customer needs in the Six Sigma model with: “Failure to listen to and understand the Voice of the Customer can be fatal” (p. 171). Further, Solomon (2015) stated: “If you want to stem patient dissatisfaction, stop giving off cues of indifference and uncaring.”

             Managing expectations, requires transparency of information between staff and patients on an ongoing basis. Treatment plans may have to be altered due to either patient condition, physician direction or hospital “circumstances.” Solomon (2015) provides the following additional items regarding how to improve the patient experience (Bullets rather than numbers have been utilized here):

 Get every employee thinking about purpose, not just functions… To create successful medical outcomes and hospitable human experiences for our patients’ is a purpose. 

‘Sorry’ may be the hardest word, but it’s a word that everyone on your team needs to learn.  Resolving patient issues means knowing how to apologize for service lapses…It means getting rid of the defensiveness …when confronted by a patient upset with what she perceives to be a service gaffe. Instead, take your patient’s side in these situations, immediately and with empathy, regardless of what you think the “rational” allocation of “blame” should be. And spread this approach throughout your staff through role-playing and other training devices, so it will serve you fully every time a patient hits the fan.

Teach your employees – every single one – how to handle a patient or family member’s complaint or concern.  

 If you want to improve, strive to create a blame-free environment. 

Understand that improving patient satisfaction is about systems just as much as it is about smiles.

Cultural Change toward a Customer Approach

Increasingly patients don’t want to be considered as patients; they want to be considered customers. They want to know and agree to how they will be treated, what should happen, what are the outcomes, what to expect when they leave the hospital, what to expect about their health. We cannot effectively respond to these expectations with a departmental/silo mentality. We must break down these silos, learn to work as interdepartmental, inter-professional teams, although past models of professional education did not foster this approach, and change in these educational models is needed (National Center for Healthcare Leadership, 2011).

 Contributed by Dr. Walter Markowitz, Adjunct Faculty 


Aguayo, R. (1990). Dr. Deming: The American who taught the Japanese about quality.
            New York: Simon and Schuster.

Bertel, T. (Ed.). (2003). Rath and Strong’s Six Sigma leadership handbook. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Bord, J. (2014). Informed consent. Retrieved from

CMS. (2015). HCAHPS factsheet. Retrieved from

Deming, W. E. (1982). Out of the crisis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

National Center for Healthcare Leadership. (2011). Michael Dowling accepts 2011 Gail L. Warden Leadership Excellence Award. Retrieved from

Pyzdek, T. (2001). The Six Sigma handbook: A complete guide for greenbelts, blackbelts, & managers at all levels. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Solomon, M. (January 11, 2015). 8 ways to improve patient satisfaction, patient experience and (by the way) HCAHPS scores. Retrieved from

Stroud, L. (n.d.). Defining CTQ outputs: A key step in the design process.

(Note: Dr. Markowitz was the Director, Strategic Planning, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Healthcare and Schools

In the July/August issue of Health Progress magazine, an article written by Rochelle Davis, Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D. and Alexandra Mays, MHS, discusses the unique opportunity health and education systems have for partnership to serve the health challenges of elementary and secondary students.

As health care administrators, we sometimes are not aware of the important role schools have for health education programs, emergency health care services, nutrition and other health-related issues
The article titled “Ten Principles for Collaboration” outlines the opportunity hospitals have for developing and implementing programs with schools that will ultimately serve not only those in need but also invests in the future through our children.

The ten principles include:

Needs assessment and implementation strategy
Data exchange mechanisms
Project scope or targets
Community engagement
As well as several others

The full version of this article can be located at under the publications and then the Health Progress tab.

Contributed by Becky Urbanski, Ed.D., SJC instructor, Catholic Health Care Leadership and Mission Integration graduate courses

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thinking about the end…

According to his book cover biography, Atul Gawande is the author of three best-selling books, including Complications, Better, and The Checklist Manifesto.  I have read all three and was quite excited to read his most current publication, Being Mortal.  Mr. Gawande is a surgeon, professor, and writer.  His books cover complicated and controversial topics in a calm and uncomplicated manner.  He introduces us to real people, with real medical issues while adding a human view to the sometimes sterile medical world.

In Being Mortal, Mr. Gawande tackles end-of-life issues.  He provides a historical perspective of end-of-life care, as well as current issues facing our society.  For example, he asserts that our medical community is still confused on the best methods for providing care for patients with long-term illnesses.  He states:

               “People with serious illness have priorities besides simple prolonging their lives.  Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete.  Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars.”

Mr. Gawande considers how “we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives”.  He states, “People die only once.  They have no experience to draw on.  We need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come – and escape a warehouse oblivion that few really want.”

Overall, Mr. Gawande uses real-life stories to teach his readers the importance of compassion and facing reality.  He asserts that encouraging patients to think about and plan for the end of their life is just as important as preventative care.  In fact, some studies have shown that simply having a conversation about advanced directives (e.g., living wills) can reduce depression and confusion at the end-of-life.

This is not an uplifting book, but it is an important one.  I encourage everyone to discuss end-of-life choices with their loved ones.  It is not an easy conversation, but it can save heartache and provide peace.  Mr. Gawande supports this notion and provides an excellent guide to help begin those difficult conversations.

Contributed by Valerie Connor, SJC instructor, law and ethics courses.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

New Continuing Qualification Requirement (CQR)

Are you prepared to meet the new CQR   directive to maintain your certification?  The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) has been working with multiple constituents in the profession to develop a pathway for continued education.  Certification is now time limited to 10 years. Recertification will require the completion of the new CQR process.

The first CQR deadline is set for 2021. However, this will impact those who earned their certification in 2011 (effective January 1, 2011) and subsequent years. According to the ARRT website, the compliance phase will begin in 2018, which allows three years to complete the professional profile, the self-assessment section and targeted continuing education component by 2021.  The professional profile is a reflective exercise that compares clinical experiences to others in the discipline. Next, you must complete the structured self-assessment process, which is a learning tool designed to evaluate knowledge and skills on the qualifications that are expected of those who are certified. From this, a report will be generated with the results of the assessment and whether or not standards have been met. If standards have not been met, the ARRT will identify the necessary components that will be required for completion in order to be recertified. Please visit for additional information.

Submitted by Brenda Rice, Program Manager, Radiologic Science Administration

Friday, May 15, 2015

Emotional Intelligence?

An article was recently published in The Health Care Manager - a journal that 
provides practical, applied management information for managers in institutional health care settings - that was written by Dr. Twila Weiszbrod, Program Director.  The article is titled "Health Care Leader Competencies and the Relevance of Emotional Intelligence."  The article describes the relationship found between emotional intelligence and competencies identified being important for healthcare administrators!  You can read the article at: 

Friday, May 08, 2015

New Course!!

Scott Campbell, one of our adjunct faculty members, is currently completing the development of a course titled "Healthcare Delivery Models."  This highly interactive and completely relevant course will be available fully online in a 12-week term starting in October!!!

As Scott stated, "Health care delivery systems are evolving with new models that cut across the continuum of care being developed.  This evolution is being driven by a number of factors including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, continuing pressure to provide care in a more cost-effective model, a growing emphasis on managing the health of a population over time rather than through episodic care, and an understanding that maintaining and improving health status is the key to the future of health care.  There is a need for a course that looks at these evolving systems and the forces that are changing health care delivery.  Health care administrators in the future will be expected to operate health care organizations in response to these changes."

Watch for more information to come about this new course!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

What is the IMPACT Act of 2014, and Should It Be Affecting Your Operations?

The IMPACT Act of 2014 was signed into law on October 6, 2014.  IMPACT stands for “Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation” and this is indeed what this Act has begun to do.  In summary, what the Act does is that it reforms how post-acute assessment data is collected across different Medicare settings.  There was a resounding need not only for a standardization in data, but also for the instruments which collect it.  Obviously, as this is specifically geared towards Medicare, this Act will streamline their processes first and foremost, and it will enable several beneficial things overall regarding the services which they oversee.  The Act will allow for the collection of data which will further allow for quality comparison, for improvement of hospital and post-acute care discharge planning, and for further scrutiny towards Medicare payments for post-acute care (United States Senate Committee on Finance, n.d.).  This Act will also benefit from the upcoming ICD-10 implementation we can look forward to in October, 2015.  The increased number of codes available at this time for not only diagnoses, but also procedures, equipment, services, etc., will allow for a much easier transition towards implementation of the IMPACT Act.  The ICD-10 implementation will be a huge step towards easier compliance from post-acute providers of all specialties.

The question becomes, how should this be effecting your operations at current?  The answer is not a simple one.  The Act requirements will be phased in over time which begins in October 2016, one year after the implementation of ICD-10 coding.  Our focus needs to shift towards the three broad aims that the IMPACT Act is working towards regarding quality which include better care, healthier people and communities, and affordable care (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2014). Obviously, on the heels of doing this, we must also ensure that we are working towards the implementation of the required standardized forms into our operations, electronic health records, or other systems which we might use.  This information will need to be reported in some interoperable way when the Act begins to be implemented in earnest.  Many post-acute providers already have systems in place such as the OASIS (home health), RAI/MDS (skilled nursing facilities), IRF-Patient Assessment Instrument (inpatient rehabilitation facilities), and LTCH-Continuity Assessment Record and Evaluation (long-term acute care hospitals).  All of these required forms are in use today by providers, however the ability for them to be interoperable with each other is what we need to start questioning.  The main point here is to ensure that services are not being inadequately utilized and that there is no duplication of those services across providers.  This will force each of the different post-acute care types to ensure that they are using the same ICD-10 codes at that time as other providers, and that their information meets these new interoperability requirements.  Indeed, a tall order for providers who are already stretched in the area of resources.

Some important websites with further information:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2014). IMPACT Act of 2014 & Cross Setting Measures.  Retrieved from

United States Congress. (2014). The Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 (Full Text).  Retrieved from

United States Senate Committee on Finance. (n.d.).  The Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014.  Retrieved from

Pitts, P.W., Christy, D.S., and McCurdy, D.A. (2014). Analysis and Impact of the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014.  Retrieved from


Contributed by Dr. Michael Mileski, DC, MPH, MSHEd, LNFA, SJC Faculty

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Health Information Professionals week!

This week is Health Information Professionals week! We are so excited about our new BSHIM program at Saint Joseph's College! We are continuing to add entry-level courses to our curriculum while we wait for the next step in the CAHIIM accreditation process. We submitted our self-study last October and hope to receive a response this month from the CAHIIM review of our material. We will then make necessary adjustments and hopefully have our site visit by summer!

So far there are about 18 students that have applied to the program, with a few students already enrolled in courses. The remaining applicants are providing transcripts so they can work toward BSHIM degree completion!

For more information about Health Information Professionals week, as well as some great articles, please visit the AHIMA site at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hot Topics in Rad Science

Healthcare administrators today are concerned with providing quality care in a safe environment. 

Patient feedback is an important aspect of implementing and monitoring health initiatives that are tracked in health facilities. Patient safety rates, infection rates, drug reactions, etc. are to name a few initiatives that are monitored with corresponding action plans to prevent infections and readmissions.

The Affordable Care Act will change the arena of hospitals regarding issues such as reimbursement rates, in how physicians will order tests, etc.

In addition, in an effort to stay competitive, administrators need to evaluate the benefits versus the costs of purchasing new medical technologies, as patients are researching and requesting them. Diagnostic Imaging departments have been transformed over the past decade, due to recent advancements, such as magnetic particle imaging, information technology systems, new digital imaging systems, etc.

Wireless and mobile radiology systems allow physicians more freedom and the ability to treat patients at their bedside, in rural areas, etc. Remote viewing systems have allowed multiple physicians, who are in multiple locations to simultaneously access and consult on a patient. The Cloud or web-based systems are used to access images outside the hospital’s system.

With reimbursements decreasing, administrators are looking for ways to improve the work flow in radiology departments by incorporating more automation and ergonomically designed equipment, while working on a fixed budget. This can be very challenging. Patient safety comes first.  

By Brenda Rice, Program Manager RSA

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Value Based Payments and the Physician Quality Reporting System

One of the newest provisions of the Affordable Care Act which went into effect on January 1, 2015 was the provision which ties physician payments to the quality of care that they provide.  The main idea behind this system is to move the physician practice from the model as it was where volume of patients was the focus.  This system had physician practices running to see huge numbers of patients in a day, sometimes double or triple booking to meet this end.  Value-based payments are beginning to be instituted this year to allow these same physicians to slow down and provide more meaningful care to patients than what has been furnished in the past. 

As of 2015, this provision will only apply to practices of 100 or more eligible professionals and is focused only on Medicare providers.  The value based payment model includes an opt-in payment adjustment for those practices which have reported satisfactory measures of quality under the newly instituted Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS).  The PQRS will quickly become a method by which practices will be able to receive incentive payments, or negative adjustments, over the upcoming years of continued expansion of the Affordable Care Act.  As it stands, the PQRS allows for reporting of different measures by providers such as clinical conditions treated, types of care, settings where care is provided, quality improvement goals for the practice for the year, and other measures yet to be defined.  Physician practice payments will not be affected by this reporting as of this fiscal year, however, they can receive incentives or penalties in the future based upon what they report currently.  As such, those physician practices that do not provide information to the PQRS system in FY 2015 will see only penalty adjustments in the future. 

Forecasting the future is a very important part of what practice managers do.  Realizing the impact of this new system of reporting in current forecasts, budgeting, capital management, and marketing should be at the forefront of operations today.  Doing nothing now will hurt your practice in the future! 

Some important websites with further information:

American College of Physicians. (2013). Value based payment modifier.  Retrieved from:

Berenson, R.A. (2010). Moving payment from volume to value: What role for performance measurement? Retrieved from:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2014). Medicare FFS physician feedback program/Value-based payment modifier.  Retrieved from:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2013). Physician quality reporting system (PQRS) overview.  Retrieved from:

Contributed by Dr. Michael Mileski, DC, MPH, MSHEd, LNFA, SJC Faculty