RaiseTheBar_x2Improving patient care has always been a healthcare priority, but outcomes are now tied directly to the bottom line. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) takes into account quality care and patient satisfaction measures to determine how much they will reimburse eligible providers. Interactions between healthcare employees and patients can often determine the patient satisfaction measures that influence this reimbursement.

In addition, it’s these interactions that can convert a single visit into a loyal customer relationship or ensure a one-time customer–the patient/employee relationship now determines a large portion of the financial viability for healthcare organizations. Healthcare organizations must find ways to improve the quality of patient care through employee and patient interactions, and employee engagement may be the single best way to make these improvements.

The Proven Connections between Employee Engagement and Patient Satisfaction

An HR Solutions case study using nearly 29,000 healthcare employee opinion surveys revealed compelling evidence that employee engagement has a direct tie to patient satisfaction. In the survey, it was determined that:

  • 85 percent of engaged employees displayed a genuinely caring attitude toward patients, compared to only 38 percent of disengaged employees.
  • 91 percent of engaged employees recognize their workplace as dedicated to patient care, compared to only 42 percent of disengaged employees.
  • 82 percent of engaged employees would want to use the facility where they work as a healthcare provider, compared to only 22 percent of disengaged employees.

But What Factors Affect Engagement?

It’s readily accepted that happy, connected, and supported employees offer diligent patient care. Unfortunately, according to Tower Watson’s global workforce study, less than 44 percent of those who work in US hospitals are considered highly engaged. According to this study, one of the markers of high employee engagement is that employees have clear, measurable goals that allow them to understand how their performance drives success for the organization. However, employees also need clear feedback and guidance to reach those goals. Performance management software is an invaluable tool in this process. This technology allows management to connect individual employee goals with organization-wide initiatives, and implement a recognition program for those that meet and exceed their targets by providing employees with more consistent feedback throughout the year, rather than just during their annual performance review.

But the system alone cannot create improvement; managers must use it to increase communication. According to a study by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement at Northwestern University, communication is the key element to engagement. When employees feel their suggestions have no value to leadership, they stop offering them and disengage from the organization. This leads to faster turnover and lower work quality. In order to increase employee engagement, management must use the system to focus on building up employees through positive feedback and coaching. Employees should be able to instantly assess this feedback online, along with their own performance goals, so that they are engaged in the improvement process. Cloud-based healthcare performance management software allows for this transparency to happen, without a complete overhaul of existing systems, and this type of communication is key to keeping employees invested in the hospital’s improvement initiatives.

Team Building Also Builds Engagement

In Becker’s Hospital Review Vicki Hess, RN, points out that healthcare management should be using Lean systems and can harness tools like “Lean daily management boards” to integrate Lean into their daily project. I agree, however, consider that middle management is often bogged down by things as mundane but critical as scheduling concerns to listening to leadership and employees and then carrying out requests that please both sides. Employees can truly offer management valuable insight into how processes actually function in real world situations. Managers should gather input from their team and let the team take ownership of creating and carrying out Lean initiatives — managers can even offer Lean education to their employees as a professional development opportunity. Many hospitals have implemented Lean processes to improve quality and reduce time wasted, but successful organizations know that including frontline employees in the planning and implementation of these initiatives engages them and keeps them operating at higher efficiency levels.

Team building exercises, such as implementing Lean initiatives, allow employees to get to know each other, which helps build a sense of engagement within employee social groups. Every employee can provide insight into the inner workings of their department. Creating teams focused on specific improvements drives excellence and engagement. If you have organizational goals in place, but you’re wondering how to create and implement departmental goals, get employee input through team-based activities. For example, if patient-centered care is a hospital initiative and an employee serving meals sees a lack of attention given to patient meal preferences, they could be assigned to head up an action team devoted to correcting that oversight. This goal can then be tracked through a healthcare performance management system, allowing managers to provide real-time feedback throughout the process.

Patient Care is the Priority But Employee Engagement is the Key

You may not immediately see the results of engagement activities, but you need to remember the ultimate goal: Improved patient care. Building engagement takes time; it is not a seasonal activity for leadership, management, HR, and Organizational Development teams to tackle and then forget about. Instead, it should be a slow and steady build that draws in more and more employees, and you must implement systems and processes that will maintain your newly engaged culture.

Engaged employees enjoy their work and feel valued, which then translates into better patient care and this equals financial reward. According to Curaspan Health Group, in a 2007 study of a nationwide system of 23 hospitals facilities with more engaged workers had 8 percent higher net revenue per patient than facilities with lower engagement. I bet that number and the correlation has only increased since then. With the right systems in place, an investment in employee engagement now will yield tremendous and sustainable returns in the future.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can improve employee engagement in your healthcare organization? Download:

Building Employee Engagement: How to Improve Employee Retention and Increase Patient Satisfaction

Building Employee Engagement: How to Improve Employee Retention and Increase Patient Satisfaction


About The Editorial Staff

The Editorial Staff is a team of writers with a passion for helping healthcare organizations manage their biggest and most important investment: their employees.