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Missouri rural hospital implements program to improve patient satisfaction

As a strategy to improve its patient satisfaction scores and re-establish the human-to-human connection between patients and caregivers, Steve Pu, DO, medical director at Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center in Kennett, Mo., helped establish an initiative called Sacred Moments in January 2012.

After partnering with ExperiaHealth, a healthcare consulting firm, on the initiative, Twin Rivers, a rural hospital in one of the poorest districts in the country, was able to increase its Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores by 25 percent.

[See also: Rural hospitals struggle with physician recruitment, but can focus on improved quality scores]

Pu said that much like many other rural hospitals in the country, Twin Rivers has been struggling with recruiting quality physicians, having enough necessary resources and a lower health literacy rate among patients, which often leads to lower patient satisfaction scores overall.

"We are suffering from a lack of jobs in the area and poverty – and all those things factor in. I think certainly in rural areas, people don't always know how to make good choices about their health, and more and more we're seeing that physicians don't want to come to rural areas," said Pu. "These will be issues heading into the future as well."

Partnering with ExperiaHealth on the Sacred Moments initiative was chance for Twin Rivers to do what they could to improve the experiences their patients were having at the hospital by focusing on their particular fears and concerns within the first 15 minutes of arriving at the door, Pu said.

"It's about asking patients, 'who do you have as a support system? Do you have any spiritual needs?' Just having that human-to-human connection again is important. We're trying to relate to people as people again rather than just another patient coming in, which is unfortunately what a lot of the medical field has turned into," said Pu.

[See also: Rural doc recruitment tool]

He added that the Sacred Moments program not only improves the patients' experiences at the hospital, but also the clinicians' experiences with their patients.

"From the patient perspective, they feel cared for again. It's about what matters to them in their hearts, and in medicine we've gotten away from that a little," he said. "From the employee side, it helps them reconnect back to why they got into healthcare in the first place – to care for patients. A lot of times clinicians are so busy they haven't had time to really care about their patients like this. It's an opportunity to get back to their calling and doing something meaningful. It's a win-win in in my opinion."

The success of the Sacred Moments program at Twin Rivers has inspired ExperiaHealth to launch a one-year program, the Rural Health Experience Innovation Network, said Steve Jackson, vice president at ExperiaHealth. The Rural Health Experience Innovation Network is dedicated to designing and spreading new experience innovations in rural hospitals and healthcare systems and is modeled after the Sacred Moments program at Twin Rivers.

"From an industry perspective, when we get into organizations today, there is a significant focus on the organization running in a more lean manner with checklists, many nursing tasks that need to be completed and relentless focus on length of stay. And what was alluded to across the country is we know longer take the time or think to ask patients what their greatest fears or concerns might be," said Jackson. "The Sacred Moments program has been great because it matches efficiency with empathy. It provides us a way to admit a patient in a timely, seamless and efficient manner, but it seeks to understand what we can do for patients as human beings once they arrive there."

The Rural Health Experience Innovation Network is supported by the Health Forum, an American Hospital Association company, and guides rural hospitals and health systems in designing new frameworks to improve patient and employee experiences. Success for the 12-month program will be measured by HCAHPS improvement scores and participants will create regional showcase sites to serve as demonstration models of exceptional patient and staff experience and the development of standardized patient experience metrics, said Jackson.

[See also: Patient satisfaction more influenced by hospital staff than facilities]

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