You can read a lot about Employee Engagement, and the impact it has on customers and business success. Often, those articles talk more about companies that deliver services or products with a significant service component (both business-to-consumer and business-to-business). But healthcare is different. Is Employee Engagement important to Customer Satisfaction and business performance in healthcare?
First, why is healthcare different? As summarized in the article “The Relationship between Employee Satisfaction and Hospital Patient Experiences”, by Jimmy Peltier, Andy Dahl, and Frank Mulhern, the healthcare industry accounts for 17% of U.S. GDP and is continuing to grow. But there is a shortage of some healthcare professionals (especially nurses) that makes it difficult for healthcare organizations to provide quality care. And while healthcare organizations can achieve some improvements in quality of care through technology, the improvements achieved through people are much greater.
Additionally, healthcare organizations such as hospitals and senior care facilities are complex organizations, heavily regulated, often with many disparate departments of different sizes and specialization. In addition to care, they provide housing, dining, hospitality and entertainment. And all this while dealing with customers who are often in the most stressful, challenging, and sensitive situations of their lives. Can employee engagement make a difference in these situations?
Indeed, it does. While patients may not always understand the technical aspects of healthcare delivery that is going on around them, they pick up on the interpersonal situation of their care-takers, according to Jennifer Larsen in AMN Healthcare News. She reports that “the percentage of patients who reported they would “definitely recommend” a hospital to their loved ones decreased by 2 percent for every 10 percent of the nurses who expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs.” Peltier, Dahl, and Mulhern found in a literature review that efforts to create higher employee satisfaction have a very desirable outcome for patients, including increased patient satisfaction, improved care quality and increased patient loyalty.
All of the studies agree leadership commitment drives employee engagement, which leads to better patient care. “Management plays an integral role in the level of care provided even when they are not directly involved,” wrote Peltier, Dahl, and Mulhern. The primary determining factor of healthcare (as well as many other industries) employee’s satisfaction and loyalty is the relationship with his or her direct supervisor. When employees believe their opinions matter, that they have the support, resources, and training necessary to provide quality patient care, employees are more satisfied with their employer. And that results in less turnover and enhanced retention.
John Griffith, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, examined 34 community hospitals that had won the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in the healthcare sector. For these hospitals, employee morale was the biggest factor in patient satisfaction, but started with leadership who tried new improvements, changed processes (including clinical processes), and invested in reducing errors and duplications.
But will improving employee engagement and customer satisfaction help a healthcare organization improve its bottom line? Peltier, Dahl, and Mulhern report that, with more satisfied employees and more satisfied patients, a healthcare organization experienced repeat visits by patients, fewer lawsuits of negative patient behaviors, lower costs in managing employees due to less attrition, and more positive word-of-mouth and recommendations.
And if it works in the complex, ever-changing world of healthcare, shouldn’t it work in your business?
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