Stephanie Burton

The smallest brand experiences increase patient satisfaction

By Stephanie Burton on September 28, 2013

While walking down the hallway in a hospital where I once worked, I saw a five-year-old girl eagerly inhaling a cookie the size of a wrecking ball.

“Oooh, can I have a bite?” I joked. She held the cookie close to her chest and shook her head to fend me away. But, she knew I was teasing and seemed to appreciate the attention. She wanted to know more.

“Is you a nurse?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, in a way that invited more questions.

“Is you a … doctor?” she asked.

“No,” I replied again with a smile on my face.

The girl looked at me with confusion on her face.

“What you do?” I tried to find the simplest way to explain to a five-year-old the role of a senior public relations and marketing specialist. She followed up with a few questions about my role, I wished her a good day and proceeded to walk to my meeting. About 10 steps into my journey, something heartwarming happened.

“I LOVE YOU!” I heard the little girl scream in my direction.

Talk about a satisfied patient!

Now, more than ever, patient satisfaction scores are under the microscope. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are receiving reimbursement from the federal government based, in part, by how satisfied their patients are. Health systems have responded. Now, “Chief Experience Officers,” “Vice Presidents of Patient Satisfaction” and more titles have started to emerge in an effort to better shape positive patient experiences.

Yes, I like to think of myself as a nice person. But, the story above wouldn’t have been possible had my organization not knocked down a few dominoes.

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  • First, I was an engaged employee. My organization recognized me for my work. In fact, we even talked about stories like the one I mentioned above during meetings.
  • I understood that productivity meant making a difference in as many people’s lives as possible. And, I knew how this could happen even if I didn’t provide direct patient care.
  • My organization instilled in me the value of retaining patients. I knew that a current patient was more valuable than the patient I had not yet met. It was my duty to keep that patient happy.
  • Finally, because my organization explained to me the outcomes we were trying to achieve (increased patient satisfaction) and the simple ways I could help move the needle (make eye contact, smile, say hello), I was able to make a difference.

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Patient satisfaction isn’t the result of one initiative. Rather, it is the result of several driving forces that come together to create a single interaction. That’s what we call total brand alignment.


Stephanie Hungerford, APR, is a healthcare marketing strategist at Core Creative. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @shungerford.